By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
Last week, press reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would assess distilleries making hand sanitizer $14,060 in fees as Monograph Drug Facilities (MDF) under the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Monograph Drug user fee program for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Several days later, on December 31, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Public Affairs tweeted a statement from Brian Harrison, HHS Chief of Staff. According to the statement, HHS has “directed FDA to cease enforcement of these arbitrary, surprise user fees.” FDA announced the fee rates on December 29, 2020. 85 Fed. Reg. 85646. According to the notice, MDFs are exempt from FY 2021 facility fees if they had ceased OTC monograph drug activities and updated their registration with FDA to that effect, prior to December 31, 2019 -- an impossibility for distilleries that began making hand sanitizer in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the complete HHS statement, posted by the Distilled Spirits Council, FDA’s March 2020 guidance document, Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19), “contains no discussion regarding user fees or any indication such fees would be due by these entities, many of which would be entering the drug manufacturing business for the first time.” HHS states that FDA’s action “was not cleared by HHS leadership, who only learned of it through media reports.” The HHS Office of the General Counsel (OGC) reviewed the matter and “determined that the manner in which the fees were announced and issued has the force and effect of a legislative rule. Only the HHS Secretary has the authority to issue legislative rules, and he would never have authorized such an action during a time in which the Department is maximizing its regulatory flexibility to empower Americans to confront and defeat COVID-19.” Because HHS OGC has determined the FDA’s notice is a legislative rule and that no one at FDA has been delegated authority to issue such a rule, HHS states that the notice is void. HHS leadership, based on the legal opinion, has ordered FDA’s Federal Register notice to be withdrawn, “meaning these surprise user fees will not need to be paid.”
The decision comes as a huge relief to businesses far beyond the distillery industry. FDA is to be commended for ensuring well-intended businesses that redeployed their infrastructure for all the right reasons were not inadvertently penalized for stepping up.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom and Kelly N. Garson
On April 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the sale of a fraudulent coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the court’s decision in an effort to halt the sale of silver products fraudulently claimed to prevent and cure COVID-19.
DOJ filed a civil complaint on April 27, 2020, against defendants Gordon Pedersen of Cedar Hills, Utah and his companies, My Doctor Suggests LLC and GP Silver LLC. The complaint alleges that defendants began fraudulently promoting and selling various silver products in early 2020 with claims that the silver products would treat and prevent COVID-19. Some of the alleged false and misleading claims made by defendants include that having silver particles in the bloodstream would block the virus from attaching to cells, that silver would “usher” the virus out of the body, and that silver would destroy all forms of viruses and protect against COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement on the Utah case that “FDA will continue to help ensure those who place profits above the public health during the COVID-19 pandemic are stopped” and that FDA is “fully committed to working with the Department of Justice to take appropriate action against those jeopardizing the health of Americans by offering and distributing products with unproven claims to prevent or treat COVID-19.”
The enforcement action will be prosecuted in a coordinated action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and the DOJ Civil Division Consumer Protection Branch, with the assistance of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and Office of the Chief Counsel. In addition to the TRO, prosecutors obtained a separate court order temporarily freezing the defendants’ assets in order to preserve the court’s ability to grant effective final relief and to maintain the status quo. A hearing on the DOJ’s request for a preliminary injunction is set for May 12, 2020. If the case proceeds to trial, the government will need to prove its allegations to obtain a permanent injunction against the defendants.
In another case, DOJ announced on April 17, 2020, that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a TRO to halt the sale of an unapproved and potentially dangerous industrial bleach product being marketed as a “miracle” treatment for COVID-19. The FDA and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had issued a warning letter to the defendant, Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, on April 8, 2020. According to the FDA, oral ingestion of the defendant's product called the Miracle Mineral Solution can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration. The FDA and the FTC have issued nearly 40 separate warning letters in 2020 to companies selling unapproved or misbranded products with claims to prevent or to treat COVID-19.
Particulate elemental silver and silver salts can be effective antimicrobial agents, and numerous products containing these active ingredients are currently registered for various antimicrobial uses. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with other federal agencies, are working to ensure that necessary reviews and approvals of legitimate products intended to address COVID 19 are as expeditious as possible. Products that need these regulatory reviews and approval, but that are marketed without them, are and will likely continue to be a current enforcement focus.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson
On March 10, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that warning letters were sent to seven companies for allegedly selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat coronavirus (COVID-19). The warning letters are the first issued by the Agencies alleging unapproved and/or unsupported claims that products can treat or prevent COVID-19/coronavirus.
The agencies sent the letters to the following companies:
- Vital Silver;
- Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd.;
- GuruNanda, LLC;
- Vivify Holistic Clinic;
- Herbal Amy LLC; and
- The Jim Bakker Show.
Each of the seven companies have advertised products as able to treat or prevent COVID-19/coronavirus. The unapproved products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.
