FDA’s Clinical Investigator Training Helps Support the Drug Development Process

By: Leonard Sacks, M.D., and Mili Duggal, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Though many people do not know it, FDA does much more to facilitate drug approval than evaluate new drug applications. We are also actively involved in drug development well before the application stage. One important way we do this is by training scientists who conduct the clinical trials for drugs in development. This helps ensure that the drug studies conducted by investigators meet the applicable regulatory requirements and that the applications submitted meet regulatory standards.

Leonard Sacks

Leonard Sacks, M.D., is Associate Director for Clinical Methodologies, Office of Medical Policy, at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

We are excited to announce our seventh annual Clinical Investigator Training Course, which will be held in collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (M-CERSI) from November 7-9, 2016, at the Civic Center, Silver Spring, Maryland. The course is designed for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals who are involved in the design, conduct, and evaluation of clinical trials. Participants receive training by senior FDA experts and guest speakers from industry and academia, which enables them to learn the scientific, regulatory, and ethical aspects of clinical trials.

FDA has successfully conducted the Clinical Investigator Training Course since 2009, training more than 1,000 attendees from the U.S. and other parts of the world, including Germany, Spain, Zimbabwe, and China. Over the years, participants have included healthcare professionals from government organizations, regulatory bodies, academia, industry, and the healthcare sector.

Mili Duggal

Mili Duggal, Ph.D., M.P.H., is an ORISE Fellow, Office of Medical Policy, at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

FDA developed this course so that investigators could learn directly from our staff and interact with them. Clinical trial investigators play a critical role in the development of medical products. They are responsible for protecting the safety and welfare of study subjects and for acquiring adequate and reliable data to support regulatory decisions. FDA recognizes that investigators should be comprehensively trained to conduct trials efficiently. The course’s goal is to develop competence and expertise among clinical investigators, improve the quality of clinical trials, and support patient safety.

As we continue to build our program, FDA will work to integrate the latest scientific information and good clinical practices into our course. We anticipate a new round of exciting discussions with our attendees this year and we invite all who are interested and wish to attend to take a look at the course website for more details. We look forward to helping many more talented researchers hone their clinical investigator skills to advance new drug development for the American public.

Leonard Sacks, M.D., is Associate Director for Clinical Methodologies, Office of Medical Policy, at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

Mili Duggal, Ph.D., M.P.H., is an ORISE Fellow, Office of Medical Policy, at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

Making Sure ‘Healthy’ Means What It Says on Food Packages

By: Douglas Balentine, Ph.D.

With final rules on the Nutrition Facts label published, consumers soon will see an updated label on food packages that makes the calories and serving sizes of products easier to see and that gives them additional nutrition information, such as added sugars, vitamin D, and potassium.

Doug BalentineThe marketplace is teeming with rows and rows of foods – some new and some not; some healthier than others. Even for the well informed, choosing what to buy is challenging, especially if you want to choose a healthy diet for you and your families.

We know that many consumers use the Nutrition Facts label, especially when they are buying a food for the first time. Often, there are also a lot of other terms on food packages such as “healthy,” “low in fat,”or “good source.” We also know that many just don’t have the time to consider the details of nutrition information on every package they purchase. In fact, most purchase decisions are made quickly, within three to five seconds.

That’s why we’re looking at how we define the claim “healthy.” Companies can use this and other claims on the front of packages of foods that meet certain criteria to help consumers quickly identify nutritious choices.

As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the “healthy” labeling claim stays up to date. For instance, the most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat. They focus on added sugars, which consumers will see on the new Nutrition Facts label. And they focus on nutrients that consumers aren’t getting enough of, like vitamin D and potassium. By updating the definition, we hope more companies will use the “healthy” claim as the basis for new product innovation and reformulation, providing consumers with a greater variety of “healthy” choices in the marketplace.

We have started to consider the criteria or terms for an updated definition of “healthy” but don’t have all the answers. As a first step, we are asking for public input on a range of questions about what “healthy” should mean from a nutrition perspective and how consumers understand and use “healthy” food label claims.

