SANFORD: Local company, 200 jobs threatened by federal bill

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 06:29 PM

Congressional leaders, including Rep. Renee Ellmers, are taking action this week to change a proposed federal law that could shutter a local manufacturing plant, employing more than 200 people.

The Challenge Printing Company, located at 5905 Clyde Rhyne Drive in Sanford, prints Food and Drug Administration-required inserts in prescription medications — materials that Section 8 of House Bill 1919, The Safeguarding America's Pharmaceuticals Acts of 2013, would eliminate in favor of providing the information electronically.  

Challenge Printing Regional Director Chad Sasso said he and other company executives have met with legislators in Washington within the past week to talk about the negative impacts of Section 8 and how it would cost North Carolina, and other areas, thousands of jobs.

"The language included in HR 1919 eliminates the tangible literature," Sasso said. "This potentially harms patients while eliminating thousands of jobs in North Carolina."

The Sanford plant employs 200 individuals, he said.

The bill passed in the House earlier this month and is now in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 

According to the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, the bill will establish a national standard of tracing requirements to strengthen and secure the pharmaceutical distribution supply chain.

Sasso said the company supports curbing the distribution of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs and is assisting in that effort. The bill doesn't state what electronic system would replace the printed material, he said, and the company would not be able to begin printing other materials because it uses highly specialized equipment.

"We feel that this is in the best interest of the patient," Sasso said. "If you take away something that is tangible and don't have a backup system, it's like buying a snowblower and throwing away the shovel."

Ellmers, who represents Lee County, said she supports the bill but has concerns about the language of Section 8.

"While I believe the current system is an effective way to assure patient safety, I also understand the need to keep up with technological innovations," Ellmers wrote in a written statement to The Herald. "However, the healthcare industry is not yet equipped with the technology to transition to electronic labeling without impacting patient safety. Switching to an electronic labeling system could put patients at risk of being harmed by health professionals who fail to properly administer medication because they did not have adequate information on how to do so.  Millions of seniors rely on numerous daily medications, and many of them do not have access to the Internet.  Without receiving this information at their pharmacy, they will have no way of accessing it."

Several congressional representatives will send a bipartisan letter to members of the Senate committee this week expressing their concerns with Section 8 of the bill, she said.

Lee County Economic Development Corporation Interim Director Crystal Morphis said she recently met with Challenge Printing officials and urged EDC Board members to contact their federal representatives.

"The EDC did meet with Challenge Printing about House Bill 1919 and how it would effect their company," she said. "[If the bill passes] it will negatively impact their business significantly. The EDC asked its members to reach out to the federal delegation to show support for Challenge Printing."

Several members asked questions about the proposed federal law, she said, and at least one person said they felt the legislation was a good bill.

Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack said he's consulted with pharmacists, medical care providers and at least one federal legislator who all said it was a good bill that eliminated unnecessary federal regulation.

"We support all of our local businesses," Womack said, "and we want to see them thrive."

However, he said, he couldn't advocate against a bill if it eliminates unnecessary federal regulation and bureaucracy.

"As much as I want to see Challenge Printing survive and do well, I am not against the principle of ending unnecessary federal regulations," Womack said.