(UPI) -- Poor conditions at some specialty pharmacies in the United States have been linked to deaths and illnesses, records show.
A fungal meningitis outbreak linked to the New England Compounding Center left at least 44 people dead and 678 ill in 19 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said. The victims had received steroid shots to treat back problems.
Further records show the NECC is not the only speciality pharmacy -- one that custom mixes medications for individual patients -- with practices that were deadly for some patients, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
An investigation by the newspaper revealed severe problems at three of 15 compounding pharmacies that dominate the industry in the country.
Mixups at Central Admixture Pharmacy Services, PharMEDium Services and ApotheCure are linked to at least six deaths, the Post reported. The medications were either too potent or were laced with bacteria.
Regulators have found alarming conditions in some of these specialty pharmacies, the report said.
"The things they saw, they would chill your bones," said cardiologist John Armitage, in reference to the Food and Drug Administration's 2005 investigation of CAPS facilities after some of his patients died from medications.
Speciality pharmacies supply about 40 percent of all intravenous drugs used in hospitals and make some of the highest-risk drugs in the industry, the Post reported. They are not, however, required to follow the same regulations as larger, commercial pharmacy operations.