By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Meningitis story nudges its way into Senate race

Ted Kennedy

The controversy over compounding pharmacies is now crossing into the U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Hard to say where this might lead, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

First up: Noah Bierman and Frank Phillips report in the Boston Globe that Brown backed an effort by the compounding-pharmacy industry to stop the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from imposing new regulations. Brown also received $10,000 in donations from a fundraising event organized by the owner of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, ground zero in the meningitis outbreak.

That sounds pretty bad. But Brown’s explanation — that he and the industry wanted a rule requiring drugs to be delivered directly to doctors rather than patients — seems reasonable.

“As you know, they sometimes fall into the wrong hands,” Brown told the Globe. “I was advocating getting it to the doctors, which I don’t think loosens regulations.”

Next up is the Boston Herald, whose reporter Erin Smith writes today that, in 2007, Sen. Ted Kennedy pushed for exactly the kind of tough regulations and DEA oversight that might have prevented the meningitis cases.

Again, it’s hard to know how that might be relevant to the Brown-Warren race. But the Herald story describes an industry flat-out opposed to any federal involvement.

“They have a huge amount of lobbyists. They give money to politicians. We didn’t have that,” Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers, told the Herald. “Sen. Ted Kennedy had a lot of influence, but obviously the bill didn’t get enough support.”

If nothing else, the Herald story casts the industry’s more recent efforts, supported by Brown, in a less benign light. And given that Brown holds Kennedy’s old seat, it could make for an irresistible compare-and-contrast.

I doubt we’ve heard the last of this.

Photo (cc) by Brian Finifter and republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. You know, it’s too bad that people with back pain have to resort to these harmful chemicals and procedures. If they want to avoid the risks of those treatments, then act preventively in the first place. Keep oneself in good physical shape, and that includes daily stretching exercises, and even sit-ups to strengthen the lower back. People also need to be more conscious of their posture. A bad posture can contribute to lower back pain. Stand up straight. And especially, sit up straight such as when working on the computer. Those things are really simple to get in the habit of doing, and doing so can prevent so much anguish, and enables one to avoid the risks of the drugs and treatments that could cause even more harm.

    • Tell that to somebody in a car crash. Or with spina bifida. There’s nothing wrong with prevention, but there will always be a need for medication for pain – perhaps even for the ‘temporarily abled’ someday.

    • Diane Patry

      Yeah, sure. People who do hard physical labor for their work just aren’t working out and stretching enough. Tell that to my nephew, who is suffering after 17 year of employement in a hard labor job. And many acquaintances who damaged backs as nursing assistants, nursing home aids, etc. I guess it’s their fault for not living an ivory tower existence.

      • Dan Kennedy

        Is @Scott in the ivory tower, @Diane? Did I miss something? In any case, I’m totally sympathetic toward people with back pain, regardless of how or why it came into their lives.

    • Diane Patry

      Scott, apologies for my earlier post. Your advice is good, and well meaning. My sniping overreaction was from direct experience with some uber exercise/healthy eating advocates going over the edge and implying that anything from back pain to autoimmune conditions to Alzheimer’s (all in people I know) is essentially self-inflicted. Not what you said. Apologies for that. And for being off topic!

  2. Mike Benedict

    It would appear far more relevant than Warren’s defense of a company that hired her, or Warren’s salary at a PRIVATE university. It would not appear Brown did his due diligence here.

    As an aside, you give the Herald too much credit — its story doesn’t bother to connect the dots to Brown (perhaps because all the column inches were exhausted complaining about Joe Biden).

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