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  • How to Lose $350 million

    In a thorough and thoughtful 23-page opinion, Judge Steven Merryday of the Middle District of Florida dismissed a $350 million judgment against the defendants, owners and operators of specialized nursing facilities. The court detailed the rigorous materiality and scienter requirements for liability under the False Claims Act that the U.S. Supreme Court “defined unambiguously and required emphatically” in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016):

    Escobar necessarily means that if a service is noncompliant with a statute, a rule, or a contract; if the non-compliance is disclosed to, or discovered by, the United States; and if the United States pays notwithstanding the disclosed or discovered non-compliance, the False Claims Act provides a relator no claim for “implied false certification” (although some other claim, maintainable by the United States in its own name, or some regulatory authority, exercisable by the United States, might attach under other law).

    In other words, a False Claims Act claim cannot be based on a “minor or unsubstantial” or “garden-variety” regulatory violation; to do so would result in a system of “government traps, zaps, and zingers” that permits the government to retain the benefit of a “substantially conforming” good or service, and to recover under the False Claims Act damages (up to treble times) due to the immaterial regulatory non-compliance.

    In United States ex rel. Ruckh v. Salus Rehabilitation, LLC et al., No. 8:11-cv-01303-SDM-TBM (M.D. Fla. Jan. 11, 2018) (Merryday, J.), the relator alleged the nursing facilities violated Medicaid regulations, which rendered fraudulent its claims to the Medicaid program. The alleged non-compliances involved a failure to maintain a comprehensive care plan and a failure to keep proper records of services. After trial, the judgments against defendants totaled $350 million.

    In its opinion, the court found compelling the entire absence of evidence of how the government has behaved in comparable circumstances. Given the lack of evidence, the jurors returned “an unwarranted, unjustified, unconscionable, and probably unconstitutional forfeiture – times three – sufficient in proportion and irrationality to deter any prudent business from providing services and products to a government armed with the untethered and hair-trigger artillery of a False Claims Act invoked by a heavily invested relator.”

    The court, like many now since Escobar, agreed that Escobar requires that the relator prove “both that the non-compliance was material to the government’s payment decision and that the defendant knew at the moment the defendant sought payment that the non-compliance was material to the government’s payment decision.” Absent this evidence, a False Claims Act cannot stand – whether at a motion to dismiss stage, summary judgment stage, or like in Ruckh, past jury trial and judgment.

    Categories: Enforcement

    DEA Administrative Decisions: 2017 in Review

    It was a somewhat unsettling year for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Agency faced a barrage of criticism in the press regarding its involvement in passage of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (EPAEDEA), which some criticized as hobbling DEA’s immediate suspension order (ISO) authority (see here). Meanwhile, notwithstanding a D.C. Circuit “win” for the Agency in Masters Pharmaceutical, Inc. v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 861 F.3d 206 (D.C. Cir. 2017), where the court set forth new and significant suspicious order monitoring and reporting requirements, the industry still decried the lack of clarification to DEA’s suspicious order reporting regulations—promulgated by notice-and-comment rulemaking—something the Agency has been promising for years (see post here).

    Regardless, DEA’s Diversion Control Division has continued to bring administrative revocation and registration denial cases (see post here for a general description) against DEA registrants (typically practitioner cases). According to DEA, the number of administrative cases brought in 2017 was more than double the number brought in 2014.

    Based on our review of the published decisions this year, here are some statistics on DEA’s 2017 administrative docket:

    • 46: Number of new final orders (up from 28 in 2016)
    • 44: Number of new final orders adjudicating individual (e.g., doctor, dentist, veterinarian) registrations (a pharmacy and a clinic made up the remaining two final orders)
    • 1: Number of ISO cases
    • 29: Number of cases based solely on loss of state authority (see post here) (up from 15 in 2016)
    • 17: Number of cases where the respondent made a timely request for a hearing (i.e., before an ALJ)
    • 13: Number of cases with a timely request for a hearing that were decided on summary disposition (i.e., without a hearing)
    • 3: Number of cases where the Administrator rejected the presiding ALJ’s recommended decision
    • 0: Number of corrective action plans that DEA has accepted (see DEA statement here)

    It is important to note that these statistics do not take into account administrative actions where a party surrendered a registration prior to DEA initiating proceedings or cases that DEA and the registrant settled without going to a hearing.

    Our readers know that we closely follow DEA’s administrative decisions, and we are committed to keeping you up to date on significant developments in these decisions. Here are some of the highlights of our posts from 2017:

    • DEA’s concerning and questionable expanded use of summary disposition to decide cases other than those solely based on a loss of state authority (see posts here and here)
    • DEA’s use of official notice (see post here)
    • DEA’s finding that the two key elements of a valid prescription contained in 21 C.F.R. § 1306.04(a)—(1) issued for a legitimate medical purpose (2) by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of professional practice—have no material difference (see post here)
    • A new set of requirements (not contained in the regulations) that require practitioners to investigate whether their registrations are being misused for diversion (see post here)

    As we embark on a new year, we will continue to keep you posted on new decisions as they are published.

    While You Were Away: CDRH Announces Pilot Voluntary Quality Compliance Program

    While many were on vacation and preparing to celebrate the New Year, CDRH was announcing yet another pilot program. You may recall FDA recently announced its Digital Health Software Pre-Cert Pilot Program and its Premarket Approval Application Critical to Quality Pilot Program.  The latest pilot program is the Case for Quality Voluntary Medical Device Manufacturing and Product Quality Pilot Program.  The program was announced in the Federal Register.

    This pilot program, like others that have come before it, intends to evaluate alternative means of assessing a device company’s quality system. In this program, CDRH has collaborated with the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) to develop a “maturity model and appraisal system,” the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) system.  Details regarding the CMMI system are absent from the Federal Register notice.  Prospective participants would be well-advised to better understand this system prior to enrollment.  Program participants will be required to perform a gap assessment using the CMMI system.  In exchange, FDA intends to forego conducting surveillance inspections of program participants.

    CDRH will select up to nine companies to participate in this program, and it began taking applications for enrollment on January 2. The program is scheduled to run through the end of 2018.

