Senator Lamar Alexander/file
By Paul C. Barton
| Tennessean Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Sen. Lamar Alexander said Thursday he has invited representatives of numerous Tennessee organizations to submit testimony next week at a U.S. Senate hearing on the recent fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid drugs.
Also Thursday, Tennessee reported its 80th case of illness in the continuing outbreak. Tennessee's death toll remained at 13.
The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the meningitis infections caused by contaminated drugs from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a similar hearing Wednesday.
Alexander, who sits on the Senate panel and probably will become its ranking Republican member when the 113th Congress starts in January, has solicited testimony from the:
* Tennessee Department of Health.
* Tennessee Board of Pharmacy.
* Tennessee Pharmacists Association.
* Tennessee Medical Association.
* Tennessee Hospital Association.
* Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners.
"This hearing is an important step to learning as much as we can about this tragic outbreak so that we can ensure that it never happens again," Alexander said in a statement.
"Tennessee officials identified the outbreak and responded quickly to the cases in our state, and I'm asking for their insights to help legislators in our next steps."
Tennessee has had more fungal meningitis deaths in the outbreak than any other state. Michigan has the most illnesses, with 119 cases reported as of Wednesday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not issue an update Thursday of cases nationwide. Tennessee's new illness would bring the national count to 425 people sickened, with 31 deaths.
Alexander and fellow Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, also a Republican, also sent letters last month to the Food and Drug Administration asking it to explain how entities such as the NECC are regulated.