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An Update on FDA’s Contribution to COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing

November 5, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana

Back in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we published a post outlining the different kinds of diagnostic tests that were being marketed and the different roles of the two main federal regulators that oversee the quality of different subsets of tests. Since then, there have been some important policy developments affecting diagnostic and antibody testing. There also has been significant growth in the number of tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for point-of-care uses in various patient settings such as clinics, emergency departments, and physician offices. Read on for an update about these developments.
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Bioethics in a Pandemic: FDA Guidance on Granting EUAs for a COVID-19 Vaccine

October 29, 2020 | Blog | By Bridgette Keller, Benjamin Zegarelli

Earlier this month, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research issued its highly anticipated guidance outlining the agency’s current thinking on granting emergency use authorization (EUA) to investigational vaccines for COVID-19. This guidance was the subject of intense political debate among the White House, FDA, and other public health officials given the urgent need for a safe and effective vaccine.
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You’d be forgiven in the current climate of coronavirus and election season, to name just a couple hot issues of the day, for missing two recent announcements from the FDA about its digital health program. On September 14, 2020, FDA published “Developing the Software Precertification Program: Summary of Learnings and Ongoing Activities” and the following week, on September 22, launched the Digital Health Center of Excellence.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced what appears to be the first public warning made by the agency to a company promoting an approved prescription drug product for the unapproved use of treating COVID-19 symptoms. Although the regulatory action was announced in the FDA’s daily pandemic update on October 2, 2020, the warning letter issued by the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) is dated September 22, 2020. From our perspective, this public FDA action is notable for two distinct policy reasons.
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On September 24, 2020, HHS announced that it had finalized the Section 804 Importation Program regulations, which fall under the authority of Section 804 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) (21 U.S.C. § 384). Although the Section 804 authority has been in place for nearly twenty years, no previous HHS Secretary had been willing to certify, as required by the law, that drug importation would “pose no additional risk to the public’s health and safety” and would “result in a significant reduction in the cost of covered products to the American consumer.” The preamble to the Final Rule states that HHS Secretary Alex Azar is making the necessary certification to Congress in conjunction with this Final Rule. It also addresses a variety of comments from stakeholders regarding the scope and timing of the Section 804 certification, each of which raise novel questions of law and policy in light of the untested nature of the requirement. Perhaps most interestingly, however, the Final Rule notes several times that HHS/FDA is “unable to estimate the cost savings from this final rule, because we lack information about the likely size and scope of [Section 804 Importation Programs], the specific eligible prescription drugs that may be imported, the degree to which these imported drugs will be less expensive than nonimported drugs available in the United States, and which eligible prescription drugs are produced by U.S.-based drug manufacturers,” making it difficult to reconcile how the HHS Secretary was able to certify that it would result in a significant reduction in costs for U.S. consumers.
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Introduction to the Due Diligence Process, Second Edition

September 2, 2020 | Video | By Elizabeth Conti

In this video, Elizabeth Conti provides an overview of “Introduction to the Due Diligence Process,” a high-level guide through the transactional due diligence process from a regulatory affairs perspective, recently published by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS). Elizabeth co-authored the book with Mintz's Joanne Hawana and Benjamin Zegarelli.
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Clinical trial sponsors and principal investigators can consider themselves on notice that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is poised to ramp up enforcement activity relating to responsible parties’ obligations regarding clinical trial registration and results reporting. In a new guidance it released on August 12, 2020, FDA outlines how it intends to identify parties who have failed to register a clinical trial on, or submit results to, the ClinicalTrials.gov databank, as required by the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 and final regulations promulgated in 2016 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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FDA Greenlights Updates to the Purple Book Database

August 6, 2020 | Blog | By Elizabeth Conti

As promised, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated the Purple Book: Database of FDA-licensed Biological Products, providing greater transparency and a more user-friendly search functionality for the biological product and biosimilar industries. Earlier this year, FDA transitioned the Purple Book to a searchable online database. The August 3, 2020 release offers additional information on all FDA-licensed allergenic, cellular and gene therapy, hematologic, and vaccine products regulated by the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) expanding the dataset used by the database. FDA also updated the available exclusivity information for further industry ease of reference. This update is the next phase of the agency’s plan to improve the accessibility of information related to biological products through expansion and digitization.
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Beyond COVID: House Committee Advances Several FDA-Related Bills

July 23, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson, Margaret Jewett

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the House Energy & Commerce Committee continues work on several health policy issues, including Orphan Drug Act reform and continuous manufacturing.
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About a month ago, I predicted on this blog that Food and Drug Administration’s November 2020 enforcement discretion deadline announced as part of its Comprehensive Regenerative Medicine Policy Framework would most likely not be extended. My view was based on a June 17 editorial by agency leadership discussing the risks of unapproved cellular therapy products, which didn’t suggest an extension was forthcoming, as well as an increase in Warning/Untitled Letters related to such products as compared to this time last year. In that earlier blog post I wrote: “Nothing in this newly published editorial suggests that [the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] will be taking its proverbial foot off the pedal to slow down its efforts towards further oversight of the private stem cell clinic industry after November 2020.”
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CMS Proposes Rule to Pave the Way for Value-Based Drug Purchasing

