Congressional hearings on meningitis outbreak resumes in D.C.

WASHINGTON (WXYZ) - The congressional fungal meningitis hearing resumed today after a heated debate ensued Wednesday on Capitol Hill. .

The Congressional fungal meningitis hearings lasted four hours on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. The head of the Food and Drug Administration was grilled most of the hearing for lack of oversight.

As expected, the head of the company behind the outbreak had nothing to say.

Barry Cadden wouldn't answer questions from the congressional committee or from reporters around the country as we sought answers about how this outbreak happened.

"I respectfully decline to answer on the basis of my constitutional rights and privileges," said Cadden.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that eight people have died from fungal meningitis in Michigan and 148 people have been diagnosed with it in the state.

What became clear during the hearings Wednesday is that Cadden's company, the New England Compounding Center, is no stranger to trouble or investigations by both the Massachusetts pharmacy board and the FDA, the latest back in 2006.

In the hearings Wednesday, the FDA said they're hampered by ambiguous law when it comes to its regulating compounding pharmacies, that it's the states' job. But the FDA commissioner heard an earful from committee members, including Michigan Representative John Dingell.

Dingell was questioning why they didn't step in and regulate a company that was operating more like a drug manufacturer than a traditional compounder.

"It has sold over 17,000 doses in something like 23 states. Don't you have the authority to define who's the manufacturer and who's the compounder? And if you do, why didn't you do it?" asked Dingell. 

At least one House Committee Member indicated another hearing should be held before it's decided what is needed legislatively in the wake of this tragedy.
 

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