For example, what current dietary recommendations should be reflected in the definition of “healthy”? What are the public health benefits of defining the term “healthy”? What do consumers expect of foods that carry a “healthy” claim? What factors and criteria should be used for the new definition of “healthy”? We are also planning to hold public forums to get additional input and inform us of what a broad range of stakeholders and consumers think. This may take some time, but we want to get it right.

While we are working on the “healthy” claim, we also will begin evaluating other label claims to determine how they might be modernized. We want to give consumers the best tools and information about the foods they choose, with the goal of improving public health. And, we will also engage with industry to explore other ways to encourage companies to change their products to have better nutrition profiles. The end result will be more healthy dietary choices for consumers, and that is a worthy goal.

Douglas Balentine, Ph.D., is Director, Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

First Major FSMA Compliance Dates: Landmarks and Learning Experiences

By: Stephen Ostroff, M.D., and Howard Sklamberg, J.D.

The phrase “where the rubber meets the road” is one that comes up in conversations about different subjects, from athletics to academics, when carefully laid plans are put to a crucial test. That’s where we are today with the arrival of the first major compliance dates under the regulations developed by FDA to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Stephen Ostroff, M.D.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D., is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine

This is the day when larger businesses must comply with certain new standards under the preventive controls rules for human and animal food, two of the main rules developed to drive down the incidence of foodborne illnesses in our country. Larger human food facilities must meet preventive controls and modernized Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements (CGMPs); larger animal food facilities must meet CGMPs. (The human and animal food rules have staggered compliance dates; animal food businesses have additional time to meet the preventive controls standards, as do smaller producers of human foods.)

The preventive controls rules were the first two of seven foundational FSMA rules to become final starting in September 2015. Human food facilities are required to have a food safety system in place that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls to minimize or prevent those hazards. The standards that animal food facilities must meet mark the first time that CGMPs have been broadly required for the safe production of animal food.

FSMA was signed into law in 2011 in the wake of mounting concerns by consumers and lawmakers about outbreaks of foodborne illness that kill thousands of people and animals every year. What followed was an unprecedented effort by FDA to involve the diverse landscape of food safety stakeholders, including growers, manufacturers, importers, distributors, consumer groups, and academic institutions, in the formulation of rules that are practical, flexible and effective for the food industry at home and abroad while protecting the public from contaminated food.

Howard Sklamberg

Howard Sklamberg, J.D., is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Global Regulatory Operations and Policy

Since FSMA was enacted in 2011, we have literally traveled the world to get input on the rules we proposed in 2013 and early 2014 to implement the law. FDA teams have been involved in approximately 600 engagements, including public meetings, webinars, listening sessions, farm tours, visits to manufacturing plants and extensive presentations and meetings with various stakeholder groups.

As a result of these conversations, we made significant changes in September 2014 to four of the FSMA proposed rules, including the preventive controls rules, to make them more feasible and, ultimately, more effective.

So what happens now? This is a new chapter for all of us. FDA is focusing on providing the support that companies need to comply with the new requirements with education, training and technical assistance. We will be looking at how facilities are working to comply with the new food-safety standards and protect consumers from unsafe food. Of course, our mandate is to protect public health and, when necessary, the agency will act swiftly to do so.

The conversations we had with stakeholders in creating the rules will continue as we move further into the implementation phase with the preventive controls and other rules. We will be sharing our thinking on how requirements should be met in guidance documents and asking for the public to continue to provide feedback. If necessary, changes will be made; aspects of the rules will be fine-tuned. This first wave of compliance dates is important to the entire spectrum of FSMA implementation; the lessons learned will be invaluable in the years ahead when smaller food facilities are held to the new standards.

So today, the rubber meets the road. But these compliance dates aren’t the beginning of the end of our work to make FSMA a reality. They’re the end of the beginning. The partnership that FDA has forged with food producers of all kinds, and with its state, local, tribal and international regulatory partners, will ultimately protect consumers for generations to come.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D., is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine; Howard Sklamberg, J.D., is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Global Regulatory Operations and Policy

Evaluating FDA’s Approach to Cancer Clinical Trials

By: Richard Pazdur, M.D.

Since the announcement of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) two months ago (June 29, 2016) as part of the White House’s Cancer Moonshot, we’ve been working to further FDA’s efforts to get new oncology products into the hands of patients. We are committed to meet the needs of patients and health care communities by driving progress in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.

