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Heparin hearing

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April 22, 2008

Washington, DC--The head of the Food and Dug Administration testified before a house subcommittee today to answer tough questions about the recent problems surrounding the contamination of the blood thinner, heparin, and hash out how the FDA can possibly fix internal problems to prevent future health scares.

Many heparin products were recalled after they were found to be contaminated. Hundreds of patients suffered severe allergic reactions and at least 81 deaths have been linked to the contaminant, which was found in batches from 12 different Chinese companies that supply active ingredients in heparin.

Today on capitol hill, members of a house oversight subcommittee highlighted a recent government accountability office report which found the FDA largely unable to inspect foreign pharmaceutical companies that supply drug ingredients to American consumers.

Democratic Representative Bart Stupak from Michigan said that the agency only inspects 10 to 20 firms each year against an inventory of more than 700 firms.

FDA commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach said the contaminant was only found after his agency turned to highly sensitive testing not usually employed in routine inspections. He added that increasing the number of inspections would not solve the problem.

The US government accountability office report estimated it would take 67 million dollars a year to inspect the more than 3,000 plants around the world that supply drugs to the U.S.

The FDA has budgeted 11 million for this year.

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