How to stop outbreaks: legislation, technology, or something else?

Summary:To fight outbreaks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeks more power to regulate drug compounding companies. Is it enough?

Recently, a string of meningitis infections plagued parts of the U.S. after tainted vials of a steroid were distributed to medical facilities.

The official tally of the outbreak: 438 people infected, 32 killed.

The vials originated at an American compounding company that hospital pharmacists in the U.S. say are not sufficiently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg this week formally requested from Congress greater federal power to inspect compounding companies and test their medicines. She asked for powers to inspect the companies' records, test their drugs and require large-scale operations to register with the agency.

Legislators (as well as lobbyists working on behalf of compounders) expressed skepticism, saying that current laws are sufficient for the agency to oversee such companies. Understandably, they also questioned why the agency couldn't prevent the outbreak.

Obviously, the parties are talking past each other: the FDA is saying it couldn't have prevented an outbreak without more oversight; Congress and the compounders are saying it could (and should) have.

Regulation: insufficient to stop outbreaks, or too much of a burden on business? And is there a technological solution to slow infection rates? We wonder.

Hospital Pharmacists Want Better Oversight of Drug Compounders [Bloomberg]

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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