    Categories: Medical Devices

    CDRH Issues New Draft Least Burdensome Guidance

    Section 513 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires FDA to consider the least burdensome means of evaluating device safety and effectiveness for Class III devices and substantial equivalence for devices requiring 510(k) clearance. Despite this legal requirement, the device industry’s position has been that FDA does not comply with the provisions to require only the “least burdensome” means of establishing device effectiveness or substantial equivalence.  It has often seemed that CDRH was paying lip service to the concept of “least burdensome,” using the phrase but not actually applying it.  The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures), signed into law last December, added language requiring CDRH to assess the implementation of the least burdensome provisions “to ensure that the least burdensome requirements are fully and consistently applied.”

    As part of this implementation, on December 15, CDRH issued a revised draft guidance regarding the Least Burdensome provisions.  Once finalized, this guidance will replace FDA’s October 2002 guidance, “The Least Burdensome Provisions of the FDA Modernization Act of 1997: Concept and Principles.”

    The draft guidance applies a new definition of “least burdensome,” defining it as “the minimum amount of information necessary to adequately address a regulatory question or issue through the most efficient manner at the right time.” In contrast, the 2002 guidance defined least burdensome as “a successful means of addressing a premarket issue that involves the most appropriate investment of time, effort, and resources on the part of industry and FDA.”  The earlier definition focused on premarket issues, whereas the new guidance is broader.  The scope of the draft guidance includes all premarket submissions, including de novos and Q-submissions, neither of which were expressly included in the 2002 guidance.  Both guidances also cover other regulatory obligations, including, for example postmarket surveillance and post-approval studies.

    Although Cures was directed at CDRH, the Center has turned around and applied the concepts to industry. The draft guidance emphasizes that least burdensome applies not only to FDA but also to industry. The guidance states that industry should “submit well-organized, clear, and concise information” that is least burdensome to review.  In practice, it is difficult for industry to predict the minimum amount of information necessary in a premarket submission because the Agency continues to request new and different information to establish a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness or substantial equivalence.

    The new guidance, like the 2002 guidance, provides a number of examples of how FDA has and will apply its least burdensome provisions. The draft guidance utilizes more recent examples of the least burdensome provisions as compared to the 2002 guidance.  For example, the guidance references use of real world evidence, a current hot topic within the Agency.  With these more recent examples, however, some of the more basic examples from the 2002 guidance have been lost.  For example, the 2002 guidance clearly indicated that 510(k) submissions do not need to include manufacturing information.  This same information is not in the 2017 draft.  This document will supersede what FDA said before.  We recommend that FDA include the examples from the 2002 guidance to the extent that they reflect current policy.  In general, we find the new examples to be helpful; however, omitting examples that have been useful in the past will mean a loss of useful illustrations and could potentially create confusion as to whether leaving out the examples means CDRH has changed its policy.

    Categories: Medical Devices

    Court May Confirm the Rigorous Materiality Standard Required by the False Claims Act

    To prevail on an allegation under the False Claims Act (FCA), a plaintiff must allege that the misrepresentation by defendant was “material to the Government’s payment decision.” Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016).  The U.S. Supreme Court explained that “if the Government pays a particular claim in full despite its actual knowledge that certain requirements were violated, that is very strong evidence that those requirements are not material.” Id. at 2003.

    As reported last year, there has been a trend to narrow the types of FCA theories that could survive the more stringent test for materiality established by Escobar, with several circuit courts requiring a rigorous scrutiny of the government’s behavior once it became aware of the alleged misrepresentations.  In July 2017, however, the Ninth Circuit bucked the trend, and concluded that whether allegations are material raised matters of proof that could not be resolved on the pleadings (i.e., at the motion to dismiss stage). See United States ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., 862 F.3d 890 (9th Cir. 2017).  The Ninth Circuit’s view was that the plaintiffs alleged “more than the mere possibility that the government would be entitled to refuse payment if it were aware of the violations,” and that was sufficient for materiality purposes “at this stage of the case.”

    The U.S. Supreme Court now may be poised to provide further clarity on the materiality required for FCA liability. Gilead requested, but was denied, a rehearing en banc.  Gilead now requests in a petition for a writ of certiorari that the U.S. Supreme Court rule on the following question:

    Whether an FCA allegation fails when the Government continued to approve and pay for products after learning of alleged regulatory infractions and the pleadings offer no basis for overcoming the strong inference of immateriality that arises from the Government’s response.

    Gilead provides several reasons the Court should grant the writ. First, the Ninth Circuit’s approach conflicts with the decisions of six circuits that have addressed this very question and interpreted Escobar differently.  Second, courts have had, and will have, to consider this question with frequency, and the outcome of this case could impact the availability of drugs and medical products to the marketplace.  Last, this case is well positioned to provide “guidance on a significant and recurring issue by clarifying how the Government’s response upon learning of alleged infractions affects the viability of an FCA complaint.”

    Response to the petition is due on February 2, 2018.

    Litigation Briefing: HP&M Issues Report Summarizing Leading Cases and Settlements of 2017

    Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C. is pleased to present this report summarizing leading cases and settlements from 2017 affecting the FDA-regulated industry. Our goal was to provide a concise summary of issues that most impact our clients, many of whom are drug and medical device manufacturers, compounding facilities, and officers of those companies.

    For each case or settlement, we summarize the facts and the key takeaways. And we include at the end of the report the hot-button issues that we are monitoring in 2018.

    We hope this report proves useful and interesting to you.

    Happy New Year! Lasso Yourself Some FDA Data with the Agency’s New Data Dashboard

    FDA gave us all a New Year’s present on January 2nd when it announced the Agency’s new Data Dashboard. The Dashboard graphically breaks down data on FDA Inspections, Compliance Actions (warning letters, injunctions, and seizures – more commonly known by industry as “enforcement actions”), Recalls, and Imports/Import Refusals, by fiscal year (starting with 2009), product category (drugs, devices, food, cosmetics, etc.), and in other helpful ways depending on the data set.  For example, in addition to filtering by fiscal year and product category, inspection data can also be filtered by the inspection classification (NAI, VAI, or OAI), region (foreign or domestic), country, state, or even company name.

    Compliance actions can be filtered by the type of action, firm name, region, state, and country. Each Dashboard page features a map that pinpoints the geographic location of subject facilities, and by using the map’s “lasso” function you can select and see data from a custom geographic region.

    Of course, the Data Dashboard does not provide any information that is not already publicly available through FDA’s website. And it does not offer specifics about the subject of FDA compliance actions, inspectional observations, or import refusals.  For these specifics, users may find more detailed information in FDA’s preexisting Inspection Classification Database (updated monthly as of November 2017), Electronic Reading Room – Warning Letters, or ORA FOIA Electronic Reading Room.