Dr. Richard PazdurAt the core of the OCE’s work – and of the Cancer Moonshot – is taking a new look at what we have been doing in the past so we can operate more efficiently in the future. The OCE will leverage the combined skills of oncologists and scientists with expertise in drugs, biologics, and devices to employ the best and most innovative approaches to bring forth safe new oncology products.

The vision set forth by the Vice President underscores our commitment to optimally designed clinical trials that efficiently provide answers to important questions. Given the recent advances in our understanding of cancer and our improved technological capabilities, we are now placing an emphasis on evaluating how we design clinical trials to make the system more efficient to more rapidly deliver safe and effective products for patients.

We are working with stakeholders across government and industry to revisit the criteria used for determining whether a patient is eligible to participate in a trial. Modifying the eligibility criteria could expand the number of people who qualify and therefore open new opportunities for participation and enhance the generalizability of what we learn. Of course, regardless of adjustments, patient safety will remain paramount.

We recently published our perspective on shifting away from the conventional phase one, phase two, and phase three drug development paradigm to a more seamless approach that could expedite the regulatory pathway, providing earlier access to highly effective therapeutic drugs. Adopting this approach could complement FDA’s expedited regulatory programs such as breakthrough designation and accelerated approval to get products to patients in the most efficient manner possible.

Another initiative is the use of common control trials. These trials, sharing a common control arm, involve multiple different drugs for the same indication and may involve different companies. When a common control arm is used, it decreases the overall number of patients that need to be recruited and enrolled, optimizing clinical trial resources and potentially decreasing the time it takes to get a new study off the ground.

Encouraging the use of large simple trials is another way to make more efficient use of clinical trial resources. These trials generally use easily-measured endpoints that are well understood, optimizing the collection of data for safety or secondary efficacy endpoints and thus reducing the amount of data needed compared to conventional randomized trials.

As befits the Center of Excellence, one of our top goals is striving for excellence both in drug and device regulation and in emerging oncology science. To achieve that goal we must also collaborate with academia, industry, patient groups, professional societies, and other international regulators. We have already begun this work by scheduling several public meetings that will provide a forum to interact with patients and other stakeholders.

These initiatives will allow us to expedite drug development and approval of truly novel agents that will have a major impact on our patients, while allowing us to make thoughtful decisions regarding the risk-benefit of oncology drugs.

Richard Pazdur, M.D., is FDA’s Acting Director, Oncology Center of Excellence

On Dauphin Island, FDA Scientists Work to Keep Seafood Safe

By: Capt. William Burkhardt III, Ph.D.

On a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, two dozen scientists and staff in the FDA’s only marine research laboratory have one common goal: to keep consumers safe from contaminated or unsafe seafood.

I am the director of the FDA’s Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory (GCSL) on Dauphin Island, Alabama, where we detect chemical and biological hazards and work to reduce the likelihood of illness associated with seafood. In early August, the agency invited U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt to tour the facility and see our work first-hand. Rep. Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District and chairs the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

Gulf Seafood Lab

Robert Hayes Aderholt feeds crabs at the Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory as his father, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, and biologist Kathy El Said look on.

At the GCSL, we use the latest technology to detect and identify things that can potentially contaminate seafood. There are drug and chemical residues that may be present from the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in aquaculture production. There are also petrochemicals from off-shore drilling.

There are marine biotoxins that occur naturally, such as harmful algal toxins that go up the marine food chain and eventually get into fish. There are bacteria that occur naturally in marine waters, such as vibrios, that can cause serious, even deadly, illnesses. And there are viruses, such as the norovirus, in marine water that are ingested by shellfish.

We routinely test a wide array of samples from public and private sources, and work closely with FDA’s compliance and enforcement teams in and out of the country so that action can be taken when appropriate.

Our scientists are often brought in when a natural or man-made disaster threatens to contaminate fish or an outbreak is tied to seafood. We’re involved right now in the response to an outbreak of hepatitis A in Hawaii tied to imported scallops, providing microbiological support to identify the virus that has sickened more than 200 people.

