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Closing the Orphan Drug Act Loophole

February 18, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation to eliminate the “orphan drug loophole.” Current law allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant seven years of market exclusivity to a drug manufacturer if the drug is intended to treat a disease or condition affecting fewer than 200,000 patients in the U.S., or less commonly, if the manufacturer cannot expect to recover the costs of developing and marketing a drug. In some cases, even if the drug developer meets the orphan drug criterion of having no hope of recovering the costs, the drug does actually become profitable—some significantly so—but competitors are still barred from entering the market with a lower-cost alternative during the 7-year exclusivity period that exists by operation of law. To combat this issue, the recently introduced Senate bill (as well as a nearly-identical House bill introduced in October 2019) targets a loophole that allows market exclusivity under the Orphan Drug Act to be extended for future versions of the same drug without the drug's manufacturer having to show that the drug remains unprofitable.
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FDA User Fee Agreements

February 14, 2020 | Video | By Aaron Josephson

In this video, Aaron Josephson discusses FDA user fee agreements, the timeline for the reauthorization process, and why it is important for companies with FDA-regulated products to be paying attention now.
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FDA’s Approach to Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing

February 7, 2020 | Video | By Joanne Hawana

Joanne Hawana talks about the rise in direct-to-consumer genetic testing and how FDA has adapted its regulatory approach to such tests over the past few years as it has become more comfortable with genetic testing and sequencing technologies.
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FDA Regulatory Due Diligence

February 7, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana

Joanne Hawana explains how FDA regulatory due diligence fits into the broader diligence that is done when a transaction involves an FDA-regulated entity as well as what the team is looking for when conducting an FDA regulatory diligence project.
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Continuing progress on the initiatives announced in its Biosimilars Action Plan in July 2018 (see our prior post here), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released information about several important biosimilar-related actions on February 3, 2020. These recent moves make clear that FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who was confirmed and sworn in to his new role at the tail end of 2019, is continuing to focus agency resources on the Biosimilars and Drug Competition Action Plans developed under the leadership of his predecessor, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
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As discussed in an earlier blog post, the process for reauthorizing human medical product user fee programs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for another 5-year period is getting started this year. Below we highlight some changes made to the programs when they were last reauthorized through the 2017 Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act (FDARA) (P.L. 115-52) and consider what could be included in the upcoming user fee reauthorization package.
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FDA User Fees: How Do They Work?

January 28, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

A history of FDA human medical product user fee programs, including those for prescription drugs (PDUFA), generic drugs (GDUFA), biosimilars (BsUFA), and medical devices (MDUFA), their negotiation and reauthorization, and how manufacturers and patients can participate and get involved in the negotiations.
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In a coordinated effort, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation on January 9, 2020. The website serves to streamline information regarding agriculture biotechnology products, which are regulated by FDA, USDA, and EPA. The implementation of the website is in response to the June 2019 Executive Order issued by President Donald Trump on Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products. The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation complements prior joint actions such as the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, an Obama administration effort to reform the biotechnology regulatory process by enhancing transparency, predictability, and efficacy.
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Health Care: A Clearer Vision in 2020? Don’t Bet On It

January 15, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson, Tara E. Dwyer

As we noted in our previous blog post, there are several legislative priorities in the health care space that could see action this year. There are also a variety of activities beginning this year that could set the stage for later action. Here’s what we’re tracking for a 2020 health care legislative package.
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Since the 21st Century Cures Act became law in December 2016, we have been keeping track of the Food and Drug Administration’s actions to carry out its obligations under the relatively new law. One particular provision of the Act: (i) emphasized the agency's responsibility to identify class II devices that may be exempted from premarket notification (or 510(k)) requirements, and (ii) required the agency to publish a list of each type of class II device that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines no longer requires a 510(k) submission to provide reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness at least every five years, or as appropriate. On December 30, 2019, FDA published a final notice of its amendments to each classification regulation for the newly exempted devices.
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Health Care Provisions in 2020 Spending Package