According to FDA, there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus. FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. stated: “The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one. The FDA’s laws are designed to protect the public health by ensuring, among other things, that drugs are safe and effective for their intended uses.”
The letters state that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are unsubstantiated and therefore may violate the FTC Act. The letters advise the recipients to cease immediately making all claims that their products can treat or cure coronavirus.
FTC Chair Joe Simons stated: “There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus. What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”
FTC and FDA have pledged to continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces, and incoming complaints to ensure these products do not continue to make such claims. The letters sent emphasize that, if the false claims do not cease, FTC may seek a federal court injunction and an order requiring money to be refunded to consumers and instructing the recipients to notify the FTC within 48 hours of the specific actions they have taken to address FTC’s concerns.
In addition, the FTC recently issued a new consumer blog post with information about how to identify and avoid coronavirus-related scams. Coronavirus: Scammers follow the headlines notes that scammers are creating websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take consumers’ money and obtain personal information. It then warns consumers of the “red flags” to monitor when shopping for products related to the virus.
EPA also has been active in this area, announcing the release of a new list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and also announcing its process for expediting review of submissions made by companies that are requesting to add Emerging Viral Pathogen claims to its labels of already-registered surface disinfectants.
By Timothy D. Backstrom
On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced the launch of a new website created in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provides information about actions the federal government is taking to oversee the development of agricultural biotechnology products. This “one-stop-shop” website was created under the direction of Executive Order (EO) “Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products.”
EPA regulates biotechnology-based pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and residues from such pesticides under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). EPA also regulates under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) certain new microorganisms that are not subject to regulation under other statutes. USDA regulates certain new biotechnology products under the Plant Protection Act (PPA), including agricultural crops that have been modified to be resistant to conventional pesticides. FDA regulates the safety of human and animal foods produced using biotechnology, including genetically modified agricultural crops and animals, and the safety of drugs and human biologics produced with biotechnology, under the FFDCA.
The website, The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation, describes the federal review process for biotechnology products, outline’s each agency’s role in regulating biotechnology products, and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states that the new website “will help provide regulatory certainty and clarity to our nation’s farmers and producers by bringing together information on the full suite of actions the Trump Administration is taking to safely reduce unnecessary regulations and break down barriers for these biotechnology products in the marketplace.”
In recent years, a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) have raised concerns regarding the risks from products that have been genetically modified using biotechnology, including agricultural crops that have been genetically modified to improve pesticide or disease resistance, and agricultural animals that have been genetically modified to enhance food production. In some instances, farmers have also expressed concern that crops with novel traits may exchange genetic information with other plant strains or species. Implicit in all of this criticism is a presumption that the agencies with regulatory jurisdiction over these novel organisms have not adequately prevented or mitigated the risks associated with biotechnology.
In contrast, proponents of biotechnology have complained that regulatory requirements imposed by the responsible agencies have stifled useful innovation and have requested relief from regulatory requirements that they contend have impeded or slowed introduction of new products of agricultural biotechnology. The Executive Order that underlies the new website seeks to streamline the administrative process for introducing novel agricultural products without increasing potential risks of biotechnology.
Additional information on how EPA regulates biotechnology products is available here.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.
On May 3, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was making final a single correction to the data requirements for antimicrobial pesticide products codified in 40 C.F.R. Part 158, subpart W. 84 Fed. Reg. 18993. The correction clarifies that the 200 parts per billion (ppb) level described in the antimicrobial pesticides data requirements regulations (40 C.F.R. § 158.2230(d)) “is based on total estimated daily dietary intake for an individual and not on the amount of residue present on a single food,” as EPA states was incorrectly implied by the previous regulatory text. EPA initially proposed this change on August 18, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 39399) because it agreed to do so in a settlement agreement with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) after ACC filed a petition for review of the 2013 final rule titled “Data Requirements for Antimicrobial Pesticides” (78 Fed. Reg. 26936 (May 8, 2013)) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Specifically, EPA agreed to make this correction to “make the language consistent” with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy set forth in FDA’s “Guidance for Industry, Preparation of Food Contact Notifications for Food Contact Substances: Toxicology Recommendations. Final Guidance. April 2002.” EPA states that the change is intended to “enhance understanding of the data required to support an antimicrobial pesticide registration and does not alter the burden or costs associated with these previously promulgated requirements” and that it is not establishing “any new data requirements or any other revisions (substantive or otherwise) to existing requirements.” The final rule will become effective on July 2, 2019.
By Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register on February 26, 2019, that would put into effect a final monograph for nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen drug products. The proposed rule describes the conditions under which FDA proposes that OTC sunscreen monograph products are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) and not misbranded. Under the proposed rule, products that combine sunscreens with insect repellents would not be GRASE. Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register will begin a 90-day comment period.