Group photo at Gulf Seafood Lab

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (front row, center) poses with FDA’s team at the marine research laboratory. Also in the front row are lab director Capt. William Burkhardt III (left) and William Jones, deputy director of FDA’s Office of Food Safety (right).

When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, spilling an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we staffed sampling locations. A year after that spill, we allayed the concerns of fishermen participating in the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo tournament, billed as the largest fishing tournament in the world. FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs set up a mobile laboratory in our parking lot and together we tested samples that fishermen brought in, working round-the-clock for two weeks. We were able to assure the fishermen that there was no oil or dispersants in their fish.

In 2005, we were heavily involved in the response to Hurricane Katrina, in which there were concerns that chemicals would be swept into the Gulf and then into the fish. We deployed staff to sample crabs, shrimp and other seafood and send them by courier back to our labs. Ultimately, we found some elevated levels of bacterial contamination, but that dissipated relatively quickly during the time in which the area was closed to fishing.

We are also invited by other countries to assist in emergency response. For example, six years ago we traveled to Chile after an earthquake there and used our technology to detect norovirus in the drinking water.

When Haiti was hit with a cholera outbreak in 2010, we responded in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our tests found cholera in seafood collected from Port au Prince. These findings were used to tighten recommendations on the movement of ballast water in and out of ships to minimize transmission of the outbreak.

We work with the seafood industry to find practical solutions to common problems. For example, we’re working with oyster fisherman to identify strategies to control bacterial (vibrio) growth. And we’ve advised barracuda fishermen to avoid certain parts of the Caribbean where the fish are vulnerable to biotoxins.

As I showed Rep. Aderholt around our labs, it was a good opportunity to reflect on the important work we do here and the impact we have. Whether it’s in the United States or overseas, we want to be known as a group of scientists that helps people everywhere enjoy seafood safely.

Capt. William Burkhardt III, Ph.D., is the Director of FDA’s Division of Seafood Science and Technology

FDA and Access to Medications

By: Janet Woodcock, M.D.

A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that affects the whole body and, in some cases, leads to death. If you have had an anaphylaxis episode, you always face the risk of another one. To mitigate the risk you or your caregiver should carry an emergency treatment called epinephrine at all times, because every second counts.

Janet WoodcockAt the FDA, we understand how important it is for this treatment to be safe, effective, and work correctly every time. And in the case of a very severe reaction such as anaphylaxis, when there may be no second chance, the device that delivers the medication is just as critical. EpiPen, a popular form of emergency epinephrine that auto-injects the dose, is one of these treatments.

But sometimes, when medications become prohibitively expensive, some people lose access to a potentially life-saving treatment. When that happens, people often look to the FDA. Recent news about the price spike of EpiPen has caused concern. In addition, the EpiPen product has patents listed through 2025 that could delay generic competition. And so we are asked, what role does the FDA play?

The FDA doesn’t regulate drug prices – prices are set by the drug makers or distributors. It’s our job to ensure medications, including emergency medications, are safe and effective. We also recognize when we approve new drugs, including generic versions of a drug, it may improve competition in the marketplace. The good news is that the FDA has already approved four epinephrine auto-injectors to treat anaphylaxis in an emergency, and two are currently marketed. The EpiPen does not have any FDA-rated therapeutic equivalents. But like EpiPen, these alternative products are approved by the FDA as safe and effective for treating anaphylaxis. As always, patients should check with their doctor on whether a particular treatment is appropriate and available.

We stand ready to quickly review additional applications that come to us from manufacturers, especially applications for generic versions. To speed along the process, our Office of Generic Drugs prioritizes and expedites our review of applications for first generics, making sure that the first applicants to make a generic are moved to the head of the queue and given priority review.

We at the FDA are also doing all we can to encourage manufacturers to develop innovative new auto-injectors that ensure a life-saving drug can be administered easily and safely by anyone. To help development, we built a roadmap that will get these products on the market faster. In June 2013, the agency provided technical information for industry about designing and testing auto-injectors. In February, the FDA provided industry with draft guidance on how to determine if patients can effectively use the new devices. We do not want substandard quality products to come to market, because a patient suffering a life-or-death event has to be able to pick up and use a device without a moment’s hesitation.

The FDA is committed to ensuring that consumers can trust the products that are available. Anaphylaxis is a condition some people can’t avoid, but cost should not be the reason someone cannot access care.

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

FDA Cooperative Agreements with States to Advance Food Safety

By: Stephen Ostroff, M.D.

Today, the FDA is honoring an important commitment by awarding millions of dollars to the states that will help implement the new produce safety rule mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to protect consumers from foodborne illness.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D.In FSMA, Congress envisioned a strong partnership between the FDA and the state agencies that have a greater understanding of the growing and harvesting practices in their areas. Many have longstanding relationships with farmers and produce associations.

To support this partnership, the FDA is awarding $21.8 million in cooperative agreements to 42 states in support of their work to help implement the new produce rule. These funds will provide states with the resources they need to develop a produce safety system, considering the specific and unique needs of their growers for education, outreach, and technical assistance.

The funding for each state is based on the estimated number of farms in the state that grow produce covered by the FSMA rule.  The goal is to provide resources that will enable the states to develop a multi-faceted, multi-year plan that includes an assessment of their produce safety landscape, including an evaluation of existing state authorities to implement a produce safety program and ways to develop a strong outreach and education program with growers.

The produce safety rule, which became final in November 2015, establishes science-based standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables. State leaders were key partners as the produce provisions were being developed, providing valuable input on how to make the requirements as practical and flexible as possible for growers while still protecting public health.

The cooperative agreements build on a foundation laid long before the produce rule became final. Enacted in 2011, FSMA included several important provisions aimed at strengthening the National Integrated Food Safety System so that the more than 3,000 state, local, and tribal government agencies involved in food safety are fully integrated in FDA’s work to fulfill FSMA’s mandate.

We have been steadily building this system, and in our FY2017 budget request we have asked Congress for an additional $11.3 million in new budget authority to further support the development of state produce safety programs.

In 2014, the FDA entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) that brought together state partners to collaboratively plan implementation of the produce safety rule. The framework developed by NASDA will guide and inform states as they work on their own regulatory programs.

The cooperative agreements are part of a long-term strategy to strengthen this working partnership with the states. We’re in this together and the FDA will continue to support its state partners as we work to make the vision of a preventive and risk-based food safety system a reality.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D., is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine

FDA Is Preparing Guidances that Will Help Food Companies Prevent Foodborne Illness

By: Susan Mayne, Ph.D., and Tracey Forfa, J.D.

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When we were drafting and seeking public comment on the rules that will implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we promised that we would do whatever we could to help the regulated industry understand and meet the new requirements.

Susan Mayne

Susan Mayne, Ph.D., is Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

We meant what we said about “educating before and while we regulate,” since these new standards will ultimately transform the nation’s food safety system.

This month, we have taken important steps in fulfilling that promise with the release of three draft guidances that when finalized will help domestic and foreign food facilities meet the requirements of the preventive controls rules that became final in September 2015.

Those rules require hazard prevention practices in human and animal food processing, packing, and storage facilities. FSMA created the framework that holds manufacturers accountable for having a food safety plan, implementing it, verifying that it is working, and taking corrective action when it isn’t. Compliance dates are fast approaching for large food facilities. The human food facilities must meet preventive controls and Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements (CGMPs) and the animal food facilities must meet CGMPs by September 19, 2016. (The preventive controls rules have staggered compliance dates; smaller facilities have a year or more additional time to comply.)

One of the draft guidance documents covers ways to comply with the preventive controls requirements of the human food rule. Given the scope of that rule, we are prepared to issue only five draft chapters now, covering specific sections of the rule, but we will ultimately issue 14 chapters in all.

Tracey Forfa

Tracey Forfa, J.D., is Acting Director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine

These initial chapters cover basic information about establishing preventive controls in a human food facility. The first chapter is about the food safety plan in which a human food facility outlines how it has identified and evaluated its food safety hazards and how it will control hazards requiring preventive controls. The subsequent chapters provide direction on conducting a hazard analysis; understanding the biological, chemical and physical hazards that are commonly of concern; identifying and implementing the preventive controls that will significantly minimize or prevent hazards; and managing the preventive controls through such actions as monitoring, corrective actions and verification activities.

