Senate Democrats

Reid Remarks On Prescription Drug Safety

“True compounding pharmacies provide custom medications for patients with unique health needs that cannot be treated by off-the-shelf prescription medicines. This practice can be critical for children, cancer patients and people with allergies.”

“By avoiding the safety inspections required of large-scale drug manufacturers, companies like [New England Compounding Center] can boost profits while risking lives. The legislation on the floor will end that dangerous practice and ensure that patients have access to high-quality custom medications.” 

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding legislation that would improve prescription drug safety in the United States.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

The symptoms of fungal meningitis can be subtle at first: headaches, fever, sensitivity to light and neck aches. But the disease can also cause strokes, seizures and coma. And it led to the death of at least 64 unfortunate Americans who were exposed to fungal meningitis when they were injected with contaminated medicine.

The medicine – a steroid injection used to heal back pain – was tainted by unsanitary conditions at a facility in Massachusetts that was masquerading as a compounding pharmacy. True compounding pharmacies provide custom medications for patients with unique health needs that cannot be treated by off-the-shelf prescription medicines. This practice can be critical for children, cancer patients and people with allergies.

But contaminated medicine mixed at the New England Compounding Center was sent to scores of medical facilities in 23 different states, and was given to 14,000 patients. The tainted steroid injections made hundreds of those patients seriously ill. And recently a heart medication mixed at the same pharmacy was linked to the death of two young Nevada boys – ages four and six – according to a lawsuit filed by their parents.

The New England Compounding Center was skirting federal regulation and manufacturing large batches of drugs for mass distribution and in dirty conditions. By avoiding the safety inspections required of large-scale drug manufacturers, companies like this one can boost profits while risking lives. The legislation on the floor will end that dangerous practice and ensure that patients have access to high-quality custom medications.

This is not a contentious issue. On the contrary, this legislation enjoys broad, bipartisan support. It would pass by a wide margin in mere moments if not for stall tactics of a few Republican Senators. Yet this bill has already been delayed for more than a month because of these tactics. And Republicans continue to insist we run out the clock on this matter. It is time to dispense with this non-controversial measure – a measure that will safeguard the lives of vulnerable Americans – and move on to other important legislative priorities.

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