Sunscreen-insect repellent products are jointly regulated by FDA as sunscreen drugs and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). On February 22, 2007, FDA and EPA both issued advance notices of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) requesting comment on the appropriate regulatory status of these products. FDA published a notice seeking information to formulate a regulatory position on insect repellent products that contain OTC sunscreen ingredients. 72 Fed. Reg. 7941. EPA published a similar notice announcing that it was also seeking information to determine how insect repellent-sunscreen combination products should be regulated to complete the reregistration review described in the Reregistration Eligibility Decision document for the insect repellent N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET). 72 Fed. Reg. 7979.
In the proposed rule, FDA states that it reviewed comments submitted in response to the 2007 ANPRs, as well as pertinent scientific literature and publicly available EPA regulatory documents. Based on that review, FDA has tentatively concluded that sunscreen-insect repellent combination products, as a class, are not GRASE and are misbranded because conflicting labeling requirements for the sunscreen and insect repellent components cannot be reconciled to create labeling that will sufficiently ensure the safe and effective use of the sunscreen component, as well as adequate directions for use as a sunscreen. FDA states that even if it did not have this labeling concern, it would still tentatively determine that available data regarding the safety and effectiveness of these products for their use as sunscreens are insufficient to classify these sunscreen products as GRASE for such use. Specifically, according to FDA, evidence suggests that interactions between some sunscreen active ingredients and insect repellents may decrease safety by increasing systemic absorption of one or both components, and potential synergistic effects on the efficacy of sunscreen active ingredients apparently have not been studied.
The proposed rule states that FDA tentatively determines that sunscreen-insect repellent combination products are not GRASE for nonprescription sunscreen use. FDA seeks comment on this tentative determination. Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register on February 26, 2019, will begin a 90-day comment period. More information on the proposed rule is available in our memorandum, "FDA Will Publish Proposed Rule for OTC Sunscreen Drug Products."
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and OPP, will be holding two public meetings to discuss FDA’s Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative. The meetings will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EST) and in San Francisco, California on November 14, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (PST). EPA states that this initiative, which Congress appropriated three million dollars to fund, “calls for FDA to work with EPA and USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology, and the purpose of the meetings is “to provide the public an opportunity to share information, experiences, and suggestions to help inform the development of this education and outreach initiative.” FDA issued a notice on these public meetings in the Federal Register on October 13, 2017. 82 Fed. Reg. 47750. More information on the initiative and how to register for the meetings is available on FDA’s website. Participation is available in person or by webcast.
In the notice, FDA also invites comments and responses to the following questions specifically regarding agricultural biotechnology and biotechnology-derived food products and animal feed:
- What are the specific topics, questions, or other information that consumers would find most useful, and why?
- Currently, how and from where do consumers most often receive information on this subject?
- How can FDA (in coordination with USDA) best reach consumers with science-based educational information on this subject?
Comments can be filed in Docket No. FDA-2017-N-5991 on www.regulations.gov; comments are due by November 17, 2017.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Sheryl Lindros Dolan
On October 4, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the availability of final guidance that helps to clarify FDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction over the regulation of mosquito-related products intended to function as pesticides, including those produced through the use of biotechnology. The notice was published in the Federal Register on October 5, 2017. 82 Fed. Reg. 46500. Guidance for Industry #236, “Clarification of FDA and EPA Jurisdiction Over Mosquito-Related Products” (Guidance), provides information for industry and other stakeholders regarding the regulatory oversight of articles, including substances, for use in or on mosquitoes (mosquito-related products). FDA states that it is providing the Guidance to clarify circumstances under which such products are regulated by FDA as new animal drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and other circumstances under which such products are regulated by EPA as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Scope of Guidance
FDA notes that the Guidance is important in light of the public health urgency of countering the spread of mosquito-borne disease such as that caused by the Zika virus. While novel mosquito control technologies have gained greater attention, there has been confusion regarding FDA and EPA jurisdiction over such products. FDA, working collaboratively with EPA, is providing the Guidance to clarify the regulatory oversight of mosquito-related products. This includes, but is not limited to, those produced through biotechnology.
The Guidance includes the following examples of new animal drugs regulated by FDA:
- Products intended to reduce the virus/pathogen load within a mosquito, including reduction in virus/pathogen replication and spread within the mosquito and/or reduction in virus/pathogen transmissibility from mosquitoes to humans; and
- Products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals.
Examples of pesticide products regulated by EPA are “[p]roducts intended to reduce the population of mosquitoes (for example, by killing them at some point in their life cycle, or by interfering with their reproduction or development).”
Guidance for Sponsors/Manufacturers of Products Intended for use on Mosquitoes
In the Guidance, FDA encourages sponsors of mosquito-related products, other than those that are “intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate mosquitoes by controlling a mosquito population,” to contact FDA early in the development process. FDA states that if a developer has a jurisdictional question, such as which agency or agencies would have oversight of a mosquito-related product that is expressly intended for both mosquito population control and human disease suppression, the developer may contact either or both agencies via the contacts listed. FDA and EPA will consult with each other on the jurisdictional question, “as is already common practice.” The agencies may suggest a joint meeting among EPA, FDA, and the sponsor to discuss appropriate pathways to market.
