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Officials in Mass., Mich. to coordinate meningitis probe

DETROIT (AP) — Authorities in Michigan and Massachusetts said Monday that they will coordinate their separate state and federal criminal investigations of a company that sold steroid injection materials linked to a fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened hundreds of people in 20 states.

A federal grand jury in Boston has been investigating the New England Compounding Center for more than a year and a multi-county grand jury has been investigating in Michigan. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Boston US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said this effort will strengthen their work.

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‘‘The victims and families affected by this fungal meningitis tragedy deserve answers, and this agreement ... will allow us to coordinate with federal officials and maximize the resources dedicated to this investigation,’’ Schuette said in a statement.

Schuette and Ortiz discussed the case Monday at a news conference in Detroit.

Since the contaminated steroids were first discovered, 751 people in 20 states, including 264 in Michigan, have developed fungal meningitis or other infections, including 64 who died. Tennessee and Indiana were also hit hard.

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‘‘Through this coordinated approach, we will strengthen our respective independent federal and state criminal investigations and achieve justice for the ... individuals and their families who have suffered so much,’’ Ortiz said in a statement.

The 6-month term of Michigan’s grand jury is nearly expired, but Schuette’s office said he may petition the presiding judge to reconvene the grand jury in the future, if necessary. Evidence already uncovered by the grand jury may be used in ongoing investigations.

‘‘Our state grand jury has been very productive,’’ Schuette said.

The company gave up its license and filed for bankruptcy protection after it was flooded with hundreds of lawsuits from victims.

The FBI recently asked anyone who received one of the tainted injections to fill out a questionnaire detailing their illnesses and saying whether they believe another medication distributed by NECC caused harm to them or their family. There’s a Nov. 30 deadline for surveys.

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