Post-heparin, no oversight excuses

What's the long-term impact of the heparin scare? It's shattered U.S. claims of "it can't happen here," for one thing. When Chinese-made cold meds killed 120 in Panama over a year ago, Americans thought the same thing couldn't happen here. Since then, a drumbeat of faulty product news--pet food, kid's toys, toothpaste--has finally culminated in a tainted drug that made it through the U.S. safety net.

Now that U.S. vulnerability has been exposed, it's also become clear that the convoluted supply chains behind every prescription med to some extent defy oversight. The FDA still doesn't know, for instance, just where along that chain the contaminated heparin was adulterated. And because supply chains pass through several countries, there's no government agency with the power to police it all, the New York Times points out. Tests for problems need to be improved and expanded, experts say; the FDA needs to step up its efforts. "What you are seeing here is the tip of the iceberg," one told the NYT. "How do we know what else has gone wrong?"

- read the New York Times assessment