The guidance notes that FDA, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have committed to clarifying how the federal government intends to regulate genetically engineered insects as described in the September 2016 National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products. More information on the National Strategy is available in our September 21, 2016, memorandum White House Releases Proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework and National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.
The new FDA guidance states that products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals are regulated as new animal drugs subject to FDA jurisdiction, but products intended to control mosquito populations would be regulated by EPA as pesticides. That FDA and EPA are attempting to clarify their respective jurisdictions is appreciated. Potential commenters may wish to consider whether the guidance offers sufficient clarity for product development planning purposes. If “products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals” are under FDA jurisdiction, the status of mosquito repellents currently registered by EPA that make claims about repelling mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, the West Nile virus, or other viruses is unclear. Additionally, it would seem that the Oxitec mosquito is intended to reduce the mosquito population, among other goals. The Guidance is a good start, but further clarification likely will be needed to support emerging technologies.
More information is available in our memorandum FDA Guidance Addresses FDA and EPA Jurisdiction over Mosquito-Related Products.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 4, 2017, the White House announced the release of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (2017 Update). The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to regulating biotechnology products. Together with the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, published in September 2016, the Update to the Coordinated Framework offers a “complete picture of a robust and flexible regulatory structure that provides appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.” Within that regulatory structure, the federal agencies “maintain high standards that, based on the best available science, protect health and the environment, while also establishing transparent, coordinated, predictable and efficient regulatory practices.” To help product developers and the public understand what the regulatory pathway for products might look like, the 2017 Update presents information about agency roles and responsibilities in several forms, including:
- Graphics that illustrate agency-specific overviews of regulatory roles;
- Case studies that demonstrate how a product developer might navigate the regulatory framework; and
- A comprehensive table that summarizes the current responsibilities and the relevant coordination across EPA, FDA, and USDA for the regulatory oversight of an array of biotechnology product areas.
In its blog item, “Increasing the Transparency, Coordination, and Predictability of the Biotechnology Regulatory System,” the Obama Administration acknowledges that while the 2017 Update represents “remarkable progress by the EPA, FDA, and USDA to modernize the regulatory system for biotechnology products, much work remains.” EPA, FDA, and USDA will consider the comments submitted in response to the proposed 2017 Update and information gathered during the three public engagement sessions hosted by EPA, FDA, and USDA to inform ongoing and future agency activities. In addition, the agencies commissioned an independent study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on future biotechnology products. When completed, the agencies will consider the study’s findings, as well as the comments. More information on the Update to the Coordinated Framework will be available in our forthcoming memorandum, which will be available on our website under the key phrase biobased products, biotechnology.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 1, 2016, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced the dates and locations for the second and third public engagement sessions that will discuss the July 2, 2015, memorandum entitled "Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products." The second public meeting will be held on March 9, 2016, at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 office at 1445 Ross Avenue in Dallas, Texas. The third public meeting will be held on March 30, 2016, at the University of California, Davis Conference Center in Davis, California. Additional details on meeting times, agendas, and how to participate will be announced in a forthcoming Federal Register notice.
The July 2, 2015, memorandum was jointly issued by OSTP, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Council on Environmental Quality, and directs EPA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Coordinated Framework). The memorandum also directs the federal agencies to develop a long-term strategy to ensure that the regulatory system for biotechnology products is prepared for future products, and commissions an expert analysis of the future landscape of biotechnology products. Last updated in 1992 and first rolled out in 1986, the Coordinated Framework outlines a comprehensive federal regulatory policy for products of biotechnology and describes the federal regulatory policy intended to ensure the safety of biotechnology products.
The first public engagement session took place on October 30, 2015, at the FDA’s White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Maryland. Opening remarks were given by John Holdren, Ph.D., Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of OSTP. Roberto Barbero, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Biological Innovation at OSTP, gave an overview on what OSTP is doing and how, as well as the principles that have led up to OSTP’s current efforts. Representatives from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, EPA, and FDA also delivered statements on the federal regulation of biotechnology products. Interested parties in attendance included a number of non-governmental organizations that spoke out against the use of biotechnology, academic institutions that were supportive of continued research, and industry participants that were supportive of reasonable risk-based regulation to oversee biotechnology’s continued growth. A transcript from the meeting is available online.
More information regarding the Coordinated Framework is available in our October 6, 2015, memorandum OSTP Seeks Comment on Clarifying Current Roles and Responsibilities Described in the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology and in our July 6, 2015, memorandum White House Directs EPA, FDA, and USDA to Update the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.