    Importantly, the new Data Dashboard is limited in that “[t]he datasets are updated semi-annually and only include final actions,” and FDA has not indicated when the next semi-annual update will occur. Given that some inspections and compliance actions are not considered “final” for months or even years, the Data Dashboard may not be the best place to look if you are hoping to find companies or products that have been the subject of recent FDA action.  However, if you want to quickly identify and analyze longer-term trends, find general information on FDA activities relating to a certain product category, country, geographic region, or a certain company, the Dashboard makes existing FDA data significantly more accessible and useful – a welcome start to the New Year.

    Categories: Enforcement

    Up in Smoke? Will the Feds Ramp Up Enforcement Action Against Budding State Marijuana Industry?

    Federal law continues to prohibit the possession, cultivation or distribution of marijuana and prohibits operating a business for these purposes. A number of states continue to follow Federal law and prohibit the use of marijuana under any circumstance, but a growing majority of other states and the District of Columbia have authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, limited use of low-THC (e.g. cannabidiol or “CBD”) for medicinal purposes and/or for personal, non-medical use. California started allowing sales of marijuana for recreational use on January 1st.

    On January 4th, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a Memorandum (“Sessions Memo”) to all U.S. attorneys that rescinds prior U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) guidance on marijuana enforcement, including an August 2013 Memorandum issued by then Deputy Attorney General James Cole (“Cole Memo”).  In brief, the Cole Memo stipulated that the DOJ was unlikely to take enforcement action against a marijuana-related business that was operating in compliance with state law unless it implicated any of the eight marijuana-related enforcement priorities deemed to be “particularly important to the federal government,” including prevention of distribution to minors, diversion from states where marijuana is legal to those where it is not, and prevention of “drugged driving,” to name a few.  It also stated that conduct in accord with state marijuana laws was “less likely to threaten” federal priorities in jurisdictions “that have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana.”  Finally, it updated prior guidance on medical marijuana to note that “the size or commercial nature of a marijuana operation alone” did not necessarily implicate federal priorities.

    The Sessions Memo directs prosecutors to instead “follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions” as set out in chapter 9-27.000 of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, Principles of Federal Prosecution, and “to weigh all relevant considerations, including federal law enforcement priorities set by the Attorney General, the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.”  The Sessions Memo thus effectively substitutes generally applicable principles for the more tailored principles set out in the Cole Memo – a change unlikely to be welcomed by those who had relied on the Cole Memo to better understand any potential civil and criminal liability associated with state-authorized marijuana-related enterprises.

    Also rescinded by the Sessions Memo is guidance in another Memorandum issued by James Cole that addressed marijuana-related financial crimes.  It directed prosecutors to consider the federal priorities outlined in the Cole Memo in deciding whether to prosecute violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, money laundering statutes, and the unlicensed money transmitter statute, when those violations arose from marijuana-related violations of the Controlled Substances Act.  Presumably, those prosecutorial judgments will now also be based on the Principles of Federal Prosecution.

    Whether, when, and how, federal prosecutors may exercise their prosecutorial discretion with respect to the budding state marijuana industry remains to be seen.  However, the press release announcing the issuance of the Sessions Memo says that it is returning “local control to federal prosecutors.”  Thus, one very real possibility is that federal prosecutors in different states and even judicial districts within states will exercise their judgment in different ways in deciding which marijuana-related offenses to pursue regardless of whether the marijuana activity is authorized in the state.  We’ll continue to follow developments in this area.

    Continued Interest in Drug Categorization – OIG Finds Ten Potentially Misclassified Drugs May Have Led to $1.3 Billion in Lost Medicaid Rebates

    On December 20, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report entitled “Potential Misclassifications Reported by Drug Manufacturers May Have Led to $1 Billion in Lost Medicaid Rebates.” This report is the result of Congress’ September 2016 request for OIG to “evaluate the accuracy of manufacturer-reported drug classification data in the Medicaid rebate program, and the extent to which [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] CMS oversees drug classification data submitted by manufacturers.”

    In order to be eligible for Federal payments for their covered outpatient drugs under Medicaid and Medicare Part B, drug manufacturers must enter into rebate agreements and pay quarterly rebates to the States. As part of these agreements, drug manufacturers must provide CMS with their average manufacturer price (AMP) and best price, if applicable, for each covered outpatient drug. Drug manufacturers must also report and certify certain data about each drug, including its “drug category” – i.e., whether the drug is an innovator (generally brand-name) or noninnovator (generic) product – in the Drug Data Reporting for Medicaid System. CMS uses the price and drug category data to calculate the applicable rebate amounts for each drug on a quarterly basis. States then use this to invoice manufacturers for the rebates owed for these drugs. The minimum rebate for innovator drugs is 23.1% of the AMP, while the minimum rebate for noninnovator drugs is only 13% of the AMP.

    To conduct its review, OIG compared the drug classification data in the Medicaid System to FDA’s marketing categories for over 30,450 drug products. OIG found that 95% of the drugs in the Medicaid rebate program were appropriately classified. These drugs account for 98% of the $59.7 billion in Medicaid reimbursement in 2016 for the reviewed products. OIG also determined that approximately 3% of drugs were potentially misclassified in 2016; reimbursement for the potentially misclassified drugs totaled $813 million in 2016. OIG found that the majority of the potentially misclassified drugs (97%) were identified as noninnovator products in the Medicaid System but as innovator products in FDA’s data. This discrepancy means that manufacturers may have paid a lower base rebate amount and may not have paid applicable inflation-adjusted rebates for these products in 2016. OIG then took a closer look at the ten potentially misclassified drugs with the highest total Medicaid reimbursement in 2016. All ten drugs were classified as noninnovator products in the Medicaid System but as innovator products in the FDA data. OIG calculated that the manufacturers for these drugs may have owed an additional $1.3 billion in Medicaid rebates from 2012 to 2016. Notably, two drugs accounted for 90% of the potentially lost rebates.

