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Westborough firm’s closure extended in meningitis probe

The Ameridose pharmacy in Westborough will remain closed until Nov. 5.

Marshall Wolff/Metrowest Daily News/AP

The Ameridose pharmacy in Westborough will remain closed until Nov. 5.

A Westborough pharmacy with the same owners as the Framingham specialty phamacy at the center of the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak will remain closed until at least Nov. 5.

The temporary closure of Ameridose, by mutual agreement with state regulators, was extended two weeks to give investigators more time to complete an inspection of the Westborough facility.

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In an agreement dated Friday, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy informed Ameridose executives that the board “finds it necessary to extend the agreement to conduct a comprehensive investigation of facility operations.” It said the agreement expires on Nov. 5, unless “sooner terminated or later extended by agreement of the parties.”

Amid a growing number of illnesses and deaths linked to a steroid produced by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, the investigation of the outbreak was expanded last week to include Ameridose, as public health officials said they are looking deeply ­into businesses owned by the same families that own New England Compounding.

The Pharmacy Board reached an agreement with Ameridose, announced Oct. 10, that it would suspend all production to allow investigators time to ensure that its products were not contaminated.

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That agreement, which was set to expire Monday, also includes a related company, Alaunus Pharmaceutical in Framingham, Ameridose’s distributor.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a statement Friday from Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo, director of the Bureau for Health Care Safety and Quality, acknowledging concern from some healthcare facilities about a potential shortage of certain medications due to the extended Ameridose closure.

“We continue to work with the Massachusetts Hospital Association and other providers to ensure that appropriate medication supply chains are protected and encourage state hospital associations across the country to similarly engage with their providers,” Biondolillo said. “Our shared investigation with our federal partners at the FDA continues and includes concerns about corporate ownership and business practices at [New England Compounding] and Ameridose.”

Ameridose released a statement Friday saying the company agreed to the extension to allow state health officials time to continue and complete their investigation.

“We have agreed to this extension in the spirit of full cooperation,” the statement said. “As this extension agreement states, “neither the Board nor the Registrants are aware that any product compounded or produced by the Registrants is in any way unfit for use or consumption.” We appreciate the many expressions of support we have received from our customers during this temporary closure.”

To date, 271 people nationwide have been sickened, mostly with meningitis, from injectable steroids used to treat back and joint pain, according to the latest count by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty one people have died. All received steroids supplied by New England Compounding.

Federal officials said Thursday that unopened vials of steroid shipped from the pharmacy were contaminated with the same type of fungus that is making most of the patients sick.

Kay Lazar can be reached at klazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.
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