One year after a meningitis outbreak killed two people and sickened dozens in Southwest Virginia — and even more across the East Coast — Congress is beefing up federal oversight of an industry many say was to blame.
A vote Monday by the Senate gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more power to regulate so-called compounding pharmacies like the one that produced contaminated steroid injections linked to the outbreak.
The measure is now expected to go to President Barack Obama for his signature.
In Southwest Virginia, two people died and many more became seriously ill with fungal meningitis after receiving injections for back pain administered at a Roanoke clinic.
It turned out that the drugs were tainted by mold and other contaminants while being mass-produced by the New England Compounding Center of Massachusetts.
There has been confusion in the past over whether facilities such as NECC are pharmacies, which fall under state law, or drug manufacturers, which are regulated by the FDA.
Critics of NECC have said it mass-produced steroids under unsafe conditions with little scrutiny from state or federal regulators.