“A Continuing Investigation into the Fungal Meningitis Outbreak and Whether it Could Have Been Prevented”

Posted in Latest News on June 12, 2013.

Since the NECC outbreak, there have been seven additional recalls of sterile compounded and repackaged drug products by different pharmacies. In one very recent incident, the presence of floating particles, later identified to be a fungus, was reported in five bags of magnesium sulfate intravenous solution, resulting in a nationwide recall of all sterile drug products produced by the pharmacy (over 100 products). Fortunately, we have not received reports of patient injury from these products. In another recent recall, all sterile drug products (approximately 60 products) from a second pharmacy were recalled as a result of reports that five patients were diagnosed with serious eye infections associated with the use of repackaged Avastin. Moreover, we believe that presently, there are hundreds of other firms operating as compounding pharmacies, producing what should be sterile products and shipping across State lines in advance of or without a prescription. However, the current legal framework does not provide FDA with the tools needed to identify and adequately regulate these pharmacies to prevent product contamination.

The history of this issue shows that there is a need for appropriate and effective oversight of this evolving industry. It is clear that the industry and the health care system have evolved and outgrown the law, and FDA’s ability to take action against compounding that exceeds the bounds of traditional pharmacy compounding and poses risks to patients has been hampered by gaps and ambiguities in the law, which have led to legal challenges to FDA’s authority to inspect pharmacies and take appropriate enforcement actions.

The fungal meningitis outbreak has caused the Agency to review our past practices with regard to our oversight of compounding pharmacies, and has led to some preliminary conclusions.
In my view, even in the face of litigation and continuous challenges by industry to our authorities, we can nonetheless be more aggressive in pursuing enforcement actions against compounding pharmacies within our current limited authority. I can assure you that we are being more aggressive now. We have established an Agency-wide steering committee to oversee and coordinate our efforts, and we have taken several important steps to identify and inspect high-risk pharmacies that are known to have engaged in production of sterile drug products.

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