This past June, at the height of the Food and Drug Administrations recalls on products imported from China, University Health Care System in Augusta, Ga., received a sobering letter from one of its suppliers. It warned that some of the oral-care kits the hospital received might contain toothpaste laced with the toxin diethylene glycol, a coolant sometimes used illegally as a glycerin counterfeit.
Supply-chain officials spent two days scrambling about the hospital to retrieve hundreds of tubes of toothpaste labeled Made in China. The incident, says Mike Brown, University Healths director of materials management, shines a light on a growing concern at hospitals over the safety of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, food and other products from overseas.
The logistics (of the toothpaste retrieval) werent much of a nightmare, but what it really highlighted for me is that weve got products coming in from outside of the U.S., and we dont even know which ones they are, Brown says.
In recent months, China has emerged as a particular source of concern over supply-chain safetyso much so that in July President Bush issued an executive order establishing an import-safety working group. The multiagency group was charged with identifying points
of breakdown in the safety and security of imported drugs, food and medical devices. Then in August, HHS officials began negotiating two memorandums of agreement between the U.S. and China, spelling out steps that Chinese officials will take to ensure safety regulations are enforced on products exported to the U.S. While few details of the ongoing negotiations are available, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt indicated in a September news release that agreements should be completed by year-end.
Our vision for these MOAs (memorandums of agreement) aims to increase cooperation and information sharing between the U.S. and Chinese governments on these safety issues, and, at the request of the Chinese, to enhance the technical capacity of Chinas regulatory agencies to help ensure Chinese exports to the United States meet U.S. safety standards, Leavitt said in an August written statement.