The other two draft guidances when finalized will help domestic and foreign facilities comply with key requirements in the Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule, which covers all animal food, including animal feed and pet food. One of those documents provides direction on ways to comply with the rule’s CGMP requirements, which are baseline food safety and sanitation standards for animal food facilities. This draft guidance also provides information on provisions related to the CGMP requirements, such as qualifications and training of personnel.

While CGMPs have long existed for the production of human food, this is the first time that most animal food producers will be subject to CGMPs. Concerns about incidents of food contamination that were sickening and killing pets were among the driving forces behind the enactment of FSMA.

The third draft guidance when finalized will help domestic and foreign food facilities whose by-products of human food production are used as animal food. Such by-products include grain products and vegetable pulp. They also include foods like potato chips, baked goods and pasta that are safe to eat but considered the wrong size, shape, color or texture.

Food producers required to meet food safety requirements for human foods had been concerned that they would have to meet a whole new set of requirements for such by-products. The draft guidance makes clear that the by-product will only be subject to limited CGMPs to protect it from contamination during holding and distribution, if the human food facility is subject to and in compliance with FDA’s human food CGMPs and all applicable human food safety requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and implementing regulations and is not further processing the by-products for use as animal food.

If the human food facility is further processing the by-products, the facility has a choice of complying with the requirements of either the human or animal food rule, as long as the food safety plan addresses how the facility will prevent or significantly minimize the hazards for the animal food that require a preventive control.

These draft guidances, and the others that we’re working on for the FSMA rules, will be further refined based on input we receive from the public. The comments we received on the proposed FSMA rules were important in helping us shape the final rules so we look forward to working with stakeholders in the same way on these documents.

Meeting the FSMA mandate involves cooperation between the FDA and the food industry. From the smallest food operation to the largest company, we want to be sure that we’re all on the same page and these draft guidances will help get us there.

Susan Mayne, Ph.D., is Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Tracey Forfa, J.D., is Acting Director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine

Making Continuous Improvements in the Combination Products Program: The Pre-RFD Process

By: Thinh Nguyen and Rachel E. Sherman, M.D., M.P.H.

One question that sponsors often ask FDA is whether their medical product will be regulated as a drug, a device, a biologic, or as a combination product, and in the case of the latter, which FDA component will regulate it.

Thinh Nguyen

Thinh Nguyen, FDA’s Director, Office of Combination Products

One way sponsors may determine how their product will be classified is to submit a Request for Designation (RFD) to the Office of Combination Products (OCP). This request requires FDA to provide a written determination of product classification and/or which agency component will regulate the product if it is a combination product. Sponsors have also been able to obtain less formal feedback regarding product classification through communications with OCP.

We are pleased to announce that the Agency is making some changes to our internal procedures for responding to communications from sponsors regarding preliminary product classification assessments from OCP. The Pre-Request for Designation (Pre-RFD) process is the result of cooperative efforts by OCP, the Office of Medical Products and Tobacco, and CDER Lean, including a formal internal evaluation that incorporates current state process mapping and identifies and integrates process improvements.

Rachel Sherman

Rachel E. Sherman, M.D., M.P.H., FDA’s Associate Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco

The Pre-RFD process shares some similarities with the RFD process. In both cases, FDA’s assessment depends on sponsors providing a complete, clear, and detailed product description, which includes the product’s indication for use, its composition/ingredients, and an explanation of how it works. In most instances, both processes also require input from the product jurisdiction officers in the relevant Centers and, if necessary, legal perspectives from the Office of Chief Counsel.

Once OCP has received the necessary input, the Office makes its assessment of the classification and/or Center assignment for the product. OCP’s goal for Pre-RFDs is to respond to sponsors within 60 days following receipt of all information needed to initiate the review—the same timeline for responding to RFDs. During this review period the office will communicate with the sponsors as needed.

When may this Pre-RFD process be useful?

