A House committee sought Tuesday to compel the director of the pharmacy linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak to testify before Congress.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee said it issued a subpoena to Barry Cadden, co-founder of New England Compounding Center, after his lawyer indicated that he would not attend a hearing scheduled for Nov. 14. The decision was bipartisan, supported both by Republican Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan and Democratic Rerp. Henry Waxman of California.
“With more than 400 people infected and 30 deaths, it is critical that we hear directly from the head of the facility linked to the outbreak. Since Mr. Cadden has indicated he will not appear voluntarily, we are left with no choice but to issue a subpoena," Upton and Waxman said. "We urge Barry Cadden to put the public health first and answer the committee’s questions about the deadly outbreak.”
House and Senate lawmakers are seeking to hold hearings next week to learn how future outbreaks can be prevented.
Food and Drug Agency Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg will appear before the House committee on Nov. 14, the same day Cadden's appearance is being sought. The following day she is scheduled to appear before the Senate health committee, which is also probing the outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 419 cases of meningitis illness linked to contaminated steroid shots distributed by New England Compounding Center. Thirty people have died as a result of the outbreak, the agency reported Monday.
Compounding pharmacies traditionally fill special orders placed by doctors for individual patients, turning out a small number of customized formulas each week. But some pharmacies like the NECC have grown into much larger businesses in recent years, supplying bulk orders of medicines to thousands of doctors and hospitals across the country.
In recent weeks, inspectors from the FDA and Massachusetts department of health have reported unsterile conditions at the Framingham, Mass. pharmacy's facilities. The most recent inspection from the FDA uncovered green and yellow residues, water droplets and standing water in or around production rooms that were supposed to be sterile.
FDA officials said last month that new laws may be needed to clarify the federal government's role in overseeing compounding pharmacies.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.