NewsChannel9: Meningitis Outbreak Hearing: Sen. Alexander Stands Up For TN

Posted on November 16, 2012

Senator Lamar Alexander is standing up for dozens of Tennesseeans, affected by the deadly meningitis outbreak. He held a Senate hearing that investigated what led to the contaminated injections. The main argument was that the New England Compounding Center should have been shut down years ago by state or federal regulators. After multiple violations, it wasn't.

"Not just who's job was it, but who's job will it be to make sure this doesn't happen again. That is our job here today. This has been a nightmare for Tennesseeans," said Senator Alexander at Thursday's hearing.

And it's been a nightmare for Luther Owens. Owens was concerned he had meningitis after getting some steroid injections months ago. Even though his tests came out negative, he's still angry at the NECC for giving him the scare of his life. "It got me kind of upset. I'm upset they they got to making me feel like I have something like meningitis," said Owens. And Owens says he thinks the injections could have even been tainted on purpose.

That's why agrees with a motion made this morning by the Department of Public Health. "We move to revoke the license of the NECC and the 3 pharmacists that oversaw its operations," said Dr. Lauren Smith, the Interim Commissioner of the Dept. Of Public Health in Boston.

Also in today's hearing, the panel tried to figure out how the NECC slipped through the cracks. "The problem is, it's not a clear distinction between what is a compounder and what is a manufacturer either in law or in practice," said Dr. Peggy Hamburg, the Commissioner of the FDA.

But the director of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacy says, there was no question what the NECC was. "NECC was involved in illegal manufacturing. They did not have a license in the state of Massachusettes as a manufacturer. They were not registered with the FDA. They were shipping products nationwide without prescriptions. Bottom line, that's manufacturing," said Dr. David Miller with the International Academy of Coupounding Pharmacy.

Iowa's Democratic Senator Tom Harkin was also at the hearing. He made an interesting point when he said, the public is put at risk like this when budgets are constrained for the CDC and other public health entities.