Three encouraging steps towards new antibiotics

By: Janet Woodcock, M.D.

You may have been hearing about a variety of Federal Government actions to address the growing need for new antibiotics. For instance, in an FDA Voice blog last week Commissioner Hamburg discussed the President’s national strategy for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) and our collaboration with a wide variety of organizations to address this issue. You may have also noticed another recent blog talking about FDA’s work on the Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now Act (GAIN Act), the Antibacterial Drug Development Task Force, a public meeting, a Federal Register Notice, and multiple guidance documents, all aimed at building up the nation’s arsenal of effective antimicrobial drugs.

Janet WoodcockThere are many government activities in this area, so I’d like to boil things down a bit. A critical fact is that our efforts are starting to show signs of success. Over the last few months, FDA has approved three new antibiotics to treat patients with acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI) caused by bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant strains, also known as MRSA infections.

  • On May 23, FDA approved Dalvance (dalbavancin), an injectable drug, administered intravenously in two doses one week apart.
  • On June 20, FDA approved Sivextro (tedizolid phosphate), available for intravenous and oral use, administered once daily for six days.
  • On August 6, FDA approved Orbactiv (oritavancin), an injectable drug administered as a single dose to comprise a full course of therapy.

In these approvals, the drug’s manufacturer was able to take advantage of recently enacted incentives to help bring new antimicrobials to market. Each of these drugs was approved after being designated as a Qualified Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) under the GAIN Act. As part of this QIDP designation, FDA’s review of the drug application was expedited. The designation also qualified the drugs for five years of marketing exclusivity to be added to certain exclusivity already provided by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. To date, FDA has granted the QIDP designation to 39 antibiotics under development.

Development of these three new antibiotics was also helped a great deal by the scientific collaboration among stakeholders dedicated to advancing new antimicrobial therapies. The Biomarkers Consortium of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, academic and industry experts, and other contributors made valuable recommendations to the FDA regarding designing scientifically sound studies to show the effectiveness of these drugs in clinical trials.

We still have a long way to go in getting a leg up on building a new and more effective arsenal of antimicrobial products. And once approved, it will be critical for health care professionals to appropriately prescribe these new antibiotics. But with ongoing collaborative, concerted efforts by the many public and private stakeholders, we can continue to advance and help build a national antibacterial research and development enterprise capable of bringing new drugs to the patients who need them. These three approvals are an encouraging start!

Janet Woodcock, M.D., is the Director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

Learn more by reading Dr. Woodcock’s testimony: 21st Century Cures: Examining Ways to Combat Antibiotic Resistance and Foster New Drug Development.:

FDA’s First Food Safety Challenge Targets Salmonella Detection

By: David G. White, Ph.D.

An estimated one in six Americans is sickened by foodborne illness annually, resulting in about 3,000 deaths each year. To keep our food safe, FDA wants to develop faster and more sensitive technologies to detect contaminants such as harmful bacteria. That’s why the agency is launching its first Food Safety Challenge, an effort to strengthen our food supply by fostering innovation in technologies that will more quickly detect pathogens in produce.

David WhiteThe first challenge will focus on Salmonella, one of our most pervasive food-safety problems today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States every year, with about 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. Salmonella infections have been associated with eating foods, such as meat, eggs and fresh produce, contaminated with animal or human feces. The main causes of Salmonella illness are poultry and eggs. FDA’s goal is to prevent Salmonella contamination from happening, but we need to detect it quickly and efficiently when it is present in order to remove foods from the marketplace.

Through this innovation challenge, FDA wants to engage with others outside the agency who are not traditionally working in food safety—be they scientists, academicians, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers or physicists—to find an ingenious approach to this problem so we can detect the disease-causing bacteria before they reach the consumer.

We’re focusing on produce first because it has a major impact on public health.  According to the CDC, contaminated produce causes 46% of foodborne illness and 23% of foodborne illness-related deaths. But detecting low levels of Salmonella in produce can be like finding a needle in a haystack: difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Even a simple tomato might have up to a billion surface bacteria that do not cause harm to humans. Quickly detecting just the few types of bacteria that do cause harm, like Salmonella, is a daunting task.

Accurate detection is our highest priority. But rapid detection is also important. Testing for microbial contamination of produce currently can take up to several days. Meanwhile, the produce may sit in a warehouse, where its shelf life decreases with each passing day. Consumers can’t eat it, and producers can’t sell it. Those limitations affect the economy – from consumers to producers to farmers.