    OIG recommended that CMS pursue a means to compel manufacturers to correct inaccurate classification data reported to the Medicaid System; however, CMS indicated that it does not currently have the legal authority to compel such corrections. In response to OIG’s recommendation, CMS stated that it will consider how to improve agency efforts to compel manufacturer corrections. CMS also stated that it shares a joint responsibility with OIG to oversee manufacturers’ compliance with data reporting, and encouraged OIG to use its enforcement authority in this area. OIG confirmed that it has authority to pursue civil monetary penalties against manufacturers for certain violations of the Medicaid rebate statute. However, OIG stated that “it lacks legal authority to affirmatively pursue penalties for the submission of inaccurate drug classification data.” The report does not mention that the Federal False Claims Act (FCA) has been used in several instances to target the knowing submission of false drug category data.

    OIG plans to provide CMS with lists of the drugs identified as potentially misclassified, the drugs that were missing from FDA files, and the drugs for which OIG could not determine an appropriate classification. As the Federal government and state Medicaid programs continue to focus on drug expenditures, we may see CMS and OIG take a more active role in requesting updated drug classification information from manufacturers. In fact, since 2016, CMS has increased its efforts to identify instances where the drug category reported by a manufacturer conflicts with its FDA manufacturing application type. At a minimum, we expect that the manufacturers of the 885 drugs that OIG identified as potentially misclassified will receive a follow-up inquiry from CMS, unless they applied for a “special exception” from the definition of an innovator drug by March 31, 2017. We can also expect to see the Department of Justice and whistleblowers continue to use the FCA to challenge the knowing submission of false drug category data.

    FDA Issues Final Guidance on Additive Manufactured (“3D-Printed”) Devices

    On December 5, 2017, FDA issued a final guidance: Technical Considerations for Additive Manufactured Medical Devices, Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff. Additive Manufacturing (AM) is “a process that builds an object by iteratively building 2-dimensional (2D) layers and joining each to the layer below, allowing device manufacturers to rapidly alter designs without the need for retooling and to create complex devices built as a single piece.”  This includes so‑called 3D printing.  FDA issued a draft of this guidance in May 2016, as discussed in our prior blog post here. This post discusses the main differences between the draft and final guidance.  For a more in depth overview of the entire content, please refer to the prior blog post.

    The guidance provides insight into the unique considerations of AM manufacturers in complying with quality system regulations and device testing considerations (i.e., premarket submission considerations). FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. issued a statement concurrently with release of the guidance, highlighting that, with this guidance, the “agency is the first in the world to provide a comprehensive technical framework to advise manufacturers creating medical products on 3D printers.” Commissioner Gottlieb also stated that the intention of the guidance is to “help manufacturers bring their innovations to market more efficiently by providing a transparent process for future submissions and making sure our regulatory approach is properly tailored to the unique opportunities and challenges posed by this promising new technology.”

    As with the draft, this guidance notes that it is a leapfrog guidance, where the Agency can share initial thoughts regarding emerging technologies that are likely to be of public health importance early in the product development. The Agency notes that the recommendations contained in this guidance may change as more information becomes available.

    Noteworthy Changes from the Draft Guidance

    The final guidance contains some changes from the draft that are worth highlighting. One of the most notable changes was the inclusion of additional issues in the section regarding Patient-Matched Device (PMD) Designs.  These are products that are matched to a patient’s anatomy.  The finalized guidance includes a section on complex design files and files and cybersecurity and personal identifying information not found in the draft.

    Complex Design Files

    The guidance notes that PMDs that follow the patient’s anatomy are vulnerable to errors in file conversion because they involve complex anatomic curves that can create difficulties when calculating conversions. The guidance recommends that manufacturers of PMDs follow considerations on maintaining data integrity throughout file conversions.

    Cybersecurity and Personal Identifying Information

    The guidance does not go into detail on the cybersecurity implications of PMDs, noting that the topic is beyond the scope of the guidance. Instead, the document refers readers to the HHS Guidance on Significant Aspects of the Privacy Rule and Content of Premarket Submissions for Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices.

    Risk-Based Approach to Imaging Data

    Other notable changes specific to PMDs are that manufacturers should be employing a risk-based approach when incorporating imaging data into the final design. The guidance advises manufacturers to take into consideration the intended use of the device and the design methodologies to assess the scenarios that may yield a worst-case match.

    Test Coupons

    A final notable addition involves the use of test coupons in AM devices. A test coupon is a representative test sample of a device or component.  The draft guidance noted the importance in the design of test coupons and placement within the build volume in the context of AM and recommended the use of coupons to help with process validation and for in-process monitoring.  The final guidance clarifies that test coupons may not be needed if the process is validated per QSR requirements and coupon testing is not a process monitoring activity defined in your quality system.

    Because of the nature of this technology and the fact its clinical applications are relatively new to the Agency, we recommend that manufacturers of AM devices seek feedback from FDA on their specific device early in the submission planning process.

    Additional Thoughts

    The final guidance fails to provide any insight into decision-making on whether or not to file a new 510(k) for modifications to a device or the manufacturing process of an AM device, a major issued we identified in our discussion of the draft guidance. Additionally, the final guidance does not address who FDA considers to be an AM device manufacturer, generally referring to manufacturers without specifically defining what that label encompasses.  This is important because there are many entities that would not be considered manufacturers in the traditional sense, but could arguably be considered AM manufacturers.  For example, if a hospital obtains a 3D printer and creates a device (based on cleared specifications) specific to a patient’s anatomy, does that act make it a manufacturer subject to these requirements?  The answer is not clear.  Notably, however, Commissioner Gottlieb acknowledged in his statement that more insight from the Agency in needed on the topic of who is an AM manufacturer: “Developing a transparent policy on 3D printing remains an important next step for us, and we plan to explore the role of nontraditional manufacturing facilities like a hospital operating room or university laboratory.”  Hopefully the Agency will provide more clarity on this topic soon.

    Categories: Medical Devices

    FDA “Finalizes” Rule on Health Care Antiseptic Drug Products Ahead of Time

    As previously discussed, pursuant to a consent decree, FDA was to finalize the over-the-counter (OTC) topical health care antiseptic drug products monograph with respect to triclosan by January 15, 2018. Rather than limiting the rulemaking to the single active ingredient, triclosan, FDA took it upon itself to finalize the monograph for all OTC health care antiseptic active ingredients.

