Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander asks question during a Senate committee meeting on the meningitis outbreak.
Dr. Marion Kainer was thanked for her part in uncovering the cause of the meningitis outbreak.
D.C. - Health officials in Tennessee got a big pat on the back from lawmakers
in Washington. The praise came during Thursday's U.S. Senate hearing on
the fungal meningitis outbreak.
a lot went wrong during the outbreak that has claimed 32 lives so far.
we even have an FDA, and why do you even have a job at the FDA if you can't
stop back-alley, large-scale drug manufacturing that it knows about and writes
letters about," said Kansas Senator Pat Roberts.
It was one of
several tough questions asked of FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
treatment of her was in sharp contrast to that of another doctor called to
testify, Dr. Marion Kainer of the Tennessee Health Department.
sure I speak for all of the committee. You have our highest praise and thank
you for your diligence and for being on top of this," Committee Chair
Senator Tom Harkin told Kainer.
Kainer is a
Nashville-based doctor who refused to go home and instead slept in her office
as she worked to identify the source of the rare form of fungal meningitis.
She was the
first to trace the outbreak to contaminated steroid injections produced at the
New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.
meningitis is extremely rare," she said. "One of our greatest
challenges was knowing just what we were dealing with as more and more patients
one of several references to Tennessee made during the hearing. Dr. April Pettit from Vanderbilt Medical Center was credited for ordering additional tests on one patient's spinal fluid to check for meningitis.
to give particular credit to Dr. April Pettit, an infectious disease doctor at
Vanderbilt University, who identified the first meningitis case and notified
the state health department," said Dr. Beth Bell with the Centers For
Disease Control. "If Dr. Pettit had not acted like she did, it is
likely that many more patients would have been exposed."
called both Pettit and Kainer heroes whose actions saved lives.
testimony also mentioned one of the Tennesseans who lost their lives in the
Reed of Brentwood, Tennessee, was the primary caretaker of her husband Wayne,
who suffers from Lou Gehrig Disease," said Dr. Bell. "Diana was
healthy and physically active, but after a neck injury she turned to steroid
injection to help with her pain. Tragically, Diana received a contaminated
injection and became the third Tennessean to die of fungal meningitis."
Lamar Alexander said families like Reed's have been constantly on his mind.
as I'd like to focus my time on whose fault it was, I think the families of
those who are hurting in Tennessee would like me to find out how we can make
sure this doesn't happen again," he said.
also heard from the top lobbyist representing compounding pharmacies. He
condemned the actions of the New England Compounding Center where the tainted
drugs were produced, but said tougher laws were not needed to regulate the industry.
said state and federal agencies need to do a better job enforcing the laws
currently on the books. He said the FDA legally could have – and should
have – shut down NECC years ago.