Pharmacy group hires firm for meningitis outbreak

HOUSTON: The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists has hired Ball Consulting Group to help it deal with fallout from the national fungal meningitis outbreak.

HOUSTON: The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists has hired Ball Consulting Group to help it deal with fallout from the national fungal meningitis outbreak.

As of Friday, 257 cases of meningitis and 20 deaths across 16 states have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The contaminated doses of steroids at the center of the outbreak reportedly originated from the New England Compounding Center.

David Ball, president of the consulting firm, clarified that his client does not represent the Compounding Center as an organization; it only represents individuals. The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists has more than 2,700 pharmacists, technicians, student pharmacists, academics, and others who have a particular interest in the specialty practice of pharmacy compounding.

However, Ball declined to say if any Compounding Center staffers were represented by his client. In 2005, NECC cofounder Barry Cadden donated between $2,500 and $5,000 to the legal defense fund of the academy.

Ball Consulting is helping IACP with message development, media relations, and building visibility of the compounding profession. Compounding pharmacists can create custom dosage forms or uniquely flavored products for special situations, such as pediatric or veterinary patients.

“This profession was well known within the healthcare community before this tragic incident, but the general public did not have familiarity with it,” Ball said.

The firm is helping its client get the central message out that NECC appears to have exceeded its scope of authority as a pharmacy and engaged in the manufacture and distribution of prescription drugs without registering with key regulators.

Compounding pharmacies in the US are regulated extensively by state boards of pharmacy, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Massachusetts-based firm was on IACP's radar because of its work for some of its members, Ball said.

“[Ball Consulting has] in-depth knowledge of pharmacy compounding, and long-time experience and professionalism in working with the media, particularly in demanding circumstances,” said Dagmar Climo, director of marketing and communications at IACP, via email.

Meanwhile, NECC has been working with O'Neill and Associates since the outbreak. Ball said he knows the firm well but it has not been in contact about crisis response.

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