Law aims to prevent tainted drug outbreaks

Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) visits Perrigo in Allegan. (Feb. 18, 2014)

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Contaminated injections distributed by a now-defunct Massachusetts drug company have resulted in a new law to make all pharmaceuticals safer.

About 750 people in 20 states contracted fungal meningitis or other conditions last year as a result of those steroid injections. 64 people died in the outbreak nationwide. 22 of them were from Michigan.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) says a bill he shepherded  through the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee — which he chairs — could help prevent a similar outbreak.

The Drug Quality and Security Act was signed into law late last year. It provides for more quality assurance and will put more restrictions on drug makers. The law not only tracks drugs by manufacturer, but also by distribution to end users and  transportation companies.

Tuesday, Upton visited pharmaceutical manufacturer Perrigo in Allegan to discuss the new regulation.

Perrigo has been in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Despite a corporate headquarters move to Ireland in the past few months,  the company remains Allegan County’s largest employer and, according to its website, “a leading global healthcare” provider.

Perrigo CEO Joseph Papa said even though the new law will make more work for his company, he supports it.

He said a way to track the drugs is essential, and it’s more efficient for the process to be regulated nationwide by the federal government in a unified way, rather than in different ways from state to state.

These new rules apply to domestic manufacturers, but Upton said foreign suppliers are required to abide by FDA rules and he expects that agency to be vigilant with those producers.

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