Senator demands Merck outsourcing info

Pfizer might have felt singled out a while back when Sen. Sherrod Brown demanded details of its outsourcing program. How much, the senator wanted to know, of the company's outsourcing went to countries with less stringent oversight? Well, now Pfizer isn't alone: The senator has sent Merck a letter asking for similar info. And as in Pfizer's case, the request follows a statement from a company exec about the growth of their companies' outsourcing activities.

Back in January, Merck SVP Richard Spoor said that the drugmaker was moving toward externally sourcing about 35 percent of its API ingredients, vaccines, drugs, and so on by 2010. So Brown now wants to know how Merck tracks each ingredient along its chain of custody and how it makes sure that everybody along that chain is doing the right thing. And he's asking for a breakdown of the company's outsourcing activities: how much in the U.S., how much in which other countries--even how much workers at its API suppliers are paid.

Merck says it's preparing a response to Brown's letter, and it emphasizes that it doesn't use materials that don't meet its "rigorous standards." Pfizer, for its part, replied to Brown earlier this month, saying that outsourcing doesn't compromise safety for American consumers, and that looser safety standards and lower costs don't motivate its decisions to farm out work.

- read the item at Pharmalot