House Democrats call on Emergent execs to testify on quality issues next month
The House Oversight Committee is investigating Covid-19 vaccine producer Emergent BioSolutions, which secured a $628 million US government contract to make AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines despite “a long, documented history” of quality control issues, Democrats said in a letter to the contract manufacturer’s executives.
Emergent’s Baltimore plant, which was shuttered on Monday by FDA, has been embroiled in controversy after being forced to destroy millions of AstraZeneca and J&J doses due to an ingredient mix-up and possible contamination.
“FDA continues to investigate Emergent’s manufacturing problems. We are concerned by the costs to taxpayers and the potential impact on our nation’s vaccination efforts caused by Emergent’s failed attempts to manufacture these vaccines,” Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and James Clyburn (D-SC) wrote.
In obtaining its government contracts, the representatives explained in the letter how closely linked Emergent was with former President Trump’s appointee to lead the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Robert Kadlec, who previously did consulting work for Emergent.
“Following Dr. Kadlec’s confirmation, Emergent received millions of dollars in federal contracts from ASPR, including contracts for the SNS [strategic national stockpile] that were awarded without competitive bidding,” the letter notes.
Emergent also encouraged oversight of the SNS to be transferred from the CDC to ASPR, under Kadlec’s control.
Maloney and Clyburn also said that shortages of basic medical supplies during the pandemic last year were directly related to Emergent’s “outsized influence” over the price and purchase of its anthrax vaccines.
“Emergent has raised the government purchasing price of the anthrax vaccine by 800% since acquiring the drug in 1998,” the letter says. “As a result, through most of the last decade, nearly half of the SNS’s budget has been spent purchasing Emergent’s anthrax vaccine.”
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, which Clyburn chairs, is requesting that Robert Kramer, president and CEO of Emergent, and executive chair Fuad El-Hibri testify on May 19 on the company’s quality control and staffing issues.