June 26, 2020 | Blog | By Theresa Carnegie, Ellyn Sternfield, Michelle Caton

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken another step to further the adoption of value-based purchasing within the health care industry. (Readers may recall the Department of Health & Human Services’ two proposed rules – one from CMS and another from the Office of Inspector General – issued late last year, aimed at reducing barriers to value-based arrangements, which we discussed here.) CMS released its new proposed rule to “support state flexibility to enter into innovative value-based purchasing arrangements (VBPs) with manufacturers, and to provide manufacturers with regulatory support to enter into VBPs with payers, including Medicaid.”
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As we discussed in our last update on the Food and Drug Administration’s Comprehensive Regenerative Medicine Policy Framework back in December 2019 (during the much simpler, pre-COVID-19 world), this coming November will conclude the three-year period of enforcement discretion announced by the agency when it first articulated the policies and goals of this “comprehensive framework.” In particular, under the dual-track program announced in 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been focused on: (1) clarifying the regulatory criteria for product marketing through guidance and providing support to legitimate product developers through formal and informal interactions; and (2) removing unapproved, unproven, and potentially unsafe products from the U.S. market.
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A panel of federal appellate judges has sided with drugmakers by upholding a lower court ruling from 2019 that struck down a regulation proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In a closely watched case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision on June 16, 2020 affirming the district court’s judgement that vacated the HHS Drug Pricing Disclosure Rule. This ruling is yet another example of a court invalidating the Drug Pricing Disclosure Rule, which sought to require drugmakers’ television advertisements to disclose the list prices of their prescription drug products.
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OTC Monograph Reform: Key Takeaways and What Industry Can Expect

June 10, 2020 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli, Elizabeth Conti, Joanne Hawana

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which in part describes reforms to modernize the regulatory framework for over-the-counter (OTC) monograph drugs. We previously blogged about the surprise addition of the OTC monograph reforms within the CARES Act. On May 29, 2020, the Office of Nonprescription Drugs within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a webinar titled “Monograph Reform is Here!” (a recording of the webinar is available here), which included key highlights from the OTC monograph reform.
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We have been blogging about the various actions that numerous government agencies were taking to combat COVID-19 fraud (see here and here). These agencies and their respective law enforcement efforts have yet to slow down and appear to have accelerated as greater coordination begins to take root. As of May 29, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued 64 warning letters to companies making claims about a product alleged to be a COVID cure, treatment, or preventative product, while the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had issued many, many more than that. In some cases, these warning letters are joint letters that come from both government agencies, which is never a good sign. The FTC in particular is making announcements on a regular basis about large batches of warning letters being issued, such as this one from May 21 highlighting that 50 more marketers of fraudulent COVID-19 products had received such a missive from the FTC. 
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Earlier this month, Blue Bell Creameries L.P. (Blue Bell) agreed to plead guilty to charges that it distributed contaminated ice cream products that were linked to a 2015 listeriosis outbreak.  The Blue Bell outbreak made headlines in 2015, largely because it resulted in multiple cases of listeriosis and, tragically, three deaths.  Aside from the obvious health-related consequences to the public and reputational harm to the nationally-known manufacturer of sweet treats, the basis for the various charges and causes of action related to the outbreak demonstrate the broad range of legal consequences, both civil and criminal, that can result from the failure to address food safety requirements and regulatory compliance more generally.
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FDA Reverses Decision to Authorize Use of Chinese KN95 Respirators

May 8, 2020 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli, Elizabeth Conti

Citing poor quality, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has barred the importation of certain KN95 filtering facepiece respirators manufactured in China. On May 7, 2020, FDA revised and reissued the Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators Manufactured in China Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that provided eligibility criteria authorizing the importation of respirators from China that are not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (i.e., not certified as meeting the N95 standard).
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Next Steps for 21st Century Cures 2.0

May 8, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

On Monday, April 27, Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) announced the next steps for 21st Century Cures 2.0 (Cures 2.0), legislation that will build on the original 21st Century Cures Act enacted in December 2016 (Cures 1.0). While Cures 1.0 aimed to speed up the process of bringing new treatments to market, Cures 2.0 is generally envisioned to emphasize public health and streamlined care delivery, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elements envisioned to be in Cures 2.0 were outlined in a recently published concept paper that we discuss in this post.
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Rough Seas for COVID-19 Serology Tests Lead to Course Correction by FDA

May 5, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Hope Foster, Aaron Josephson

Responding to increased public and congressional criticism of its arguably too-flexible approach to regulatory oversight of serological tests used to detect COVID-19 antibodies, on May 4, 2020 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a revised policy aimed at reducing the risks associated with such tests.
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FDA Expands Focus for COVID-19 Response

May 4, 2020 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli, Elizabeth Conti

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to churn out policy statements, guidance documents, and emergency use authorizations (EUAs) to address the COVID-19 public health emergency. At the outset of the pandemic in early 2020, the agency concentrated its efforts on measures relating to devices that may help directly diagnose, treat, or prevent COVID-19, such as facemasks, ventilators, and diagnostic test kits. Recently, however, FDA appears to have shifted its focus to devices that may assist in the defense against the spread of COVID-19. For example, FDA issued enforcement policies and EUAs that help to expand the availability and capability of various remote monitoring devices and systems that can be used to diagnose and monitor medical conditions while mitigating circumstances that could lead to patient and health care workers’ exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) for the duration of the public health emergency.
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