    Ahead of time, on Dec. 20, 2017, FDA issued what it identifies as the final rule for health care antiseptics.  Upon further reading, it turns out that FDA is not yet done, however.  The final rule constitutes a final determination that 24 active ingredients are not generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE); they are added to the list of unapproved new drugs in 21 C.F.R. § 310.545.  The compliance (or effective) date is Dec. 20, 2018.  On or after that date, any OTC health care antiseptic drug product that contains any of these 24 active ingredients cannot legally be introduced into interstate commerce unless it is the subject of an FDA-approved New Drug Application (NDA).

    As we reported earlier this year, in February 2017, FDA deferred action on six active ingredients (benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, chloroxylenol, alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and povidone-iodine) pending additional data. Thus, the rule making on health care antiseptic drug products remains incomplete.  FDA has not set a specific deadline for final action on these ingredients but instead with address their monograph (GRASE) status “either after completion and analysis of ongoing studies to address the safety and effectiveness data gaps . . . or at a later date, if these studies are not completed.”

    In addition to finding the 24 active ingredients non-GRASE, FDA determined that chlorhexidine is not eligible for evaluation under the OTC drug review process because this ingredient was not included in any health care antiseptic product marketed before May 1972. Thus, any chlorhexidine-containing health care antiseptic may be marketed only if approved by FDA.  FDA also has determined that alcohol for use as a surgical hand scrub and benzethonium chloride for use as a health care personnel hand rub and surgical hand rub are ineligible for the OTC drug review for lack of evidence that products containing these ingredients were marketed before May 1972.

    The preamble to the final rule discusses FDA’s responses to comments about the new efficacy testing requirements for the various types of health care antiseptics. These testing requirements apply to the six active ingredients for which action has been deferred and will not come as a surprise to the companies working on the collection of data for these ingredients.  The final rule does not address testing of final formulations because, at this time, FDA has not found any of the active ingredients GRASE.  Thus, rule making for testing of final products would be premature.

    FDA stresses that the final rule does not cover

    • Consumer antiseptic washes
    • Consumer antiseptic rubs
    • First aid antiseptics
    • Antiseptics used by the food industry

    Rules for these product categories are in various stages of completion.   FDA must issue a final rule for consumer antiseptic rubs by April 15, 2019. No deadline has been set for completion of the rule making regarding first aid antiseptics and antiseptics used by the food industry because those categories of products were not included in the consent decree.

    Congress To DEA: Update Schedule II Partial Fill Regulations Swiftly

    Obscured last week amidst the tumultuous passage of tax reform, Congress urged the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) in a bipartisan letter to quickly update its regulations and guidance on the partial filling of schedule II controlled substance prescriptions. The letter notes that “[l]arge amounts of unused medications are a key contributor” to the nationwide opioid crisis and that between 67% and 92% of surgery patients “reported they had unused opioids remaining after the procedures.”  Letter from Congress of the United States, to Robert Patterson, Acting Administrator, DEA (Dec. 21, 2017).

    The letter states that Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (“CARA”) in July 2016 in part to prevent further stockpiling of unused prescribed opioids by amending the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) to enable patients or physicians to request that pharmacists partially fill schedule II substances that include prescription opioids and to allow remaining quantities to be filled up to 30 days after issuance of a prescription if necessary.

    Prior law and current DEA regulations allow pharmacists to partially fill schedule II controlled substance prescriptions only if the pharmacy is unable to dispense the full prescribed quantity. 21 C.F.R. § 1306.13(a).  Pharmacists may dispense the remaining quantity within 72 hours of the first partial dispensing and cannot dispense any further prescribed quantity beyond 72 hours thereby requiring the prescriber to issue a new prescription.  21 C.F.R. § 1306.13(a).  Current regulations also allow partial dispensing of schedule II prescriptions to patients in a Long Term Care Facility or those diagnosed with a documented terminal illness.  21 C.F.R. § 1306.13(b).  Pharmacists can partially fill schedule III-V controlled substance prescriptions as long as no dispensing occurs after six months from the date of issue.  21 C.F.R. § 1306.23.

    CARA amended the CSA to allow for the partial dispensing of a schedule II prescription if not prohibited by state law, requested by the patient or prescriber and the total quantity dispensed in partial fillings does not exceed the total quantity prescribed. 21 U.S.C. § 829(f)(1).  The amended CSA prohibits further partial dispensings later than 30 days after the prescription is written and no later than 72 hours in emergency situations.  21 U.S.C. § 829(f)(2).  The letter urges DEA to “swiftly” update its regulation and guidance as pharmacists and prescribers, “critical partners in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” are reluctant to comply with the amended CSA’s partial dispensing provisions until the agency does so.

    Jury Was Entitled to Hear Advice-of-(Second)-Counsel Defense: Conviction Reversed

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision a couple of weeks ago reversing the conspiracy conviction of a defendant for distribution of unapproved drugs, among other things.  The trial court had rejected evidence relating to an advice-of-counsel defense asserted by the defendant.  The Second Circuit’s decision is important to the issue of the advice of counsel in connection with regulatory decisions.

    A summary of the factual background included in the appellate decision follows:

    • Mr. Scully was one of the founders of “Pharmalogical, Inc.,” named either pursuant to a dastardly misspelling of “pharmacological” or as a clever marketing device.
    • The company registered with New York State authorities as a wholesale distributor of pharmaceutical products.
    • Mr. Scully managed the day-to-day operations of the company, which imported European or Canadian versions of FDA-approved drugs and medical devices at prices substantially below what the products are available for in the United States, and resold the products to customers in the United States.
    • Mr. Scully sought and received from a lawyer a letter that the Second Circuit found led Mr. Scully to believe he was authorized to import and sell the products. The opinion said, according to the Second Circuit, that Pharmalogical had not received any notification from FDA that it was operating in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and that Pharmalogical had “no reason to believe it was not operating in compliance” with that statute.
    • If Mr. Scully, the lawyer, the trial judge, or members of the Second Circuit panel deciding the case were regular and longstanding readers of this blog, they may have remembered that FDA has steadfastly asserted that the importation of prescription drugs into the United States is illegal, either because the drugs are drugs that are reimported into the United States, or because they are unapproved new drugs, or because they lack adequate directions for use (see our previous posts here, here, and here).
    • Mr. Scully used the letter to convince customers that it was legal for him to wholesale Botox (a prescription drug).
    • Mr. Scully then decided to branch into the importation from Europe of Mirena intrauterine contraceptive devices (medical devices), which he wholesaled in the United States without registering as being the initial importer of those devices. He secured a similar letter from the same lawyer asserting that “the importation of Mirena . . . from Finland into the United States by Pharmalogical, Inc. for resale to the end user, would not violate the criminal laws of the United States.”
    • Mr. Scully then branched into the importation of oncology products, according to the Second Circuit.


