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Investigation Into Skin Cream Death May Lead To Pharmacy That Created Drug

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Shiri Berg
RALEIGH, N.C. — Officials are questioning what role a compounding pharmacy had in the death of a North Carolina State student, who died after she overdosed on a skin-numbing cream.

In 2002, the Triangle Compounding Pharmacy told WRAL in a report that it had strict standards for how its drugs were mixed.

"My biggest test is would I give a drug we make to my kids," owner Joe Caliebro said.

"It seems now, in retrospect, like a big risk for a cosmetic procedure," said David Work, executive director of the North Carolina Pharmacy Board.

The board is investigating Triangle Compunding Pharmacy. According to the attorney for Shiri Berg's family, the pharmacy sold the compounded Lidocaine which killed her to the Premier Body Laser Clinics.

"The public, I think, wrongly assumes that because a drug is sold in a pharmacy that it's automatically safe [or] that it's been approved as safe. Safety is a relative term," Work said.

Work said compounded drugs by definition are never specifically tested, but he said Lidocaine by itself is routinely sold over-the-counter in smaller concentrations posing few problems.

"It's not a controlled substance like Oxycontin," he said.

The autopsy said Berg wrapped her legs in plastic after applying the drug. Work said that made the situation worse.

"When you put Saran Wrap over large parts of your body, that drug is driven into the body, inside the body like an injectable and it can't get out," Work said.

The Pharmacy Board cannot speak specifically about an ongoing investigation, but it expects a report to be completed in two to three weeks. In the worst-case scenario, the pharmacist could have his or her license suspended or revoked and the pharmacy could have its permit suspended or revoked.


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