Details of the investigation by the House of Representatives’ Special Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and the Committee on Surveillance and Reform, which include a number of internal emails, released on Tuesday, highlight the extent to which Emmergent staff and consultants were aware of the broad issues. in Bayview before moving on to the U.S. government and pharmaceutical contracts to produce the images.

“In [Food and Drug Administration] in April 2021, “identified problems at the Emergent plant” and “took immediate immediate action,” a POLITICO spokesman said. “We are not allowed to distribute any product without a prior thorough review of the facility’s documents and the results of quality testing conducted by the manufacturer.”

Emergent is still committed to being a trusted partner of the federal government, said Matt Hartwig, a company spokesman.

“Emergent has been open and close with the FDA, Congress and our partners about working on our Bayview website and the challenges we have faced, including providing thousands of documents, willingly attending congressional hearings and inviting them to visit our facilities,” he said.

In a statement issued later Tuesday, Hartwig said the company had never deliberately misled the FDA, but would not deny that the company was hiding potentially troubled parties from federal authorities. He also challenged the report’s claim that nearly 400 million doses had to be abandoned because “it is very difficult to estimate the equivalent dose for batches that do not complete the production process or leave the plant to be vaccinated.”

A J&J spokesman said the company was cooperating with the committee.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, [J&J subsidiary] Jansen worked to develop a safe, high-quality vaccine against COVID-19, ”the spokesman said in a statement. AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

POLITICO was first to report about early warnings from those working on Operation Trump’s Warp Speed ​​operation about Emergent problems. But a congressional investigation provides new details of Emergent’s internal warnings about problems the company may face with scaling production of Covid-19 images.

“Doses have been wasted despite repeated warnings from employees, outside consultants, pharmaceutical companies and FDA regulators that the company’s manufacturing practices are unsafe,” the spokesman said. Jim Clayburn (DS.C.), chairman of the coronavirus committee. “Preferred executives have prioritized profits over vaccine production in a responsible manner that meets FDA requirements.”

Early warnings

Even in the early days of the Trump administration’s $ 628 million contract with Emergent, administration officials expressed concern about the company’s ability to scale production.

In April 2020, the Office of Advanced Biomedical Research and Development found that the facility in Bayview did not meet standard production codes and “quality systems failure”, according to committee documents. In the same month, the FDA conducted its own audit and found similar problems with quality control.

Later that spring, Carlo de Notaristefani, one of the leading producers of Operation Deformation Rate, wrote an internal letter warning other administration officials that Emergent lacks enough trained staff to carry out large-scale production of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to two people familiar with the matter who have been given anonymity to speak candidly about the situation. That letter was largely ignored, one of the people said. The FDA also completed an inspection of the facility in Bayview in April 2020 and identified a number of issues, noting that “individual or defined areas are insufficient to prevent pollution or confusion”.

However, the Trump administration has progressed with the contract, largely because the U.S. had several other production sites that could help produce the vaccine, said one person familiar with the issue. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson also learned about the problems at Bayview after conducting audits in June 2020. Both pharmaceutical companies have documented quality control issues and pollution deficiencies, the investigation found.

The administration has advised Emergent, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to hire consultants who will be able to ensure that Emergent can maintain the highest standards once it has started producing the vaccine, said one person familiar with the issue.

“Both companies have adopted Emergent’s plans to review observations with the understanding that they will work closely with Emergent to mitigate the consequences and address current issues,” the documents released by the committees said.

In June 2020, the FDA wrote to Emergent, saying that the company’s responses to the April inspection of regulators were unacceptable and that it was “not ready to support commercial operations,” according to investigation documents.

Sean Kirk, then Emergent’s executive vice president of manufacturing and technical operations, wrote an email to another of Emergent’s senior executives, John Ducott, the world’s senior vice president for quality.

“After all your assurances that we have made every effort to respond to this, it is a matter of deep concern. This concern in exponential progression is heightened as we increase production of hundreds of millions of doses of Covid vaccine. Fix it, ”Kirk wrote, according to the investigation.

Kirk also expressed concern over an FDA letter to Robert Kramer, President and CEO of Emergegent, on June 24, 2020, writing in an email: “Bob … of all the things we have to put on OWS, what holds me aside at night the overall perception of the state of quality systems at [B]ayview ».

Despite internal concerns about the company’s quality systems, Emergent has moved forward to complete contracts with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca for vaccine production in July 2020 for $ 482 million and $ 174 million, respectively. According to the committees, executives, including Kirk, have assured pharmaceutical companies that they have the systems and personnel to scale production during the summer of 2020.