Maybe other scientists and innovators outside FDA have revolutionary techniques that they never thought of applying to food safety. We hope so. There are many new technologies that might be invaluable to our field laboratories, where we’re testing at least hundreds of pounds of produce a week.

We have already conducted a significant amount of research on food safety here at FDA. We have a lot of answers, but not all of them. Our hope is that this challenge will provide solutions that would increase the speed of FDA’s detection efforts without sacrificing specificity and sensitivity or comparability to reference methods. The challenge is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents 18 and older and to entities incorporated in and maintaining a primary place of business in the United States, with certain exclusions for federal entities, employees and grantees. Participants will submit cutting-edge techniques to speed detection of Salmonella in produce. Their work will be evaluated by experts in food safety and foodborne pathogen detection from FDA, CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The winners (and there could be more than one) will share a total prize pool of $500,000.

These ideas will not only benefit U.S. consumers, but their effects will ultimately be felt worldwide. Everybody wants safe food, not just in the United States, but all over the world.

We hope that the 2014 FDA Food Safety Challenge creates an avenue for ideas and dialogue. We want to learn from others and adapt best practices so consumers can continue to trust the foods they eat.

To learn more about, and sign up for, the Food Safety Challenge, visit www.foodsafetychallenge.com.

David G. White, Ph.D., is the chief science officer and research director in FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine

FDA’s Take on the Executive Order and National Strategy to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

By: Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

Few issues in public health today are as critical and time urgent as combating the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. We are delighted to stand with the White House in the development and response to the President’s Executive Order and the National Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB) Strategy. Fighting antibiotic resistance is both a public health and national security priority. FDA has played a key role in the development of this important effort, and we already have made strides on many fronts to make sure that we have effective antibiotics for the future.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D.Antibiotics are precious medicines that have saved millions of lives by treating infections caused by bacteria. But their misuse, and overuse, has serious health consequences and has contributed to antibiotic resistance—in which these drugs become less effective, or ineffective, against harmful bacteria.

The consequences of antibiotic resistance must not be underestimated. With each passing day, concern mounts that more patients will have few or no therapeutic options because of resistance to available therapies. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It is a high priority for FDA to work with our partners to find solutions for this serious public health problem.

To address the need for effective antibiotics, FDA is working hard to ensure development of new strategies. These include vaccines to help prevent infection with bacteria in the first place; devices to aid in the accurate diagnosis of the cause of infection and of resistant infections; and new drugs to treat patients with serious infections for whom we have few, or no, treatment options because of resistance to currently available antibiotics.

We have been engaging with outside groups to advance the science of clinical trials. For instance, we have worked with the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative on increasing the efficiency of clinical trials; with the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution to address overarching issues in antibiotic development, such as the major technical and financial barriers; and with the Biomarkers Consortium of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on endpoints for studying antibiotics in clinical trials. In fact, we recently joined NIH to hold a workshop to examine the technical challenges related to antibacterial product development and to discuss innovative regulatory and clinical trial approaches for bringing new products to market. (The final agenda and presentations are available online.)

FDA also has been actively implementing the Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now (GAIN) Act, a provision within the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) to promote the development of antibacterial and antifungal drugs. To date, FDA has granted 57 Qualified Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) designations under GAIN to 39 different unique molecules. Antibiotics that have a QIDP designation receive, upon request, priority review, typically shaving four months off review times, and fast track designation, which results in early consultation, including on clinical trial design, between FDA and antibiotic sponsors. QIDPs also can receive an additional five years of marketing exclusivity in addition to existing exclusivity periods at the time of approval. We’re pleased that already three QIDP designated antibacterial drugs have been approved in the past few months: Dalbavancin in May 2014, Tedizolid Phosphate in June 2014 and Oritavancin in August 2014.

Furthermore, FDA promotes the appropriate and responsible use of antibiotics in clinical medicine. Antibiotic labels contain information for health care professionals and patients on appropriate use. And we work to improve the integrity of the global supply chain for pharmaceutical products to minimize the chance of a patient receiving a substandard drug, which in some instances could promote antimicrobial resistance.

