Posted: 02 Mar 2017 11:04 AM PST
Believe it or not, Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C.’s FDA Law Blog turns 10 years old today (Monday, March 6, 2017). Where have all of the years gone? It seems like Tuesday, March 6, 2007 was just yesterday. That’s when we put up our initial post promising to cover “topics of interest to FDA-regulated companies, fellow food and drug and healthcare lawyers and regulatory personnel, as well as people just generally interested in FDA law.” We think we’ve fulfilled that promise! (At least that’s what all of the awards we’ve received tell us.)
Since that day in March 2007, things have never been quite the same. Apparently we’ve become a fixture of the food and drug law bar and required reading for the FDA-regulated industries. In fact, one of your blogmasters recently mentioned the impending anniversary to a colleague in the food and drug bar. We were met with: “Only 10 years? The blog is an institution!” While we were happy to be labeled an institution, we took (slight) exception to his use of the word “only.” While the ten years have gone by fast, it’s been grueling work at times (not unlike running a marathon). We’ve spent thousands of hours researching topics, writing posts (sometimes at unusual hours when we should be sleeping), and creating and updating our popular trackers. In fact, we’ve written over 3,060 posts! Assuming each posts averages two pages of text (standard 8.5 x 11 paper), laid out end-to-end we have over 1.06 miles of posts.
But all of the work we do has been (and continues to be) worth the effort! We’ve grown a large following – with about 20,000 subscribers – and have had tens of millions of page views and blog website hits. We’re regularly cited (in the press, in journal articles, and sometimes in judicial decisions) as a reliable authority. And we appreciate all of the fanmail, kudos, and recommendations we’ve received along the way from interested readers.
Most importantly, we’ve had a lot of fun writing for the FDA Law Blog and have learned a lot. Food and drug law may not be the sexiest topic (the Hatch-Waxman genre is though!), and can get quite technical at times. But we try to spice things up when we can with pop culture references and attention-grabbing headlines. Where else would you see Godot and FDA called out in the same sentence other than here? Or learn about “false friends” . . . or get to chuckle over a headline like “Flare-Up Over Generic Herpes Drug Could be Short-Lived” . . . or pick up an earworm for the day (click here and here if you want one).
In any case, thank you to all of our readers for your attention and support over the past decade. We cannot wait to see what the next decade might bring for FDA regulation, the regulated industries, and the advancements in science and technology that make all of our lives better.
Posted: 05 Mar 2017 04:02 PM PST
By Mark I. Schwartz –
Last week, the United States and the European Union agreed to recognize each other’s drug cGMP inspections. The agreement reached (see here and here) amends the Pharmaceutical Annex to the 1998 U.S. – E.U. Mutual Recognition Agreement, with a view to avoiding duplicative inspections and saving millions of dollars in repetitive inspections.
FDA has stated that they believe this “…initiative will result in greater efficiencies for both regulatory systems and provide a more practical means to oversee the large number of drug manufacturing facilities outside of the U.S. and EU.”
Until now, the EU and FDA sometimes would inspect some of the same facilities within a brief period of time. With this new agreement, such duplication is expected to be the exception, rather than the rule. “By utilizing each other’s inspection reports and related information, the FDA and EU will be able to reallocate resources towards inspection of drug manufacturing facilities with potentially higher public health risks across the globe. This will benefit patients and reduce adverse public health outcomes.”
Interestingly, many, if not most, products regulated by the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at FDA appear to fall outside the ambit of this agreement (as do veterinary immunologicals). “Current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) inspections of facilities manufacturing vaccines and plasma derived products are not immediately included within the scope of the agreement. The possibility of including vaccines and plasma derived products will be re-evaluated no later than July 15, 2022. Human blood, human plasma, [and] human tissues are not included within the scope of the Amended Sectoral Annex.”
As some of our readers may recall, we blogged about the negotiations regarding the Mutual Reliance Initiative last summer, here, where we stated that the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 (FDASIA) allows FDA to enter into arrangements with foreign governments to recognize the inspection of foreign establishments that are registered under the FDCA “…in order to facilitate risk-based inspections…”
FDASIA section 712 (FDCA section 809):
(a) INSPECTION.—The Secretary—[Emphasis added.]
The Mutual Recognition Agreement defines an inspectorate that is capable of conducting an inspection of a drug manufacturing facility that meets U.S. requirements, as one that:
As we stated last summer, the notion of having a foreign inspectorate perform drug inspections on FDA’s behalf, when the inspections performed by FDA’s own investigators are already so inconsistent, is problematic at best. Indeed, FDA representatives have long acknowledged that the agency doesn’t have an objective method for measuring quality in the drug industry (for instance, at which facilities are cGMPs improving? By how much and in what way?) Nor do they have a reliable method for making cGMP comparisons between facilities manufacturing similar products, or for comparing the results from within a facility over multiple inspections. (This author will acknowledge that the agency has published a draft guidance on Quality Metrics, which has yet to be finalized, and it is also developing a New Inspection Protocol Project, both of which seek to remedy these weaknesses in the agency’s inspection process. However, these projects are in their earliest stages, they remain largely untested, and it is unclear at this point whether they will lead to more consistency in inspectional results.)
It would seem that rectifying these significant lacunae in FDA’s inspectional responsibilities should be the first order of business for the agency, prior to even considering delegating the responsibility for EU inspections to a foreign inspectorate which is not schooled in FDA’s precise cGMP requirements, and is not required to maintain the same procedures as FDA.
One final thought, would FDA take an enforcement action against a foreign facility in the absence of having its own FDA investigators gather the evidentiary basis for this enforcement action? This is indeed a brave new world.
We will continue to keep you posted on all developments in this regard.
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