Compounding the problem
Congress, for some reason, is debating whether federal regulation of compounding pharmacies is necessary.
Apparently, 32 deaths and more than 400 serious illnesses resulting from the wayward practices of a state-regulated compounding pharmacy in Framingham, Mass., is insufficient evidence to convince lawmakers that they erred in 2007 by allowing such operations to escape federal regulation.
The victims died of fungal meningitis, which they received through injections of a tainted steroid produced by the New England Compounding Center.
Compounding pharmacies like NECC combine medications to fill prescriptions. The injected steroid often is administered for back pain. Perhaps the only saving grace of the tragedy is that the form of meningitis is not contagious; only those directly injected with the tainted doses died or became ill.
Yet, prepared testimony by lobbyists for the compounding pharmacy industry, for an impending Senate hearing, contends that compounding pharmacies adequately are regulated at the state level.
Well, that's obviously not the case in Massachusetts. And, since the NECC sent its tainted steroid preparation all over the country, its products should properly fall under federal jurisdiction.
Medicines should be produced or combined under one standard rather than 50, just as potential criminal prosecution for license violations should be handled under one set of laws rather than 50.
In Washington, however, the question is whether lawmakers will believe industry lobbyists or their own eyes. Unfortunately, the answer to that isn't as obvious as the need to uniformly regulate an industry with a nationwide impact on public health.