KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Most Compounding Pharmacies Are Not Accredited

News outlets, following the story about a deadly meningitis outbreak linked to drugs provided by a compounding pharmacy, explore the issue of accreditation, how many more people are at risk and what leads doctors to use these drugs.

The Washington Post: Critics Charge That Drug-Compounding Pharmacies Require Government Oversight
Only 162 compounding pharmacies, or about 2 percent of the 7,500 total, have been accredited. New England Compounding Center, which made the tainted steroid injections linked to the recent fungal meningitis outbreak was not accredited. The death toll from that outbreak rose Thursday to 20. Hospitals and doctors who buy compounded drugs often don’t require accreditation; many don’t even seem to know about it (Kliff and Sun, 10/18).

The Wall Street Journal: More Meningitis Cases Expected
As federal officials continued their investigation into the deadly meningitis outbreak, health authorities warned the illness could take longer than they had thought to show up in patients, and indicated more cases could be reported before the outbreak abates (Winslow, 10/18).

Medpage Today: Drug Shortages Spark Use Of Compounders
As drug shortages continue to plague the specialty of anesthesiology, compounding pharmacies – such as the one implicated in the ongoing meningitis outbreak – may be playing a key supply role, clinicians said [in Washington]. Although some measures taken by the federal government and advocacy groups have assuaged shortages, clinicians at the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) meeting here said they're still feeling the pinch and have been searching for alternatives. … At the ASA meeting, clinicians were urged to check out those compounding pharmacies before making any purchases. [Dr. Steven Gayer, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Miami,] said the U.S. Pharmacopeia has specific guidelines on compounding, with U.S.P. 797 -- a guidance focused on sterile preparation – being especially relevant (Fiore, 10/18).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Beat: Who's Watching Minnesota Druggists
When he was working as a pharmacist in Red Wing, Minn., Cody Wiberg always knew when one particular doctor was in town. It was a dermatologist who saw patients twice a month, and always prescribed a special skin cream that Wiberg had to mix up himself, special order. So there's really nothing unusual about the idea of pharmacies "compounding" drugs, says Wiberg, who is now executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. But the national meningitis outbreak has cast the practice in a whole new light, now that more than 250 cases and 20 deaths in 16 states have been traced to tainted steroids from a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts (Lerner, 10/18).

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