Heparin Crisis 2008: A Tipping Point for Increased FDA Enforcement in the Pharma Sector

August 2010

Against a backdrop of steady deregulation, the pharmaceutical industry is increasingly outsourcing manufacturing, resulting in decentralized control of the global supply chain.  Established products such as heparin have been held to outdated analytical standards.

Ten million Americans receive heparin every year; Baxter International accounts for half of this market. In 2008, contamination of Baxter’s heparin – sourced in China – resulted in about 350 adverse events and 150 deaths in the United States.

In future, increasingly stringent FDA inspections and enforcement are expected for imported drugs and ingredients. More regional FDA offices will be set up overseas. FDA funding will likely be supplemented in future by user fees charged to importers. 

For newer products, companies will face pressure to adopt Quality by Design, with solid control of the global supply chain and a proactive focus on GMP. Older products will be held to modern standards. Long-term, imports of drugs and ingredients from developing markets will continue. This makes sense to companies from an economic standpoint, but protections will be essential to ensure that it is also justifiable from a public health perspective.


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