Economically motivated adulteration became a major concern after heparin manufactured by Baxter Healthcare was contaminated with oversulfated chondroitin sulfate. FDA told the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that getting information from industry about potential instances of economic adulteration is crucial to addressing the problem. Companies have been reluctant to share this information, but a GAO report suggests a possible solution.
Citing interviews with stakeholders, GAO recommended creating an information clearinghouse, through which companies could share information anonymously on adulterated ingredients with FDA and other companies. A clearinghouse could help FDA disseminate information about adulterated products quickly and enable the agency and industry to respond to adulteration rapidly. If the clearinghouse were managed by a neutral third party, it could ensure that the information did not identify specific companies.
This strategy could help allay industry’s concerns about sharing information when an adulterated ingredient has not entered into commerce. Companies are afraid that they may be sued if they reported that a supplier intentionally adulterated a product and the accusation is later found to be baseless. A wrongful accusation “can have serious consequences, such as compromising the integrity of the company’s brands and products if certain information became public,” according to the report.
Because potential adulterants often are unknown or unidentified, it can be hard for FDA to detect them. “For example, during the heparin incident, the available test methods for heparin were not able to detect the contaminant oversulfated chondroitin sulfate,” said the report. “Industry may be the best source of tests to detect adulteration because companies develop such tests to monitor the products they receive from their suppliers; however, industry officials indicated that they are often reluctant to share such information because it is proprietary.”
By eliminating details that could identify specific pharmaceutical companies, an information clearinghouse could allay industry’s concerns, help FDA dedicate its resources efficiently in the event of potential adulteration, and protect citizens from ingesting harmful drugs. It sounds like a win for all involved. GAO has done us a service in writing this report, and I hope FDA takes its recommendations seriously.