In addition, FDA has developed—and is working to implement—two strategies to ensure the judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. This is a vital step to better protect antibiotic effectiveness for both human and animal populations. Accordingly, we asked the manufacturers of these antibiotics used in food-producing animals to remove all growth promotion indications. Once their labels have been changed, the products can no longer be used legally for growth promotion purposes, or without veterinary oversight. We have now secured the commitment of all 26 affected animal health companies, and 31 products have been withdrawn from the market. Two other companies have implemented label changes and we will be working with the other companies to make sure that they do so as well. The second track will ensure that all remaining therapeutic uses of the affected medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals will take place under the supervision of a veterinarian. The agency continues to work under a three-year transition period, and we remain encouraged by the process.

A successful strategy to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria will require effort and input from all involved groups, including from health care professionals and patients themselves. For our part, FDA continues to work with government partners, product developers and the scientific community as well as other critical stakeholders to address the unique and complex regulatory, scientific and policy challenges associated with this public health issue. The Executive Order and CARB strategy announced today will clearly boost our and the nation’s efforts to meet these challenges more effectively.

Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

20 Years of Improving Women’s Health: 1994 – 2014

By: Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D.As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health, I would like to highlight some of the work we’ve done to help improve women’s health, both looking across FDA and within the office. Whether it is approving new treatments for chronic conditions like heart disease, conducting research or helping to protect pregnant women from foodborne illnesses, the work we do at FDA makes a difference throughout a woman’s life.

Consider our product approvals. In 1996, for example, our agency approved a product for use in Pap smears that revolutionized the detection of cervical cancer; ten years later we approved the first vaccine for the prevention of this cancer. We have also approved advances in breast imaging, including 3D breast tomosynthesis and automated screening ultrasound.

We have encouraged innovation in lupus treatment and approved the first new lupus drug in 50 years. And we approved the latest generation of cardiac synchronization therapy devices which our own FDA scientists have shown particularly benefit women with heart failure.

FDA has also supported research to help us better understand how medical products affect women. Since 1994, the Office of Women’s Health research program has provided $30 million to support over 300 research projects, workshops, and trainings on a wide range of topics including cancer, HIV and osteoporosis. More than 25 percent of these research dollars have been directed at cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women, with studies examining such issues as QT interval prolongation (a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity), how breast cancer drugs can affect the heart, and sex differences in various cardiac interventional therapies. FDA’s medical product centers have also sponsored women’s health research and initiatives such as the Health of Women Program that promote a better understanding of sex differences.

The results have been impressive: OWH’s research alone has been published in over 290 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has made impact on the regulatory decision-making process, including guidance documents, label changes, and standards development. Indeed, FDA’s guidance to industry is an important way that the agency has been helping to address important issues in women’s health.

Over the years, FDA guidance has encouraged greater inclusion of women in clinical trials and the evaluation of sex differences. Our own analysis last year found that women make up about half of the representation in these studies, but the numbers are lower for medical devices. So we have more to do and recently issued guidance to medical device developers to address this concern.

We have also made great strides in our communication and outreach to women during the past two decades. OWH’s Take Time to Care Program has built partnerships with other government agencies, retailers, and national organizations that provide millions of women with FDA safety information. Over the years, we have launched other educational initiatives like the Food Safety for Moms-to-Be and expanded the women’s health resources available via our “For Women” website and social media to make sure that women have tools to help them make informed decisions about the use of FDA-regulated products.

I am pleased at how much we have done to promote and protect women’s health since 1994. At the center of much of this change has been the consistent, driving force of the Office of Women’s Health and its determined leader, Marsha Henderson. I encourage you to check out OWH’s 20th Anniversary brochure to learn more about the progress that has been made. And I hope that you will collaborate with us on the work that still needs to be done.

Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Teachers Learn About the Science Behind Food Safety and Nutrition

By: Sharmi Das

This past July, middle and high school teachers got a taste of the latest food safety and nutrition information at the FDA’s 15th annual summer training program for school teachers. The week-long program aims to improve food safety and nutrition education in U.S. schools so students are better armed to make nutritious food choices and understand the proper handling of food.

Sharmi DasThe program, called Science and Our Food Supply, uses a curriculum co-developed by FDA and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). To date, 652 teachers (from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. Territories) have completed the weeklong training. This year, 32 teachers from 22 states participated in the program and will return to their own schools to teach the curriculum this school year. This class included teachers who specialize in biology, chemistry, food science, health, and family and consumer sciences such as culinary arts.