    At trial, the lawyer who provided the advice discussed above testified and was cross-examined. Following traditional prosecutorial tactics, the government established the Mr. Scully had not shared pertinent information with the attorney, including that he advertised products as being FDA-approved when they were not, and that U.S. customs officials had seized some of the drugs Mr. Scully attempted to import because they had foreign-language labeling that was not consistent with FDA-approved versions of the drugs.

    Mr. Scully’s attorney also attempted to introduce evidence from Mr. Scully’s testimony that a second lawyer had also told Mr. Scully that Mr. Scully’s conduct was not illegal (the lawyer did not call that lawyer as a witness). The trial judge refused, at first, to allow hearsay testimony from Mr. Scully about the second lawyer’s opinion.  Then, the trial judge reconsidered, conceding that the defense lawyer was correct that the evidence was not inadmissible as hearsay (it was not offered for the truth of the matter asserted), but ruled the testimony was inadmissible because it was unduly prejudicial.

    Mr. Scully was convicted by a jury after a five-week trial on several counts of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, illegal distribution of unapproved drugs, unregistered wholesale distribution of drugs, and distribution of misbranded drugs. He was sentenced to 60 months in prison.

    Mr. Scully then argued to the Second Circuit that the second lawyer’s opinion was important, and should not have been excluded. The Second Circuit agreed.

    The Second Circuit went on to discuss the jury instruction delivered by the trial judge, saying it inappropriately placed the burden on the defendant to prove advice of counsel. The Second Circuit panel reiterated the standards set forth by its predecessor in United States v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., 871 F.2d 1181 (2d Cir. 1989), a decision on a criminal trial handled by John Fleder, one of our esteemed Senior Counsel, when he worked for the Department of Justice.  The discussion is informative and interesting for those who are concerned about clients’ reliance on attorney advice, in our field.  But you can read the decision, or read Beech-Nut, or call John, because the length of this blog post already exceeds the extent of concentration appropriate for a blog post.  Mindful of that, we are still persuaded by John to add the following points.  In industries closely regulated by FDA, companies and individuals can get important protection from abusive criminal prosecutions by establishing that their actions were taken in good-faith reliance on advice given by legal counsel, as long as:

    (1)       That advice is rendered by a lawyer, not a non-lawyer consultant;

    (2)       The client discloses all material facts to the lawyer before the client undertakes the activity in question, rather than afterwards; and

    (3)       The advice is legal advice, not business advice.

    John also suggests making a contemporaneous record that the client has disclosed all material facts to the lawyer before acting and that the lawyer in good faith tells the client that the proposed conduct is legal. Even if the lawyer’s advice is not legally correct or is inconsistent with how FDA construes the relevant law, the defense should still be available.  But a court is more likely to conclude the advice was sought and rendered in good faith if the client solicits the advice from a recognized expert in the field.

    Mr. Scully will get a new trial, unless the government settles or decides not to pursue a second trial.

    FDA Continues to Defy Congress on MDR Reporting (A Decade and Counting)

    In 2007, Congress determined that the public health would be adequately protected if manufacturers and importers of lower risk class I and II medical devices provided summary quarterly reporting of malfunctions to FDA. This system would replace the more burdensome approach of requiring individual 30‑day Medical Device Reports (MDRs) for each device malfunction. At the same time, FDA was granted authority to create exceptions by publishing lists in the Federal Register of class I and II devices that would continue providing individual 30‑day malfunction reports. FDA also was granted authority to create exceptions for specific devices by the simple expedient of sending a letter to the manufacturer or importer.

    As amended in 2007, here is what Section 519 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act statute now says about malfunction reporting:

    Records and reports on devices

    (a) General rule

    Every person who is a manufacturer … of a device intended for human use shall establish and maintain such records, make such reports, and provide such information, as the Secretary may by regulation reasonably require to assure that such device is not adulterated or misbranded and to otherwise assure its safety and effectiveness. Regulations prescribed under the preceding sentence—

    (1) shall require a device manufacturer or importer to report to the Secretary whenever the manufacturer or importer receives or otherwise becomes aware of information that reasonably suggests that one of its marketed devices—

    *   *   *

    (B) has malfunctioned and that such device or a similar device marketed by the manufacturer or importer would be likely to cause or contribute to a death or serious injury if the malfunction were to recur, which report under this subparagraph—

    (i) shall be submitted in accordance with part 803 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations), unless the Secretary grants an exemption or variance from, or an alternative to, a requirement under such regulations pursuant to section 803.19 of such part, if the device involved is—

    (I) a class III device;

    (II) a class II device that is permanently implantable, is life supporting, or is life sustaining; or

    (III) a type of device which the Secretary has, by notice published in the Federal Register or letter to the person who is the manufacturer or importer of the device, indicated should be subject to such part 803 in order to protect the public health;

    (ii) shall, if the device is not subject to clause (i), be submitted in accordance with criteria established by [FDA] for reports made pursuant to this clause, which criteria shall require the reports to be in summary form and made on a quarterly basis ….

    In short, the law today is that devices are subject only to summary quarterly reporting of malfunctions, unless they are in class III, in class II but permanently implantable, life supporting or life sustaining, or excepted from quarterly reporting by FDA in a Federal Register notice or by direct letter.

    For unexplained reasons, FDA refuses to implement the statute. We wrote about it in detail five years ago.

    Now FDA has announced in the Federal Register a “proposed program for manufacturer reporting of certain device malfunction medical device reports (MDRs) in summary form.” 82 Fed. Reg. 60922, 60922 (Dec. 26, 2017). This proposed program “reflects FDA’s findings from a pilot program the Agency conducted to study summary reporting formats for malfunction MDRs.” Id.

