DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – House lawmakers have issued a subpoena for the director of the Massachusetts pharmacy linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak. More than 400 people have been sickened by contaminated steroid shots distributed by the compounding pharmacy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty deaths have been reported.
Meanwhile, local doctors are calling the crisis a “wake-up call.”
“When we as physicians come to our patients and when we give them a product, we expect that to be a safe product,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Clinton Haley. “The safety of our patients are in jeopardy with the lack of oversight, lack of regulation of these compounding pharmacies.”
Dr. Haley is a member of the Dallas County Medical Society and says the advocacy group is very concerned.
House and Senate lawmakers have been investigating the outbreak since it surfaced last month. They have scheduled separate hearings next week to examine how it occurred and how future incidents can be prevented.
According to state officials, there are several hundred of these specialized compounding pharmacies in Texas that mix sterile medications. But, because of legislative budget cuts less than two dozen of them are subject to random testing.
“Of course, we’d like to have more money to test more products,” says Gay Dodson, Executive Director of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. The state board licenses and regulates pharmacies in Texas. Dodson says the Board is watching the situation in New England and while they believe that pharmacies in Texas are safe, “We are looking at everything we are doing to see if there is anything we can do better.”
More than two dozen North Texas health care providers purchased medicines from the pharmacy linked to the tainted steroids. Two patients have contracted meningitis. But, the vast majority of providers tell us that their patients have reported no problems.
Some providers acknowledge that they “dodged a bullet”. But, the question now– is for how long?
“Without that funding and without that public health oversight, unfortunately things do happen,” says Dr. Haley.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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