The creation of a strong network of teachers and students around the country who are “food savvy” is a measure of the program’s success. The program’s participants will reach an estimated 3,200 new students, as well as 640 additional teachers in daylong train-the-teacher sessions, this coming school year. These estimates conservatively reflect the reach of this program – many teachers report using this curriculum to educate consumer groups within their communities, as well as sharing their new knowledge with their own friends and family.

Teachers participating in the 15th year of the Science and Our Food Supply program, FDA/CFSAN

Teachers participating in the 15th year of the Science and Our Food Supply program, FDA/CFSAN

During the weeklong program, teachers learned about the journey food takes from farm to table. The training included basic microbiology techniques in a University of Maryland teaching lab, along with introductions to the latest food safety and nutrition research from scientists at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC). The teachers heard about new and ongoing research on food safety, nutrition and nutrition labeling, food allergies and food allergen labeling, and cosmetics safety.

In these settings, the teachers not only listened to presentations about relevant topics, but were given ample time to interact with the speakers. Teachers were excited at the opportunity to “ask the experts” many of the questions their students had brought up in class. Lively discussions on the topics of food allergies, color additives, and cosmetics helped teachers understand FDA’s role in regulating several products.

Teachers participating in the 15th year of the Science and Our Food Supply program, FDA/CFSAN

Train the trainer…. Teachers learning about nutrition and food safety through the Science and Our Food Supply program at FDA/CFSAN

At the end of the week, teachers reported on the many ways the training and curriculum will be used to teach their students about food safety and nutrition. “I feel like I can better explain and allow them to investigate better/healthier food choices,” said Victoria Obenchain, of Moraga, Calif. The teachers were also given a variety of educational materials and resources to help them use the curriculum in their own schools.

The FDA-NSTA training program immerses educators in the world and culture of food safety and nutrition for a full week. This experience provides school teachers with a comprehensive farm-to-table perspective on food safety and nutrition, allows them to become familiar with the many and varied backgrounds of professionals in this field, and helps to educate thousands of students about Science and Our Food Supply.

Sharmi Das is the Director of the Division of Education, Outreach and Information in the Office of Analytics and Outreach in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

50 States, One Goal: Working Together to Keep Our Food Safe

By: Melinda K. Plaisier and Michael R. Taylor

Melinda K. Plaisier is FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.

Melinda K. Plaisier

The August 12 conference in St. Louis of the Partnership for Food Protection (PFP) was truly a meeting of the minds. This 50-state workshop drew food and feed safety experts from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government agencies. These organizations make up the PFP. Our shared goal? To continue working towards a food safety system in our country that makes our food as safe as possible.

Partnerships have become increasingly important in our efforts. Simply put, we can’t do it alone. The scope of the public health mission is too vast. We need to take advantage of the unique contributions state and local partners can make through their food safety commitment, knowledge of local conditions and practices, and local presence to deliver training, technical assistance and compliance oversight. Together, we can ensure an effective public health safety net.

Michael R. Taylor is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

Michael R. Taylor

But building the kind of partnership we envision is an extraordinarily complex task. There are 3,000 food safety agencies in this country at the federal, state and local level. The challenge we face is this: How do we make PFP a reality that will work for decades to come? Working together to corral the complexities of our global food supply is critically important to our success and represents a significant shift in the way we work.

And creating that new reality is what our recent meeting was all about.

FDA itself is in a time of transition through Commissioner Hamburg’s initiative of program alignment. The agency is working to better align internal operations, increasing specialization among inspectors, compliance officers, laboratory staff and others to give them increased technical knowledge in a specific commodity area, and partnering them with subject matter experts in FDA’s centers. Ultimately, this will streamline decision-making and provide real-time technical and policy support for frontline staff.

This effort will better position FDA to meet the challenges we face, including the continued evolution of science and technology, the reality of globalization, and implementing the rules we are working to finalize that will help make the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) a reality—each rule,  in its own way, transformative.

Speaking with one voice as an agency and acting in unison across internal boundaries will enable FDA to better support our state partners as we all work to use innovative tools, training and approaches.

Our collaborations with the Association of Food and Drug Officials, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Environmental Health Association, and the Association of Public Health Laboratories—just to name a few—are equally valuable in this cause.

