A federal investigation into the nation's deadly meningitis outbreak intensified Wednesday as lawmakers grilled the Food and Drug Administration commissioner about why the FDA didn't do more to prevent the outbreak when the agency has known of problems at the company linked to the deaths for the last decade.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers were unsuccessful in retrieving any information from Barry Cadden, the president, co-owner and director of pharmacy at the New England Compounding Center, the Framingham, Mass.-based company that distributed a contaminated injectable steroid that led to the deaths of 32 Americans as of Nov. 14. Appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Cadden invoked the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states no person shall be compelled to serve as a witness against himself during a criminal investigation.
After Cadden pleaded the Fifth several times, Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), dismissed him as a witness in the hours-long hearing that examined the facts and actions of state and federal regulators around the recent fungal meningitis outbreak.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the panel pressed FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg for more information on the agency's actions, especially after the FDA had issued a warning letter to the NECC in 2006. In his opening remarks, Stearns noted that the FDA has been slow to act, given that it took the agency four years to issue such a letter after it found problems with the company's sterility practices.