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Health Highlights: Dec. 13, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Dozens Sue Pharmacy Linked to Steroid/Meningitis Outbreak

Dozens of people have sued a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy that made steroid injections linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis, but their chances of receiving compensation are low, a lawyer says.

More than 500 people have become ill after receiving steroid injections prepared by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Thirty-seven people have died in the outbreak.

At least 50 federal lawsuits in nine states have been filed against the NECC and more are being filed in state courts every day, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuits, which allege that NECC negligently produced a defective and dangerous product, seek millions in compensation for physically painful recoveries, lost wages, mental and emotional suffering, and the death of spouses.

"The truth is the chance of recovering damages from NECC is extremely low," John Day, a Nashville attorney who represents several people who developed fungal meningitis, told the AP.

One of the main issues is that NECC is a small private company that has recalled all its product and laid off it employees. The company has surrendered its pharmacy licenses and it's not known if NECC has adequate liability insurance.

"It's clear to me that at the end of the day, NECC is not going to have sufficient assets to compensate any of these people, not even 1 percent," Day told the AP.

That has led lawyers to seek compensation from other parties. Additional defendants named in the lawsuit include NECC pharmacist and co-founder Barry Cadden, co-founder Greg Conigliaro, sister company Ameridose, and NECC's marketing and support arm, Medical Sales Management.

The clinics and doctors who buy their drugs from compounding pharmacies could be held liable for negligence in such cases because they are better able to assess the safety of a medicine than patients, according to Day, the APreported.

"Did they use due care in determining from whom to buy these drugs?" Day said.

Pharmaceutical distributors could also be held liable, according to Terry Dawes, a Michigan lawyer who has filed at least 10 federal lawsuits in the NECC case.

"We are looking at any conceivable sources of recovery for our clients including pharmaceutical supply places that may have dealt with this company in the past," Dawes told the AP.


Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Undergoing Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

California Gov. Jerry Brown has early stage prostate cancer and is undergoing radiation treatment, his office said Wednesday.

The 74-year-old governor's "prognosis is excellent, and there are not expected to be any significant side effects," University of California, San Francisco oncologist Eric Small, who is Brown's cancer doctor, said in the statement, the Associated Pressreported.

Brown's radiation treatment will be completed the week of Jan. 7 and he will continue to work a full schedule, according to the statement. No further details were provided.

Typical radiation therapy for early stage prostate cancer is five days a week for four to five weeks, Dr. Ralph de Vere White, urological oncologist and director of the University of California, Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento, told the AP.



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