We are well on our way toward making our partnership through PFP a foundation of the modern infrastructure we are building to protect public health. Our partners are engaged, and FDA is all in. And now we are truly beginning to see some of the fruits of our labor. Until we meet again, our work continues.

Melinda K. Plaisier is FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.

Michael R. Taylor is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

FDA Works to Mitigate the West Africa Ebola Outbreak

By: Luciana Borio, M.D.

Luciana Borio, M.D.The world is witnessing the devastating effects of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history. To date, more than two thousand people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have become infected, and more than twelve hundred have died. The stories of so many lives lost, and those of so many others fighting for their lives, are heartbreaking and tragic. We at the Food and Drug Administration are dedicated to helping end this outbreak as quickly as possible. And we are working hard to accelerate the development and production of treatments and vaccines to help prevent future outbreaks like this.

The primary approaches to contain the current outbreak remain standard public health measures. However, this outbreak presents complex challenges, in part because there are no FDA-approved treatments or vaccines for the Ebola virus. FDA has an important role during situations like this.

For example, we are working closely with U.S. government agencies that support medical product development – including the National Institutes of Health, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) – to speed the development and production of medical products that could help mitigate outbreaks like this. And we are working interactively with medical product sponsors to clarify regulatory and data requirements in order to move investigational products forward in development as quickly as possible. We also are in close contact with the World Health Organization and several of our international regulatory counterparts to exchange information about these investigational products for Ebola treatment, and to exchange information about how FDA works to facilitate development of and access to these products.

The experimental vaccines and treatments in development are in the earliest investigational stages and have not been fully tested for safety or efficacy. Only small amounts of some experimental products have been manufactured for testing, which means few courses, if any, are available for companies to make available for compassionate use in response to this outbreak. We are working closely with our U.S. government colleagues to have experimental treatments and vaccines available for clinical evaluation in the next few months. We are hopeful that, in the future, we will have medical products approved and manufactured for wide-scale use to address the Ebola outbreak. However, these products are not at that stage yet.

In the meantime, FDA is doing all we can to alleviate the situation. FDA has one of the world’s most flexible regulatory frameworks, which includes mechanisms to enable access to available investigational medical products when, based on certain criteria such as the balance between expected risk and benefit to the patient, it would be appropriate to use such products.

For example, under certain circumstances, clinicians may request the use of an Emergency Investigational New Drug (EIND) application under the FDA’s Expanded Access program to access investigational products outside of clinical trials for their patients. And under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority, we can allow the use of an unapproved medical product – or an unapproved use of an approved medical product – for a larger population during emergencies, when there are no adequate, approved and available alternatives.

This month, we authorized the use of an Ebola diagnostic test, developed by DoD, under an EUA to detect the Ebola virus in DoD-designated laboratories. This test can help facilitate an effective response to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa by helping to rapidly identify patients infected with Ebola virus and facilitate appropriate containment measures and clinical care.

It is an unfortunate fact that, during outbreaks like this, fraudulent products that claim to prevent, treat or cure a disease rapidly appear on the market. FDA has learned of several fraudulent products that claim to prevent or treat this Ebola virus infection, including so-called natural remedies. Consumers who have seen these fraudulent products or false claims should report them to us. For our part, we will remain vigilant for fraudulent products and false product claims related to the Ebola virus, and will take enforcement actions as warranted to protect public health.

FDA stands ready to work with companies and healthcare providers to speed product development and to facilitate access to investigational products to treat patients when appropriate. We are fully committed to helping end this outbreak as quickly as possible and to sustaining our efforts to help prevent such outbreaks in the future.

Luciana Borio, M.D., is the Assistant Commissioner for Counterterrorism Policy and Acting Deputy Chief Scientist.

Clinical Trials: Enhancing Data Quality, Encouraging Participation and Improving Transparency

By: Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

Today FDA is announcing important steps that the agency plans to take to enhance the collection and availability of clinical trial data on demographic subgroups – patient populations divided by sex, race/ethnicity or age.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D.Section 907 of the 2012 FDA Safety and Innovation Act directed us to take a closer look at the extent to which clinical trial participation and the inclusion of safety and effectiveness data by demographic subgroups is included in medical product applications, report our findings, and then, within one year, produce an action plan with recommendations for improvements.

