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(THE TENNESSEAN) Victims of the national fungal meningitis outbreak have less than a week to file claims in the bankruptcy case of a Massachusetts drug compounding firm blamed for sickening some 751 patients, including 153 who were treated in Tennessee.

In a statement issued Monday, lawyers for victims who already have filed claims warned that those who fail to meet a Jan. 15 deadline will likely be forever barred from the chance to share in more than $100 million that is expected to be available for victims and other creditors of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center.

Gerard Stranch, a Nashville attorney who already represents several victims who have filed suit, said he believes some Tennessee victims have yet to come forward.

"Based upon the federal data, we believe that there are additional victims in Tennessee. This is probably their last chance to seek compensation for their injuries," Stranch said.

Stranch was referring to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 153 Tennessee patients were sickened by the fungus-tainted spinal steroid shipped to three Tennessee health facilities, including the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center in Nashville.

While the families of the 16 Tennessee patients who died in the outbreak have filed suit, dozens of those who were sickened have not, court records indicate. Lawyers familiar with the case also cautioned that victims may also face other barriers to collecting compensation, depending on when they became aware of the source of their illness.

Attorneys involved in the bankruptcy and dozens of companion civil cases now merged in federal court in Boston recently disclosed an agreement with insurance companies, NECC's owners and other responsible parties to provide more than $100 million to pay victims and other creditors of NECC.

Claim forms are available at www.drcdrx.com/necpcc/ProofOfClaim.

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