    FDA acknowledges the 2007 statutory requirement now embodied in Section 519 of the FDCA. 82 Fed. Reg. at 60923. It also acknowledges the benefits of summary reporting for lower risk devices. Id. at 60924. Specifically:

    The pilot demonstrated several important findings. First, participants were able to reduce the volume of reports by over 87 percent using the pilot format, while preserving the essential information regarding the context around malfunction events. This increased efficiency in reporting and in the Agency review and processing of malfunction reports. The format also allowed for simple, transparent, and cost-effective reporting through existing electronic reporting processes for submission of electronic MDRs (eMDRs) to FDA, in accordance with the Medical Device Reporting: Electronic Submissions Requirements Final Rule (eMDR Final Rule) published in the Federal Register of February 14, 2014 (79 FR 8832). Based upon observations from the pilot experience, this summary format was usable for both large and small firms with varying numbers of marketed devices. Lastly, summary reports collected in this format could be more easily shared publicly, facilitating transparency of malfunction reporting.

    Consistent with these findings, FDA believes that bundling “like events” together into a single summary report description would have benefits for manufacturers, FDA, and the public. For many manufacturers, this approach would greatly reduce the volume of reports that they would need to submit to FDA. For FDA, information would be received in a streamlined manner that would facilitate more efficient understanding of malfunction issues. For the public, summary reports could make malfunction event trends for a particular device more readily transparent. [Id. at 60923‑24.]

    Yet, despite this acknowledgment, FDA refuses to follow the law. In the notice, FDA specifically clarifies that this proposed program does not implement the 2007 statute. 82 Fed. Reg. at 60923. FDA casts the proposed program as a voluntary opt-in program pursuant to its regulatory authority to grant MDR exemptions, variances, and/or waivers under 21 C.F.R. § 803.19. Id. at 60924.

    The motive for the proposed program is apparently to fulfill certain goals agreed to between FDA and industry in a commitment letter submitted to Congress and referenced in the Medical Device User Fee Amendments Act of 2017. Id. at 60922. It is left unexplained how this commitment letter could override the statute enacted in 2007 and codified in Section 519 of the FDCA.

    Indeed, the proposed program actually inverts the statute. As quoted above, Congress directed FDA that all class I and II devices are subject to summary quarterly reporting of malfunctions, unless FDA specifically excepts them in a Federal Register notice or by letter. Under the proposed program, in contrast, FDA will list the eligible product codes and allow manufacturers of products within such codes to opt‑in if certain conditions do not apply. Id. at 60924‑25.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but this “proposed program” represents an agency acting unconstitutionally. The people’s representatives, i.e., Congress, determined a decade ago that the cost and burden of individual reporting of malfunction MDRs is not necessary. The President duly signed this legislation into law on September 27, 2007.  Therefore, it is not for FDA to decide whether or not this approach is acceptable. As a constitutional matter, FDA (as part of the Executive Branch) is required to implement that statute. The agency, in other words, is required to faithfully execute the law, not brazenly flout it. See U.S. Const., Art. II, sec. 3.

    FDA claims that its own failure to publish a list of excepted devices is what keeps the 2007 amendment to Section 519 from becoming effective. But, even if correct, this failure to act cannot excuse flouting the law for a decade and counting. It seems likely that a trade association or device firm could successfully obtain a writ of mandamus from a court requiring FDA to implement the statute as written. These writs are rarely granted, but this case is egregious enough that a court might issue one. FDA’s own 2015 pilot program and this new proposed program show that the agency is capable of developing an appropriate summary format and, in fact, has done so. The timing (quarterly) is set by statute and needs no agency decision making.

    There is nothing more that needs to be done, except for FDA to identify the devices to be excepted. Contra FDA’s position, it is does not appear that this step necessarily prevents implementation of the statute. The law as written does not appear to make publishing a list of exceptions a condition precedent. Rather, it creates a general rule for class I and II devices but grants FDA broad continuing authority to create exceptions (by Federal Register publication and by letter).

    Thus, it would be lawful and practically feasible for a court to order FDA to begin accepting summary quarterly reports, subject to exceptions for class I and II devices that FDA may designate by Federal Register publication or by letter. As a matter of discretion, a court could grant FDA a short stay to allow time to develop a list of exceptions before the order becomes effective.

    In sum, this proposed program represents continued defiance of the law and a refusal to implement a statute enacted in 2007. FDA should not create the proposed program. Rather, it should immediately implement summary quarterly reporting as required by Section 519 of the FDCA.

    Categories: Medical Devices

    Are There Only Two Types of Tests in Clinical Studies – Legally Marketed or Investigational? Maybe, according to FDA’s Draft Guidance for Investigational IVDs

    On December 18, FDA released its draft guidance, “Investigational IVDs Used in Clinical Investigations of Therapeutic Products.” This is the latest guidance from the Agency on the relationship between in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products and therapeutic products. You will recall that the Centers jointly issued the final guidance “In Vitro Companion Diagnostic Devices” in August 2014, and CDER followed-up with its draft guidance “Principles for Codevelopment of an In Vitro Companion Diagnostic Device with a Therapeutic Product” in July 2016.”

    These earlier guidances focused on the relationship between the therapeutic and the IVD (e.g., when an IVD is a companion diagnostic and how to coordinate development of the diagnostic and therapeutic) whereas the new draft guidance discusses when an investigational device exemption (IDE) is required for an IVD that is used as part of a therapeutic product’s clinical trial. The draft guidance aims to define when an IVD is investigational.

    The guidance is, however, ambiguous at best and at worst suggest that all tests used during the course of a therapeutic product clinical study must be either “legally marketed” or Investigational. The guidance starts out with what appears to be a clear definition of an Investigational IVD, an IVD “that is the object of an investigation.” This definition is consistent with the IDE regulations. 21 C.F.R. § § 812.3(g). The draft Investigational IVD guidance goes on to state that an IVD is investigational if it “is used to guide the therapeutic management of subjects in a therapeutic product trial, and trial results provide information on the safety and effectiveness of the investigational IVD in addition to the safety and effectiveness of the investigational therapeutic product” (emphasis added).

    The guidance also provides several examples of IVD uses that it considers to be investigational:

    • Identifying subjects for study enrollment criteria (e.g., inclusion, exclusion);
    • Predicting increased or decreased risk for serious adverse events from the therapeutic product;
    • Determining appropriate dosing levels/amounts;
    • Monitoring response to a therapeutic product; and
    • Assigning subjects to study arms.

    These examples, like the initial definition, appear straightforward. In each of these examples, the IVD is used prospectively in a manner that could affect therapeutic management of a patient, and the study is also evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the IVD in addition to the therapeutic product.