Our report, issued on August 20, 2013, found that the agency’s statutes, regulations, and policies generally give product sponsors a solid framework for providing data in their applications on the inclusion and analysis of demographic subgroups. Overall, sponsors are describing the demographic profiles of their clinical trial participants, and the majority of applications submitted to FDA include demographic subset analyses. We also found that FDA shares this information with the public in a variety of ways. Now, one year later, we’re releasing the FDA Action Plan to Enhance the Collection and Availability of Demographic Subgroup Data, which we developed after extensive interaction with stakeholders.

The action plan includes 27 action items that are designed to meet three overarching priorities – improving the completeness and quality of demographic subgroup data collection, reporting and analysis (quality); identifying barriers to subgroup enrollment in clinical trials and employing strategies to encourage greater participation (participation); and, making demographic subgroup data more available and transparent (transparency).

In addition to the action plan, we’re publishing a final guidance entitled, “Evaluation of Sex-Specific Data in Medical Device Clinical Studies.” It was written in response to the fact that certain medical devices may yield different responses in women than men, and yet women are under-represented in some medical device studies. This has led to less information for women regarding the risks and benefits of using these devices.

The guidance includes recommended methods for clinical study design and conduct to increase enrollment of men and women, if needed, and ways to analyze data for sex differences. FDA has held a series of public workshops to raise awareness about common strategies for enhancing recruitment and retention of women in medical device clinical trials. Fully integrating this final guidance into the templates used by FDA’s reviewers of medical devices, and providing a webinar for industry on how to use the guidance, comprise one of the 27 items in our action plan.

I hope you’ll find that the action plan is responsive and pragmatic and, most importantly, when fully implemented, it will improve medical care and public health. Many of the steps it outlines will have a broad impact on the work of FDA’s medical product centers and will require great thought and planning as they are implemented, depending on current evidence and available resources. The action items range from relatively short-term goals that can be achieved in a year, to others that will take 1-3 years, to a small number that will require a longer period, 3-5 years, to achieve.

Although the plan certainly places significant responsibilities on FDA’s medical product centers and other FDA offices, it also engages our partners inside and outside of government to share the responsibility for this important mission. For example, industry is being asked to help develop and share best practices for encouraging broad clinical trial participation, and the National Institutes of Health will be participating in several research projects with FDA.

We know that richer information is collected when different subgroups are enrolled in pivotal studies for medical products. This kind of enrollment in turn gives us greater assurance in the safety and effectiveness of the medical products used by a diverse population.

To set the plan in motion quickly, FDA is setting up a steering committee that will oversee implementation, come up with metrics for measuring progress and be responsible for planning a public meeting to be held within 18 months after release of the plan. FDA has already set up a website where the public will be able to track the agency’s implementation progress. That website will be updated on a regular basis.

Also, we’re reopening our Section 907 public docket to solicit comments for the action plan. I encourage everyone to review the document and consider how you might be able to partner with FDA and others in encouraging necessary and appropriate demographic subgroup diversity and representation.

Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Providing Easy Access to Medical Device Reports Submitted to FDA since the Early 1990s

By: Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S. and Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D.

Taha Kass-Hout

Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S.

In addition to food and drugs, FDA has regulatory oversight of tens of thousands of medical devices ranging from bandages and prosthetics to heart valves and robotics. These products are used by millions of Americans, and they are essential, well-performing tools of modern healthcare, but occasionally they present a safety issue due to risks not identified in prior studies, a malfunction, a problem with manufacturing, or misuse.

These incidents are collected in a publicly available FDA database called MAUDE – short for Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience. As part of the openFDA project, there is now an Application Programming Interface (API) for this dataset, which provides a way for software to interact directly with the data. This API will allow developers and researchers to easily query thousands of reports dating back to the early 1990s.

The API can be a powerful tool for generating hypotheses for further investigation or inquiry and can inform the development of safer, more effective technologies. For example, it can help identify new, potential safety signals as well as which classes of devices may be associated with particular adverse events.

Jeffrey Shuren

Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D.

There are some necessary caveats to this API. The dataset is a record of reports submitted to FDA, and not a definitive accounting of every incident with every device. It may contain incomplete, inaccurate, unverified, or biased data. Thus, it cannot be used to determine incidence. And the appearance of a device in a report does not mean that cause-and-effect has been determined. Therefore, these data should be used in the context of other available information. It’s also important to note that the data made available under this initiative do not contain anything that potentially could be used to identify individuals or reveal other private information.

