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Meningitis & Congress

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The owner of the company linked to the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak refused to answer questions on Capitol Hill.

"Mr. Cadden... what explanation can you give the families who have lost their loved ones?" asked Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"On advise of counsel I respectfully decline to answer on the basis of my constitutional rights and privileges."

Lawmakers subpeonaed Barry Cadden whose New England Compounding Center is accused of making contaminated steroid injections. The outbreak killed 32 people and sickened more than 400 others in 19 states.

One of those victims was retired Kentucky Judge Eddie Lovelace whose widow, Joyce came to the Congressional hearing looking for answers.

"We are heartbroken. We are devastated. We are begging you to do something about this matter."

The meningitis outbreak is slowing down. Fewer new cases are being reported. About 14,000 people were thought to have been exposed.

The Massachusetts company had a well documented history of problems. Nearly a decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration wanted to shut it down until it cleaned up its operations. Instead, the FDA deferred to state regulators who allowed it to stay open.

"It's possible this outbreak very well might have been prevented," says Stearns.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says her agency needs more authority and funding to oversee compounding pharmacies.

"As it is our authority over compounding is limited, unclear and contested."

The New England Compounding Center is closed and officials are in the process of permanently revoking its license.

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