    The guidance includes one last example, which is far less straightforward, reading:

    Retrospective studies. Retrospective studies involve the analysis of specimens after subjects are enrolled in the trial or the trial is complete. In most cases, if the investigational IVD result does not influence treatment, that IVD would be considered lower risk and may be exempt from most IDE regulation requirements if the criteria in 21 CFR 812.2(c)(3) are met (see section III.B.3 above). Prospective retrospective studies, where specimens are collected expressly for the purpose of retrospective analysis, would carry the risk associated with specimen collection occurring outside of standard patient care.

    This example appears to be in direct contradiction to the definition of an Investigational IVD. The definition, in the guidance, says a product is investigational if it “is used to guide the therapeutic management of subjects in a therapeutic product trial, and trial results provide information on the safety and effectiveness of the investigational IVD in addition to the safety and effectiveness of the investigational therapeutic product.” However, the retrospective study example above specifically says that an IVD would be investigational even if it “does not influence treatment.” While this example focuses on the risk assessment, it implicitly deems the device to be investigational even though it does not guide therapy.

    This example in no way addresses the second clause in the Investigational IVD definition relating to information on the safety and effectiveness of the Investigational IVD. In a retrospective setting, an IVD could be used for research purposes or other informational purposes totally unrelated to a subject’s therapeutic management or the safety and effectiveness of the IVD being used. In fact, one could readily envision testing being done by the study sponsor and the data never being returned to a study subject’s treating physician. The Investigational IVD definition would indicate that IVDs used in these contexts would fall outside the scope of an Investigational IVD; it does not guide management. Nevertheless, this example suggests it is an Investigational IVD.

    This more expansive view of Investigational IVDs is also implied later in the draft guidance in the context of IRB review of clinical study protocols. The guidance recommends that IRBs reviewing therapeutic product study protocols identify whether or not there is an IVD used in the study. If so, the guidance indicates that the IRB must determine if it is investigational stating that either the test is “legally marketed” or “investigational.” This line of questions for the IRB suggests that any lab test run in any therapeutic product study, if it is not legally marketed, must be investigational. The IRB is not instructed to consider how the IVD will be used or if it is “the object of the investigation” – the legal definition of an investigational device.

    In addition, the guidance provides only a footnoted explanation as to what is legally marketed, saying “a legally marketed IVD is one that is approved, cleared, or Class I or Class II exempt.” It appears from footnote 13 that laboratory developed tests (LDTs) are not “legally marketed” for purposes of this guidance unless they have received clearance or approval. However, LDTs do not require clearance or approval. Because they are not exempt, however, according to the guidance, they would be investigational by default. Similarly, Research Use Only (RUO) products are “legally marketed” for research purposes, and as noted above, some retrospective analyses may be appropriately categorized as research. However, FDA’s recommendation to IRBs appears to preclude use of RUO tests in any clinical study. If FDA is intending to impose such a significant restriction on use of LDTs and RUOs in clinical studies, we recommend that the Agency be more direct and clear with industry rather than simply omitting the important lab tests and tools in a footnote defining ‘legally marketed.’ A change in policy that so profoundly affects clinical research should not be relegated to a footnote.  We certainly hope that FDA clarifies its definition, examples, and IRB guidance to align with the narrower investigational device definition in the regulations before this guidance is finalized. We would also expect that many IRBs will find the guidance on different kinds of risk analyses to be more confusing than enlightening.

    Beyond the fundamental question of what is an IVD, this guidance introduces a number of other issues. For example, the guidance provides a series of questions to consider when assessing whether an IVD is significant or a non-significant risk. The first question has to do with whether use of the IVD could lead a patient to foregoing or delaying a treatment that is known to be effective. FDA indicates that if the standard of care is “reasonably effective” and a patient does not obtain it, or is delayed in obtaining it, the risk of the IVD could be high. We note, however, that it is unclear what FDA means by “reasonably effective.” We are not aware of this being a legal or regulatory standard for any medical product.

    In several places, the guidance also appears to assume that there is a relationship between the IVD and therapeutic product study sponsor. Both drug and IVD companies know, however, that this is often not the case. The guidance discusses how results from the study, obtained during the course of the study (e.g., adverse events), could affect the risk associated with an Investigational IVD. Similarly, the guidance states that IVD manufacturers must be aware of changes to the study protocol that could affect the risk associated with the IVD. In both cases, this requires IVD companies to receive information from the therapeutic product manufacturer, which often does not occur. The guidance does not address what IVD companies should do if they do not have a strong (or any) working relationship with the therapeutic product manufacturer.  The guidance, if adopted, could have significant implications for contracts and relationships between IVD companies and therapeutic product manufacturers.

    The expansive view of Investigational IVDs taken in the draft guidance is particularly problematic for IVD companies. Being an Investigational IVD is not as simple as it may seem: special labeling and distribution controls are required, the study must be IRB approved, there are limitations on the amount that can be charged for the product, and in some cases IDE approval is required. There may be no incentive to reward the IVD manufacturer at the end of the study, however. For example, the guidance says it applies to all Investigational IVDs (as defined by the guidance) even if they will not be used or marketed outside of the study. This guidance imposes a huge burden by potentially subjecting tests with no commercial role to the IDE regulations.

    In addition, there has been trend towards “complementary” diagnostics, a term still undefined by the Agency, rather than companion diagnostics. For example, earlier this year Roche received approval for its VENTANA PD-L1 Assay. It was approved with a specific indication for use with the therapeutic product, TECENTRIQ™. The drug’s approved use, on the other hand, made no reference to Roche’s assay. The approved drug labeling makes four references to Roche’s assay, all of which are in the context of the clinical study data analyses and are buried more than two thirds of the way through the 27-page long approved label. This inequity in the labeling creates a post-market problem for the IVD company because they are not required as part of the drug’s intended use. On the other hand, the IVD company can only market its test for use with the specific drug. Unless this post-market inequity is resolved, we anticipate FDA receiving a significant amount of push back on its expansive view of Investigational IVDs because IVD companies will not want to subject itself to all the investigational device requirements if there will be little or no post-market benefit.

    The comment period for this guidance is open through March 19, 2018. We recommend both device and drug companies consider commenting on this guidance. On the device side, FDA’s views on what constitutes an investigational device, on risk assessments, and on relationships with the pharma partner make this an important document that warrants comments. On the drug side, as the Agency increases the burden for test manufacturers and eliminates the ability to use LDTs as part of clinical studies, it will become harder for drug study sponsors to obtain novel and innovative tests for their studies.