This API is the latest in a series of openFDA releases that have made publicly available data more easily accessed and queried. We believe that these tools can be used by developers and researchers to make insights that fuel new, innovative products (such as mobile apps and websites), and that help protect and promote the public’s health. Over the last two months, openFDA has released several APIs related to drugs, food, and devices. Together, they help provide perspective on the work FDA is doing, and make the public health data the agency is developing easier to access and utilize.

By design, openFDA is a research and development project that draws on community involvement. We are actively involved in the openFDA communities on GitHub and StackExchange, and encourage people interested in the project to participate in those communities. Together, we can make openFDA into a more useful, more powerful resource for the protection and advancement of the public health.

In addition to providing datasets, openFDA encourages innovative use of the agency’s publicly available data by highlighting potential data applications, and providing a place for communities to interact with one another and with FDA domain experts.

Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S., is FDA’s Chief Health Informatics Officer and Director of FDA’s Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation

Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., is Director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health

See more at: http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/#sthash.COpthK14.dpuf

Providing Easy Public Access to Prescription Drug, Over-the-Counter Drug, and Biological Product Labeling

By: Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S.

Every prescription drug (including biological drug products) approved by FDA for human use comes with FDA-approved labeling. The labeling contains information necessary to inform healthcare providers about the safe and effective use of the drug for its approved use(s). Once a prescription drug is approved, the labeling may be updated as new information becomes available, including, for example, new approved uses, new dosing recommendations, and new safety information. Thus, the approved labeling is a “living document” that changes over time to reflect increased knowledge about the safety and effectiveness of the drug.

Taha Kass-HoutIn some cases, the approved labeling for a prescription drug can be extensive, consisting of 20,000 words or more. This amount of information, while important to guide safe and effective use of the drug, can present formidable challenges. For example, it can be a daunting task to study more than one labeling to better understand a class of drugs, or to compare drugs, and to keep up with their regular changes. Although they have been publicly available for many years on FDA’s website, now this labeling is available on openFDA through an Application Programming Interface (API), which provides a way for software to interact directly with the data.

For several years, the labeling has been posted publicly in Structured Product Labeling (SPL) format at http://labels.fda.gov/. The SPL format enhances the ability to electronically access, search, and sort information in the labeling. The SPL files are also available at the National Library of Medicine’s DailyMed site and can be downloaded. We’ve created an API for the data to supplement (not replace) these resources, and to provide easy and timely access to changes or updates to the labeling.

The openFDA drug product label API provides access to the data for nearly 60,000 prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drug labeling. The prescription labeling includes sections such as the “Indications and Usage” and “Adverse Reactions” sections and the OTC labeling includes “Purpose” and “Uses” headings and so forth.

This API can be used, for instance, to identify those medications that have a Boxed Warning, that have lactose as an inactive ingredient, that have a known interaction with grapefruit juice (or other fruit juices and where the labeling states “the concomitant use of DRUG-X with grapefruit juice is not recommended”), and to answer other queries.

This API is just one more example of how openFDA is helping make publicly available data more accessible and useful. Since the first API for adverse events was posted on June 2, 2014, there have been more than 2.6 million API accesses with approximately 20,000 internet devices connected to the adverse events API alone, and more than 30,000 unique visitors to the site.

It’s very important to note that the labeling for prescription drugs is proposed by the applicant, reviewed by FDA, and approved by FDA. The labeling for OTC medications is also either approved by FDA or must conform to applicable regulations that govern the content and format of OTC drug labeling that are not pre-approved by FDA.

As a research and development project, openFDA is a work in progress (Beta phase), and we are eager to learn from the developer and research communities what possible uses these data might have. We are also interested in hearing from the community about other publicly available FDA datasets for which an API might prove useful.

We are actively involved in the openFDA communities on GitHub and StackExchange, and encourage people interested in the project to participate in those communities. In addition to providing access to datasets, openFDA encourages innovative use of the agency’s publicly available data by highlighting potential data applications, and providing a place for community interaction with one another and with FDA domain experts.

Over time, we hope that openFDA can become an important resource where developers, researchers, and the public at large will learn about the medications and other FDA-regulated products that protect and promote the health of Americans.

Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S., is FDA’s Chief Health Informatics Officer and Director of FDA’s Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation