- Posts by Delia A. DeschaineMember of the Firm
Named to the Washington DC Rising Stars list in the area of Food and Drugs (from 2018 to 2020), attorney Delia Deschaine focuses her practice on advising pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients on a broad range of FDA regulatory ...
The latest attempt to expand the psychedelic world is making its way through Congress. On September 21, 2023, Congressmen Robert Garcia (CA-42) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the “Validating Independence for State Initiatives on Organic Natural Substances Act of 2023”. Aptly titled the VISIONS Act, this legislation would, if enacted, protect legal psilocybin use from federal law enforcement intervention in any state or locality where psilocybin is legally permitted. The language in the Act specifically states that it aims to prohibit any federal funds from being ...
On Friday, October 6, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) filed a Second Temporary Extension of the COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications (“Second Temporary Rule”), extending the full set of telemedicine flexibilities adopted during the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”) through December 31, 2024. The Second Temporary Rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register today (October 10, 2023) and scheduled to take effect on November ...
On August 30, an official at the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released one of the most significant announcements made at the federal level concerning marijuana reclassification. In a letter dated August 29, 2023, Rachel Levine (HHS Assistant Secretary for Health), provided a formal recommendation to Anne Milgrim (Agency Administrator) at the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
A DEA spokesperson confirmed the department ...
On August 4, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) announced plans to host two public listening sessions, scheduled to take place on September 12 and 13, 2023 at DEA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA, to collect additional input regarding the practice of telemedicine and specifically the remote prescribing of controlled substances without conducting an in-person evaluation of patients before prescribing.
The listening sessions will be open to the public, and those who anticipate attending must register through DEA’s Diversion Control website. The registration process opens today (August 7, 2023). DEA also plans to make the listening sessions available via livestream and copies of transcripts from the sessions also will be made available at a later date on the DEA Diversion Control Program website.
During the past several turbulent weeks for the U.S. health care system, rulings in the case Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA have called into question the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) scientific review process to approve new drug applications. While the U.S. Supreme Court acted on the afternoon of Friday, April 21, 2023 to preserve access to the drug mifepristone while the case continues in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the future of mifepristone—and the FDA’s authority to approve new drugs—will continue to be debated on appeal.
On February 24, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) announced proposed permanent rules around prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine that expand the circumstances under which practitioners can prescribe controlled substances without first conducting an in-person medical evaluation of the patient outside of the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”). The proposed rules are more restrictive than the DEA emergency waivers under which providers conducted telemedicine prescribing for the last three years, but are less restrictive in comparison to the pre-PHE regulations applicable to telemedicine prescribing of controlled substances under the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”).
Both the proposed rules related to telemedicine prescribing of Schedule III-V non-narcotic controlled substances, and the separate proposed rules related to telemedicine prescribing of buprenorphine, were published in the Federal Register on March 1, 2023. The public has been given until March 31, 2023 to review and provide comments regarding the proposed rules, which the DEA will consider before promulgating final regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued both draft and final guidance regarding food allergen labeling requirements. The draft guidance document, Questions and Answers Regarding Food Allergens, Including the Food Allergen Labeling Requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (Edition 5), updates the previous (fourth) edition with new and revised guidance concerning food allergen labeling. FDA also issued a final guidance document with the same title in order to preserve questions and answers that were unchanged from the previous (fourth) edition, which was published in 2004 and last updated in 2006.
On January 24, 2023, FDA published a notice in the Federal Register entitled, “Clarification of Orphan-Drug Exclusivity Following Catalyst Pharms., Inc. v. Becerra.” In brief, the Catalyst decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals concerned FDA’s application of the Orphan Drug Act (21 USC 360cc(a)), and in particular the extent of the 7-year orphan drug market exclusivity (ODE) provided with an orphan drug’s approval. The ODE, per the Orphan Drug Act prevents FDA from approving another applicant’s same drug for “the same disease or condition.”
Much like the ambiguous landscape involving cannabidiol (CBD) products on the consumer market, an influx of delta-8 THC containing products for consumption has highlighted a recurrent regulatory issue surrounding the legality of hemp derived products at the federal level. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”), which, among other things, offered a federal definition of hemp and removed it from the list of Schedule I controlled substances, specifically carved out hemp derived products with less than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis, thereby allowing products that meet this definition to flood the consumer markets.
On April 11, 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released a final rule which amends DEA regulations to now require all applications for DEA registrations, and renewal of those registrations, to be submitted online. The final rule is effective May 11, 2022.
On January 7, 2021, DEA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed requiring that all applications for DEA registrations, and renewal of those registrations, be submitted online. DEA is promulgating this rule as proposed in the NPRM with one exception: DEA is clarifying that Automated Clearing House (ACH) fund transfers will be accepted as payment for registrations and renewals.
On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) proposed 2021 aggregate production quotas (APQs) for controlled substances in schedules I and II of the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) and an Assessment of Annual Needs (“AAN”) for the List I Chemicals pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine. This marks the second year that DEA has issued APQs pursuant to Congress’s changes to the CSA via the SUPPORT Act. After assessing the diversion rates for the five covered controlled substances, DEA reduced the quotas for four: oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl.
DEA recently increased the APQ to allow for the additional manufacture of certain controlled substances in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to provide greater access to these medications for patients on ventilator treatment. According to DEA, that increased demand has been factored into the proposed APQs for 2021.
Comments are due by October 1, 2020. Because DEA’s APQs determine the amount of quota DEA can allocate to individual manufacturers in 2021, adversely impacted parties should file comments soon.
Background on APQs
The CSA requires the establishment of aggregate production quotas for schedule I and II controlled substances, and an assessment of annual needs for the list I chemicals ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine. These aggregate quotas limit the quantities of these substances to be manufactured – and with respect to the listed chemicals, imported – in the United States in a calendar year, to provide for the estimated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States, for lawful export requirements, and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks.
Changes in Setting APQs Under The SUPPORT Act
The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (“SUPPORT Act”) signed into law October 24, 2018, provided significant changes to the process for setting APQs. First, under the CSA, aggregate production quotas are established in terms of quantities of each basic class of controlled substance, and not in terms of individual pharmaceutical dosage forms prepared from or containing such a controlled substance. However, the SUPPORT Act provides an exception to that general rule by giving the DEA the authority to establish quotas in terms of pharmaceutical dosage forms if the agency determines that doing so will assist in avoiding the overproduction, shortages, or diversion of a controlled substance.
Additionally, the SUPPORT Act changed the way the DEA establishes APQs with respect to five “covered controlled substances”: fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, and hydromorphone. Under the SUPPORT Act, when setting the APQ for any of the “covered controlled substances,” DEA must estimate the amount of diversion. The SUPPORT Act requires DEA to make appropriate quota reductions “as determined by the [DEA] from the quota the [DEA] would have otherwise established had such diversion not been considered.” Furthermore, when estimating the amount of diversion, the DEA must consider reliable “rates of overdose deaths and abuse and overall public health impact related to the covered controlled substance in the United States,” and may take into consideration other sources of information the DEA determines reliable.
In accordance with this mandate under the SUPPORT Act, in setting the proposed APQs for 2021 DEA requested information from various agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS"), including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), regarding overdose deaths, overprescribing, and the public health impact of covered controlled substances. DEA also solicited information from each state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”), and any additional analysis of prescription data that would assist DEA in estimating diversion of covered controlled substances.
After soliciting input from these sources, DEA extracted data on drug theft and loss from its internal databases and seizure data by law enforcement nationwide. DEA then calculated the estimated amount of diversion by multiplying the strength of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (“API”) listed for each finished dosage form by the total amount of units reported to estimate the metric weight in kilograms of the controlled substance being diverted.
FDA took two important steps last week to clarify the regulatory landscape for cannabis products, including CBD products. First, FDA issued a draft guidance on Quality Considerations for Clinical Research Involving Cannabis and Cannabis Derived Compounds. This guidance builds off of earlier guidance FDA has issued about the quality and regulatory considerations that govern the development and FDA approval of cannabis and/or cannabinoid drug products. See e.g., here and here. The draft guidance iterates a federal standard for calculating delta-9 THC content in cannabis finished products, which addresses a significant gap in federal policy regarding those products. While the testing standard is neither final nor binding on FDA or DEA, when finalized it would iterate what FDA considers to be a scientifically valid method for making the determination of whether a cannabis product is a Schedule I controlled substance. Therefore, it may be useful in many contexts, including federal and state cannabis enforcement actions. We encourage affected parties to file comments on FDA’s Guidance, which they may do until September 21, 2020.
Second, FDA sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review a proposal on how FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion over CBD consumer products. See here. While the contents of this guidance have not yet been made public, we forecast that it likely will align with FDA’s past enforcement actions and memorialize the agency’s intent to pursue enforcement actions against CBD consumer product companies that make egregious claims about their products treating or preventing serious diseases or conditions.
Guidance on Considerations for Cannabis Clinical Research
FDA’s guidance recognizes that Congress’s enactment of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (“2018 Farm Bill”) improved domestic access to pre-clinical and clinical cannabis research material that may be used in the research and development of novel therapies. However, currently marijuana only may be obtained domestically from the University of Mississippi under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While DEA issued a policy in 2016 to allow for the additional registration of marijuana cultivators for legitimate research and licit commercial purposes, the Office of Legal Counsel in June 2018 issued an opinion finding that such policy violates the United States’ obligations under applicable treaties. However, in March of this year, DEA issued a proposed rule to allow for the registration of additional cultivators of cannabis for these licit purposes. See here.
There is an alternative pathway to the procurement of Schedule I research material which FDA’s guidance does not mention: importation. Researchers may obtain certain Schedule I material pursuant to a federal DEA Schedule I importer registration, and DEA has in the past issued such registrations. See 21 CFR 1301.13(e)(1)(viii).
The cannabidiol (“CBD”) consumer product marketplace is booming. And, while FDA has maintained its position that CBD, even hemp-derived CBD, may not be included as an ingredient in conventional foods or dietary supplements, FDA has signaled its intent to create a lawful marketing pathway for these products. Also, while FDA has issued Warning Letters to companies who made egregious claims about their products curing serious diseases and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, FDA has also signaled a willingness to exercise enforcement discretion over CBD products that pose less serious safety concerns. What has resulted is CBD manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses living in FDA regulatory purgatory. Fortunately, several courts have recently held that CBD companies will not face consumer product liability, at least while their FDA regulatory fate is being decided.
A number of federal lawsuits were recently brought by consumers against manufacturers of various types of CBD products, ranging from ingestible foods and beverages, dietary supplements, topical oils and sprays, and vape products. The plaintiffs in these cases all bring similar claims, that the products purchased were misleading as to the amount of CBD in the product and/or that the products were mislabeled and falsely advertised as dietary supplements. The plaintiffs’ claims are based, at least in part, on assertions that the defendants violated the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FD&C Act”) by introducing adulterated and misbranded products into the U.S. market.
However, over the course of 2020, at least three judges have found that the outcome of these cases will have to wait until FDA completes its rulemaking on the regulation of CBD products. Citing the primary jurisdiction rule, the judges each issued a stay on their respective cases. The judges found that FDA has primary oversight over claims involving the illegal sale or marketing of CBD products, and that regulatory clarity is needed before a decision may be made on the matters brought by the plaintiffs. Thus, the fate of these cases now depend on when and whether FDA will issue regulations governing CBD products.
FDA recently published its “Good Manufacturing Practice Considerations for Responding to COVID-19 Infection in Employees in Drug and Biological Products Manufacturing Guidance for Industry” (“Guidance”) which provides suggestions on managing the potential risk of products being contaminated by SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19 infections for drug and biological product manufacturers, 503B outsourcing facilities, and 503A compounding pharmacies.
The Guidance builds on the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) regulations for drugs and biological products, which require personnel with an illness that could adversely affect drug safety or quality be excluded from direct contact with drugs and drug components used in manufacturing. As the Guidance states, preliminary research indicating that SARS-CoV-2 “is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces,” and that it has an incubation period of 2 to 14 days, which are both factors that increase the risk of spread and introduction into products. The actual health risk is hard to calculate – FDA itself notes that there have not been documented transmissions through pharmaceuticals to date. The regulatory risk, however, is an easier formula – FDA has a clear expectation that drug and biological product manufacturers evaluate the potential for COVID-19 contamination of their products under existing controls, or risk being out of compliance with cGMPs.
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