Bryan Cohen Mar. 27, 2013, 5:44pm

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced a petition Tuesday with the Court of Appeals requesting a grand jury be convened to determine if a Massachusetts company broke state laws by distributing tainted products.

The New England Compounding Center created the tainted steroid injections and distributed them to patients at clinics in four Michigan counties. Michigan was most affected by the resulting nationwide outbreak of meningitis, with 259 infections and 14 deaths.

"Hundreds of Michigan citizens and their families have endured terrible pain and deaths of loved ones suffering from illnesses caused by these tainted steroid injections," Schuette said. "This investigation is necessary (to) uncover the truth as to how this unspeakable tragedy happened and to restore public faith in our healthcare system. We will discover what went wrong, bring bad actors to justice, and then work to implement new protections to ensure tragedies like this never happen again."

The Michigan Court of Appeals will review Schuette's formal petition to request that a grand jury look into NECC and determine whether or not to appoint a Circuit Court judge to lead the confidential grand jury. After reviewing the evidence, the grand jury can determine if criminal indictments should be issued. Grand juries hold the power to compel testimony under oath.

On October 6, NECC issued a recall of the products produced by and distributed from its Framingham, Mass.-based facility. On October 12, Schuette filed a lawsuit with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs alleging the NECC acted as a drug manufacturer, not as a compounding facility, by distributing large amounts of medication to clinics and hospitals in Michigan. NECC's license was suspended and the company was forced to halt operations in Michigan.

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