By Walter F. Roche Jr,
A dozen members of Congress have called on the Massachusetts Attorney General for a status report on the processing of requests for grants from a $40 million fund earmarked for victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
The letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey comes seven months after U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, a Michigan Republican, was able to secure up to $40 million from a national victims fund for victims of the deadly outbreak.
A spokeswoman for Healey recently reported that some 400 applications had been submitted by victims, but no awards have yet been made. The deadline for submitting a claim is Dec. 16.
In the letter, the congress members asked Healey to respond to the request by May 17.
"The victims - our constituents- continue to suffer as a result of the injections they received almost five years ago," the letter states. "This suffering need not be compounded by financial distress, but for far too many, their bills continue to go unpaid."
In addition to Bishop and several other Michigan members, those signing the letter include congress
members from Indiana, Tennessee and Minnesota.
Stating that "time is of the essence," the letter asks that Healey treat the request as a priority.
Interviews with victims show many have been hesitant to file a request because of language in the application indicating that any awards will eventually have to be paid back.
Aides to Bishop however, have stated that it is highly unlikely any grants will have to be paid back.
The 2012 outbreak was caused by fungus laden steroids injected into the spines and joints of victims. A total of 778 patients became ill, many with debilitating fungal meningitis. Seventy-six of those victims died.
The drugs were shipped from the now defunct New England Compounding Center, located in Framingham, Mass.
Recently a federal jury convicted one of the founders of NECC on 57 felony counts including racketeering and mail fraud. Barry J. Cadden is scheduled for sentencing on June 29.
Bishop's Michigan district was one of the hardest hit with some 200 patients sickened and 15 died as a result..
"We have a duty to continue fighting for the victims of this tragedy," Bishop said in announcing the letter.