The Pre-RFD process can be used at any point during medical product development. It may be preferable to the more formal RFD process when a sponsor would like to engage FDA using a more interactive approach—a course that may be especially helpful when a medical product is at an early stage in its development, or when a sponsor is contemplating whether to develop a specific product, or what configuration of that product to pursue. In such cases, sponsors may find the Pre-RFD process beneficial for the following reasons:

(1) Sponsors are not required to provide a recommendation for classification and assignment of their product along with a corresponding rationale (e.g., bench studies; clinical studies) for that recommendation;

(2) Sponsors are not required to discuss the classification of currently marketed products that they believe to be similar to their product; and,

(3) Sponsors can receive preliminary feedback and information from the Agency that is derived from a structured and efficient process. The feedback will ultimately help lead to better decision-making and development of products for the sponsors.

Pre-RFD flow chart

FDA’s Pre-RFD Process Flow: To view, click on the image.

Because our feedback will be based on the information submitted, sponsors should bear in mind that the speed and quality of any review, whether Pre-RFD or formal RFD, is highly dependent on the quality of the submitted data.

The Agency is developing a draft guidance about the Pre-RFD process, which provides details about information sponsors should include in a Pre-RFD and describes the procedure for FDA’s review. In addition, the Agency plans to publish a list of product classifications for various types of products. We believe this list will offer additional transparency and clarity to sponsors that will ultimately foster innovation and promote better health for patients. We welcome your feedback regarding the Pre-RFD and RFD Programs, as well any other thoughts regarding the jurisdictional assessment of products.

A sponsor who wishes to submit a Pre-RFD or an RFD for a product can find detailed information at the OCP website or contact OCP at combination@fda.gov for further assistance.

Thinh Nguyen is FDA’s Director, Office of Combination Products

Rachel E. Sherman, M.D., M.P.H., is FDA’s Associate Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco

FDA Supports Greater Access to Naloxone to Help Reduce Opioid Overdose Deaths

By: Karen Mahoney, M.D.

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine and illicit opioids such as heroin and illegally produced fentanyl have more than tripled since 1999 – with about 28,000 people dying in 2014 alone.

Many of these tragedies could have been avoided if the people experiencing the overdose had immediately received the prescription drug naloxone, a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Naloxone is still a prescription in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, though many have or are taking steps to make naloxone more accessible. Consistent with our opioid action plan announced earlier this year, the FDA is exploring options to make naloxone more available to treat opioid overdose. One option to do this is identifying ways to assist manufacturers in submitting an application to the FDA for an over-the-counter (OTC) version of a naloxone product.

That’s why the FDA is working on innovative ways to help facilitate the process of helping manufacturers pursue approval of an OTC naloxone product, including helping to develop the package label that would be required for such a product. This is an important step to help increase access to and the use of this life-saving drug.

Although the two currently available prescription naloxone products intended for use in the community — an auto-injector product for self-injection, and a nasal spray formulation – have instructions for use, they do not have the consumer-friendly Drug Facts Label (DFL), which is required for OTC drug products. Before submitting a new drug application or supplement for an OTC drug product, companies develop this DFL and conduct the required studies to show that consumers can follow the DFL to understand how to use the product without the help of a healthcare professional.

To help facilitate the development of OTC naloxone, the FDA has created a model DFL and an accompanying simple pictogram that could be placed next to the DFL to visually correspond to the label directions. This model DFL and pictogram are intended to provide consumers with the information they would need to understand how to safely use naloxone, including when it is appropriate to purchase naloxone and how to use it in an emergency opioid overdose situation. Since it is a model label, information that is highly specific to a particular product would not be included.

The FDA has also arranged for label comprehension testing of the model DFL. This testing is now being conducted and we expect that the results will yield important information about consumer understanding of the model naloxone DFL. Using this information, naloxone manufacturers may then be able to focus their final label comprehension testing on how well consumers understand product-specific information, such as instructions for the device that delivers naloxone that has not been already tested on the model DFL.

Creating a model DFL and arranging for label comprehension testing are among the ways that the FDA is working to fulfill our commitment to enhanced naloxone access, where possible, in our opioids action plan. We will continue to work with interested manufacturers and developers to further explore the best uses of naloxone for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdoses until emergency medical help arrives.

FDA’s opioid action plan is part of the comprehensive Opioid Initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in March 2015. The Initiative focuses on high-impact strategies to 1) improve opioid prescribing, 2) expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders, and 3) increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.

Karen Mahoney, M.D., is FDA’s Deputy Director, Division of Nonprescription Drug Products, at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research