January 9, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law a bill to fund the federal government through September 30, 2020. The bill included several important health care provisions but left some longstanding policy challenges unresolved. Most notable changes to law are the elimination of three Affordable Care Act taxes and the passage of the CREATES Act. Noticeably absent is legislation related to surprise billing and prescription drug pricing. A summary of key health care provisions included in the 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-94) follows. We will address the legislative outlook for 2020 in a separate ML Strategies blog post next week.
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At the end of July 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly published the Safe Importation Action Plan, which outlined the Trump Administration’s two-part plan to allow foreign prescription drugs to be imported into the United States in an effort to reduce drug prices. We wrote about the release of the Safe Importation Action Plan here, and the detailed proposals made public by the Administration on December 18, 2019, follow the framework that the agencies sketched out earlier this year. Specifically, HHS and FDA have proposed two different pathways: one that is being implemented via notice-and-comment rulemaking, and one that is being implemented via an FDA guidance document. HHS Secretary Alex Azar touted the two pathways together in a same-day FDA press release as “historic actions…[that] represent the bold nature of President Trump’s agenda for lowering drug costs.”
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This is our third year-end post for 2019 related to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), focusing on the agency’s activities in the widely divergent area of “consumer products.” (You can find our two prior posts on medical devices and prescription therapeutic products here and here, respectively.) In taking a wide-lens view of the past year, we see it as having presented a huge number of opportunities for the FDA to educate the public about its role in regulating non-prescription products sold directly to consumers. Most of the educational opportunities we highlight below came in concert with some other agency actions, like the issuance of Warning Letters to specific firms, but we’ve decided to cover only the key issues in the interest of keeping this post from turning into a long list of hyperlinks given the post’s already broad scope. Consumer products that fall within FDA’s jurisdiction include over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and OTC homeopathic drug products; tobacco and other nicotine delivery products; dietary supplements; foods and beverages for both humans and animals (technically, there is no such thing as an animal “dietary supplement”); cosmetics (sort of); and a wide variety of cannabis-derived consumer products that exploded onto the national landscape during 2019 and essentially cross into all of the aforementioned product categories.
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2020 Medicine Wrap Up Viewpoint Mintz
In many ways, the past year could be called a “business as usual” year for the FDA’s drugs and biologics centers in that they continued to make progress all of large-scale programs and priorities initiated by former-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who left the agency in April. At the same time, however, the final months of 2019 have exposed several challenges for various FDA programs that operate under the extensive drug and biologic authorities contained in the Food Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act), respectively.
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Evolution & Revolution: Device Policy Priorities at FDA in 2019

December 5, 2019 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Aaron Josephson, Benjamin Zegarelli

This post is the first in a series of three in which we recap the Food and Drug Administration’s somewhat difficult year, having spent the majority of it without a permanent Commissioner and facing a slew of political and practical challenges. Today our topic is “medical devices” writ large, which is a product class that is becoming more complex by the day as it grows to encompass software, diagnostics, laboratory tests, and new medical technologies that resemble nothing that Congress had in mind when it first gave FDA authority to regulate medical devices in 1976. In the coming days, we’ll also take a broad look at FDA’s year from the standpoint of therapeutic medical products, including drugs and biologics, as well as the more commonly used category of consumer products.
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The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to vote on Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Trump administration’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on December 3, 2019. Hahn faced a flurry of questions at the confirmation hearing before the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, November 20, 2019, most of which spoke to the youth vaping crisis with little emphasis on other hot topics such as prescription drug shortages or drug pricing. Despite the barrage of questions, many of his responses were non-specific in nature and avoided committing to any set platform. Instead, Hahn focused on his pledge as a doctor to put patient care first and rely on science and data as a basis for decision-making.
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We have previously blogged about the Food and Drug Administration’s year of listening and information-gathering related to products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds since the 2018 Farm Bill removed “hemp” from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Among other things, the Agency issued a call for scientific information on a variety of topics identified in this April 3, 2019 notice; opened a public docket to receive written comments in response to those questions (docket no. FDA-2019-N-1482); and convened a public hearing in May 2019 to hear from stakeholders directly. Our summary of that May 31st hearing, which also provides an overview of the legal and regulatory landscape post-2018 Farm Bill, is available here. This intensive period of evaluation was led by an internal working group charged with making recommendations for the open scientific, technical, and policy questions created by the new legal status of hemp.
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FDA Issues Drug Shortage Report Identifying Root Causes and Potential Solutions

November 7, 2019 | Blog | By Michelle Caton, Elizabeth Conti

Despite congressional attention, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action, public and private sector efforts, and ongoing media coverage, drug shortages remain a significant public health crisis in the United States. In response to that crisis (and at Congress’s urging), the FDA formed the interagency Drug Shortages Task Force (Task Force) to study the issue. FDA has now released the report resulting from the Task Force’s activities: “Drug Shortages: Root Causes and Potential Solutions.” The report, issued on October 29, 2019, concludes that drug shortages are primarily the consequence of economic factors driven by private and public business practices. Those practices, according to the report, disrupt the supply chain availability of marketed pharmaceuticals. The report offers recommendations to provide a framework for stakeholders to address the underlying economic factors leading to drug shortages.
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To anyone who has been following government enforcement and private litigation trends related to the over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic drug industry over the past several years, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement on October 24, 2019 likely came as no surprise. But to stakeholders in this industry, it was certainly unwelcome news and may portend a coming wave of unapproved drug enforcement actions by the FDA.
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On September 26, 2019, FDA released a six revised digital health guidances. The primary objective of these revisions was to bring the guidances into alignment with the software function exemptions described in Section 3060 of the 21st Century Cures Act (the “Cures Act”). The medical device community has anticipated these changes since Congress passed the Cures Act almost three years ago in December 2016.
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