Happy New Year!  And now on to your regular Consumer Product Matters programming…

Another Federal agency with a consumer-protection mandate has taken a significant step to reset compliance expectations and enforcement priorities for over-the-counter homeopathic drug products. Although we will not re-cap the recent history of the industry here so we can keep this post a reasonable length, in late 2016 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its long-awaited policy for the advertising and marketing of OTC homeopathic drugs (see prior post here). The FTC’s action followed two public workshops convened in 2015 to deliberate a multitude of thorny legal and regulatory issues associated with consumer-directed homeopathy – one hosted by the FTC and the other hosted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Written comments were also collected after both public meetings.

On December 18, 2017, FDA finally released a revised enforcement policy (in draft form) following this robust and comprehensive re-examination of the regulatory framework for homeopathic products. The enforcement policy applies only to human drugs labeled as homeopathic and sold without FDA premarket approval. Continue Reading FDA Resets Enforcement Priorities for OTC Homeopathic Drugs

As we previously blogged about in mid-2016, Food and Drug Administration officials have been exploring and pushing for the creation of a new user fee program to support its regulatory activities related to over-the-counter (OTC, also known as nonprescription) drug products. In June of 2016, the Agency held a public meeting to solicit stakeholder feedback on its ideas. Since that time the proposal to develop an OTC Monograph User Fee Program has matured and it is generating considerable steam. However, FDA cannot implement such a program to assess user fees against members of private industry unless and until it has statutory authorization from Congress to do so.

As the Agency explains it, “A user fee program for nonprescription monograph drugs would be a potential funding mechanism to supplement congressional non user-fee appropriations, and would support timely and efficient FDA review of the efficacy and safety of ingredients included in or proposed for inclusion in a monograph.” General partisan gridlock in D.C. notwithstanding, it appears likely that Congress may enact the legislation necessary to create this new User Fee Program during its current session (2017-18). This post updates legislative and FDA activities in this area since our introductory discussion in 2016. Continue Reading OTC Drug Manufacturers: Keep Your Eyes and Ears on Congress

We reported a few weeks ago about a new warning from FDA related to the safety of certain teething-related, non-prescription homeopathic drug products, and in that post we mentioned that both FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held public workshops in 2015 to gather information about this uniquely-regulated class of consumer products.  Today, FTC released an Enforcement Policy Statement on Marketing Claims for OTC Homeopathic Drugs  (available here); a Staff Report on the discussions held during the September 2015 workshop (available here); and an FTC blog post summarizing these actions.

For readers who are not familiar with homeopathy, the practice dates back to the 1700s and posits that disease symptoms can be treated by tiny doses of substances that produce similar symptoms if given in larger doses to healthy people (“like cures like”).  Accordingly, modern-day homeopathic remedies that we find ubiquitously in drug stores today are highly diluted formulations, which some people consider to be no more effective than placebo.  The FTC Staff Report provides an excellent overview of how this OTC industry has grown over the past 50 years and the viewpoints presented by both supporters and skeptics of homeopathy.

 The upshot to the new FTC Enforcement Policy is this:
 “No convincing reasons have been advanced either in the comments or the workshop as to why efficacy and safety claims for OTC homeopathic drugs should not be held to the same truth-in-advertising standards as other products claiming health benefits.”

Continue Reading FTC Issues Long-Awaited Enforcement Policy on OTC Homeopathic Drugs

Last week, following up on a more general warning issued on September 30, FDA alerted the public that it had received at least 10 reports of baby deaths associated with the use of homeopathic teething products, as well as over 400 other adverse event reports over the past six years (since a 2010 consumer alert about certain ingredients in the same products).  The Agency is warning parents and caregivers to seek medical care immediately if an infant or child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels. It is also advising consumers to dispose of any such products they may have in their possession. Continue Reading Homeopathic Products Under Renewed Scrutiny Following FDA’s Consumer Warnings

Continuing a discussion that began in 2014, on June 10, 2016 FDA hosted a public meeting on the potential development of a user fee program for OTC (over-the-counter, or nonprescription) drug products marketed pursuant to the Agency’s monograph system.  Agency leader Dr. Janet Woodcock wrote last week in Health Affairs that FDA’s “current system of OTC review is simply too sluggish to promote OTC modernization.”  Many of the OTC monograph reviews initiated in the 1970’s are far from complete, and there is little expectation that FDA will be finalizing anything soon, in light of the minimal funding and support the OTC program receives in comparison to other parts of the Agency.

User fee programs currently exist to help fund the Agency’s review and policy-development activities for prescription drugs, biologics, medical devices, generic drugs, and even some aspects of food inspectional programs.  Will the OTC drug industry become subject to user fees and, if so, what will they look like?  Although certainly no one is expecting a $2.5 million application fee like what is required for a new prescription drug, it will be a difficult balance for regulators to meet all of the Agency’s stated goals – to ensure stable revenue from year to year; to have fees paid by industry members who benefit from the OTC monograph program and to have them pay only a “fair share”; and to have sufficient fees collected to cover the intended services, without the program costs becoming unreasonable.

A webcast of the June 10th meeting, along with FDA’s presentations and other background information, can be accessed through the meeting page here.  Interested stakeholders can respond to the Agency’s specific questions or submit more general comments on the OTC drug monograph development process to Docket FDA-2016-N-0192 before it closes on July 10th.