House panel subpoenas pharmacy chief over meningitis scare

“With more than 400 people infected and 30 deaths, it is critical that we hear directly from the head of the facility linked to the outbreak," Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

"Since Mr. Cadden has indicated he will not appear voluntarily, we are left with no choice but to issue a subpoena. We urge Barry Cadden to put the public health first and answer the committee’s questions about the deadly outbreak," Upton and Waxman said.

If Cadden refuses to respond or give testimony and does not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, he could be held in contempt of Congress.

The spate of meningitis cases has prompted a lot of attention from lawmakers, particularly Democrats who see the outbreak as a regulatory failure. 

Drug compounders like the NECC can distribute custom drugs on a large scale but are not obligated to follow some rules that apply to drug makers. At least two House Democrats recently introduced bills to strengthen Food and Drug Administration oversight of drug compounders.

The Nov. 14 hearing will include testimony from FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy Director James Coffey has also been invited to appear.