Concerns about quality control systems continued to circulate in Emergent, the U.S. government and among pharmaceutical companies throughout the fall – before and after the second FDA audit in September.

In November 2020, Emergent’s external consultant warned the company that it did not comply with current good manufacturing practice, or CGMP. “Ultimately Emergent will have to decide what level of risk they are willing to take, but this is one of those where you really better listen to me and do exactly what I tell you … I very loudly declare that this work is NOT- Compatible with CGMP. And a direct regulatory risk, ”the company’s consultant wrote, according to the committee’s documents.

Despite the red flags, work at Emergent continued, despite the fact that the company “did not fix the problem and the problems persisted at the facility for several months,” the investigation revealed.

Although the U.S. government did not learn of contaminated doses in Bayview until an FDA audit in February 2021, congressional documents show that between October and November 2020, Emergent “interrupted or rejected” seven batches of AstraZeneca vaccine. for microbial contamination ”. Six additional batches of AstraZeneca were discontinued or rejected between December 2020 and April 2021, just before the contamination of 15 million doses in March 2021 – a mixture of drugs that led to the cessation of production.

In December 2020, “microbial contamination and equipment failure necessitated the cessation of approximately 30 million doses of Johnson & Johnson”. An additional 30 million doses were discarded between March and April 2021, the investigation found.

«[The] the investigation found that in late 2020 and early 2021, Emergent’s failure to follow current good manufacturing practices at Bayview resulted in the destruction of more than 240 million doses of the vaccine … far more than previously found, ”the committee report said. “An additional 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will be destroyed – at a significant cost to taxpayers – because the drug has expired.”

Problems with reduced playback

According to committee investigations, emergency services officers hid evidence of the company’s production problems from FDA inspectors during a visit to the Bayview facility in February 2021.

Officers removed labels highlighting potential quality issues from the Johnson & Johnson batch of vaccines, “to avoid attracting attention” from inspectors, as one contractor said in an internal statement released in a congressional report.

“Yellow and conspicuous” tags were returned to the two containers after FDA inspectors left, the contractor said. Senior executives, including the vice president of manufacturing operations, the quality assurance manager, the senior quality systems manager and the senior quality director, knew this had happened, according to congressional committees.

Despite the efforts, the FDA continued to raise several concerns about the institution after a visit in February, according to Peter Marx, a senior official at the vaccine agency, who briefed the committees on his findings. Within weeks, the company will detect more contaminated batches of the J&J vaccine.

In late March, officials from the Ministry of Health and Social Services sent Emmergent staff questions about the infection, prompting the head of Beyview’s Quality Department, Temi Buttercup, to write in an internal email that government officials were “too involved,” committee reports said.

The top executive wrote in response, advising Lutsyk to say that the company is “actively working on an investigation” and to share its findings with government agencies through J&J.

Meanwhile, both J&J and AstraZeneca have raised concerns about Emergent’s production and quality control processes during 2020 and early 2021. Even before AstraZeneca was mixed with doses of J&J, Emergent refused millions of doses of each vaccine through antimicrobial infection and in the case of J&J. equipment failure in late 2020.

In October 2020, J&J employees wrote in internal reports that Emergent was still unprepared for mass production, citing problems ranging from mold to floor damage and overcrowded equipment in an email to Emergent quality control staff.

But on November 19, 2020, J&J decided to “move” with production at Bayview. “This is not without known risks, as previously reported,” wrote in an internal statement the director of J&J for the implementation of pharmaceutical regulations.

Ultimately, the Emergent Partnership cost the government $ 330 million before the Biden administration terminated the deal last November. BARDA Director Gary Disbrow told the committee that they decided not to stop work due to default or reason – which may have led to some payments – for fear that it could become even more expensive in court battles.

Approximately 390 million doses of the vaccine have been or will be destroyed, 330 million for quality control reasons and 60 million because the substance has expired pending safety testing. Another 135 million are still being tested, while FDA safety checks have allowed the use of 165 million doses of J&J and 15 million doses of AstraZeneca.

Under the terms of the agreement with AstraZeneca, the U.S. will continue to pay $ 176,000 for 60 million expired doses.

“We are ashamed that we think that their experience in production will mean that they will be able to move forward and produce vaccines in a quality way that we would expect from an experienced vaccine manufacturer,” Marx told committee members at a bipartisan briefing. “It was an obvious experience not to make assumptions.”

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