GOP lawmakers push FDA on documents for meningitis probe

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"Your agency has not provided any internal communications or memoranda in response to the committee’s bipartisan request letter of Oct. 17, 2012," the lawmakers wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

"We need these documents to identify any possible weaknesses in FDA’s regulatory system that can be immediately corrected administratively or legislatively."

Hamburg has called on Congress to strengthen the FDA's oversight of drug compounders in light of the meningitis outbreak.

Last week, she argued before an Energy and Commerce subcommittee that the agency's hands were tied because of conflicting court decisions.

Committee Republicans tangled with Hamburg over the document request in the hearing, saying the records are essential to ascertain whether the FDA needs greater powers over drug compounders.

"Without gaining insight into whether FDA used its existing authority effectively, providing clearer or additional authority to FDA may not solve the actual, underlying problem," the Republicans wrote Monday.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who signed the letter, has hinted he might move to subpoena FDA documents if the agency does not comply.

Stearns leads the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight, one panel probing the meningitis outbreak.

"If we don't get the information then we're going to be upset and we're going to pursue it," he told The Hill late Thursday.

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) dismissed GOP criticism over the records request as a "big to-do about not much of anything."

"The committee will get whatever documents it wants and should get," Waxman said.

Congress began probing the NECC during the election recess, as fatalities from the firm's products mounted.

The letter to Hamburg came from Upton, Stearns and GOP Reps. Joe Barton (Texas), Joe Pitts (Pa.) and Michael Burgess (Texas). 

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