At this morning's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) expressed his outrage over the ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak and called for the full cooperation of all involved parties to ensure such a tragedy never happens again. The investigative hearing examined the facts surrounding the current outbreak, the history of complaints associated with the culpable drug compounding facility, and the actions taken by state and federal regulators.
"Our prayers are with the victims and their loved ones here in southwest Michigan across the country whose lives have been forever changed because of this deadly outbreak. The loss of innocent lives is heartbreaking and simply inexcusable," said Upton. "As Chairman, I am fully committed to determining what went wrong and ensure we never endure a deadly outbreak like this again. The Energy and Commerce Committee has had a long, bipartisan tradition to first identify and then pass corrective legislation when tragedies like this occur. The hearing today is just the first step as I am not at all satisfied given the failures at the appropriate oversight agencies."
Testimony was provided at today's hearing by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) Interim Commissioner Dr. Lauren Smith, and Mrs. Joyce Lovelace whose husband died after receiving contaminated steroid injections made and distributed by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts. NECC President, Co-Owner, and Director of Pharmacy Barry Cadden appeared at today's investigative hearing under congressional subpoena but invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Upton's committee launched its bipartisan investigation in October, requesting an initial briefing from FDA, CDC and the New England Compounding Center. As part of the investigation, the committee has sought documents from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy, the FDA and the NECC.
According to the CDC, the outbreak has reached 438 cases, including at least 32 deaths. Michigan is among 19 states reporting illness, accounting for 128 cases and eight deaths in addition to the death of a Cass County grandmother who received contaminated injections from an Indiana facility.
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, the suspected steroid medication was shipped to four facilities in Michigan: Michigan Neurosurgical Institute in Grand Blanc, Michigan Pain Specialists in Brighton, Neuromuscular & Rehabilitation in Traverse City, and Southeast Michigan Surgical Hospital in Warren.
Additional background documents and details on today's hearing may be found here.