Greed and Gravity

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  • 11/16/2012

There is no greater disaster than greed.

 – Lao-tzu

The tragic deaths caused by the current drug compounding scandal could so easily have been avoided. The root cause wasn’t a drug shortage – it was greed.

A new effort by Representatives Ed Markey (D, MA), Henry Waxman (D, CA), John Dingell (D, MI), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D, NJ), Diana DeGette (D, CO), and Anna Eschoo (D, CA) is aimed at getting to the bottom of the problem by investigating the roles of the players in this horrible drama – specifically the actions of Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs).

Mr. Markey: “As Congress fully investigates all the causes of the tragic meningitis outbreak in an effort to protect patients in the future, we need to look at the role GPOs play in the occurrence of drug shortages that could lead to increased reliance on compounding pharmacies.”

 “Through our investigation into drug shortages and the meningitis outbreak, we have discovered that medical professionals have increasingly been turning to compounding pharmacies for their prescription needs,” said Mr. Dingell. “It is important we study every potential cause of this outbreak in order to get to the bottom of this health crisis.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming weeks to explore legislative approaches that will address this matter.”

Representative DeGette: “While we've begun to address drug shortages legislatively, it is clear we must aggressively investigate the factors that led to this deadly outbreak and determine possible remedies, so we can take steps to save patients lives.”

“If group purchasing organizations are taking advantage of their unique role in facilitating a safe and reliable drug supply, then we need to know about it,” said Representative Eshoo.

Mr. Waxman, “In light of the tragedy of the meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated compounded drugs, we need to look carefully at all factors that might be contributing to the increasing use of compounded drugs by hospitals and other health care providers.”

“This initiative is a courageous step forward in addressing the foundational reasons behind both the tragedies caused by drug compounding and the broader issue of preventable drug shortages,” said Peter J. Pitts, President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA Associate Commissioner. “The anticompetitive manipulation of American healthcare by GPOs is an urgent topic for congressional action.”

The full Congressional release can be found here.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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