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In an unexpected twist to a troubling situation that began over two years ago, U.S. Special Counsel Henry Kerner penned a letter to President Biden on March 31, 2021 questioning the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) handling of a whistleblower case that alleged improprieties surrounding compliance inspections of vaccine manufacturing facilities. Special Counsel Kerner’s letter to the President coincided with his closing of the investigation and his conclusion that the agency’s actions met “all the statutory requirements” but that they nonetheless “do not appear reasonable.” What the new leadership at the FDA’s parent Department of Health and Human Services or within Congress may do with these findings remains to be seen and certainly bears watching in the coming weeks and months. The March 31 letter was also provided to the Democratic Chairs and the ranking Republicans on the Senate Health Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversee FDA operations, increasing the likelihood of additional investigation and potentially public hearings, especially with congressional reauthorization of the various user fee programs looming as a must-pass action for 2022.
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The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) enforcement against cannabidiol (CBD)-containing products continues through the issuance of two new warning letters. On March 22, 2021, FDA published a press release cautioning companies against illegally selling over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products for pain relief. In the warning letters, FDA cited products listing CBD as an inactive ingredient for unapproved drug and misbranding violations.
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FDA Releases Definitive Statement on Fake Registration Certificates

March 4, 2021 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli

On March 3, 2021, FDA issued a statement acknowledging that certain entities produce certificates of registration for medical device manufacturers and clarifying that the agency does not issue such certificates. The agency also announced that it sent letters to 25 entities demanding that they stop producing these false and misleading certificates because some device manufacturers and distributors are using them to claim that the devices they produce or sell are cleared, approved, or otherwise authorized by FDA.
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Webinar Recording: FDA in 2021: A Look Ahead

February 18, 2021 | Webinar | By Joanne Hawana, Anthony DeMaio

In this fireside discussion, Mintz attorney Joanne Hawana and Aaron Josephson and Anthony DeMaio from ML Strategies explored policy activities that will likely have the greatest impact on stakeholders in 2021, and how the new Administration may impact the FDA in the year ahead and beyond.
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) in partnership with three domain name registries disabled nearly 30 websites illegally offering opioids for sale. Working together as part of a pilot program jointly created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Commerce (Commerce), FDA and NTIA aim to reduce the availability of unapproved and misbranded opioids illicitly offered for virtual sale. Based on several joint warning letters and the subsequent shuttering of numerous websites illegally selling opioids, it would appear the partnership is a success. Both agencies and the domain registries have committed to continuing this working relationship beyond the pilot program. Time will tell if the continued joint effort reduces the unlawful sale of opioids online and in turn, minimizes the risks associated with the opioid crisis.
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Recent Amendments to the FDA Laws Attempt to Clarify and Improve Existing Systems

January 28, 2021 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Elizabeth Conti

Although the Biden-Harris Administration that assumed control of the Executive Branch on January 20, 2021 immediately ordered a regulatory freeze of new or pending rules while the new administration gets its bearings (as reported by our colleagues in this post), several important changes to the laws enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were recently enacted by Congress. As legislative actions, those changes are of course unaffected by President Biden’s regulatory freeze and so we thought worth a summary to ensure our readers are up to speed on the large amount of activity that occurred in the final weeks of the 116th Congress and the Trump Administration.
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WEBINAR REMINDER: Mandatory or Voluntary Workplace Vaccination — Guidance for Employers

January 13, 2021 | Blog | By Geri Haight, Jennifer Rubin, Joanne Hawana

Please join Mintz’s Employment, Labor & Benefits and Health Law attorneys and noted immunologist Dr. Darryl Carter for a webinar to discuss key takeaways from the EEOC’s recently updated vaccination guidance and other COVID-19–related workplace question.
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Looking Ahead: FDA in 2021

January 8, 2021 | Blog

Politics will have an effect on FDA policies in 2021, including with respect to the ongoing COVID-19 response, manufacturing, compliance, digital health, laboratories, user fees, device servicing, and more.
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FDA in 2020: What a Year! (Part 3 of 3)

December 23, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana

In addition to the incredible work of agency scientists and reviewers to get the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in December (as we covered in Part 2 of our year-end post), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has continued to make substantial progress on its non-COVID priorities as well, which we cover in this part 3 of our year-end post.
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FDA in 2020: What a Year! (Part 2 of 3)

December 22, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana

Following up on our colleagues’ post earlier this month covering the Food and Drug Administration’s 2020 device law and policy activities, this post will explore prescription drug and biologic law and policy developments over the past year. We’ll also begin looking forward into 2021 and the agency’s transition to an incoming Biden Administration.
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FDA in 2020: What a Year!

December 15, 2020 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli

What a year for the Food and Drug Administration! FDA, an agency with regulatory oversight of 20-25% of products on which consumers spend, including food and medicines, but which typically stays out of the limelight, was thrust into the public eye amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the year many Americans became familiar with lesser-known and niche policies like those governing emergency use authorizations (EUAs) and with the role of FDA in regulating laboratory developed tests (LDTs). The agency also took some flak for seeming to bow to political pressure in authorizing hydroxychloroquine for emergency use as a potential COVID-19 treatment, then rescinding the authorization, as well as for its less-than-accurate pronouncements of positive data concerning convalescent plasma treatment. These were reminders that the agency Americans trust to protect the public does get things wrong sometimes and is susceptible in some ways to political pressure, and that effectively ensuring the public health requires a balance between safety and effectiveness and patient access to medical products. As we look ahead, we eagerly anticipate how FDA will protect and promote public health in a Biden administration. In this post we’ll explore the FDA’s device law and policy activities from 2020.
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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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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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