• Posts by James A. Boiani
    Member of the Firm

    Attorney James Boiani has extensive experience in FDA and CLIA legal and regulatory matters, having worked with large and small medical device companies (including many in vitro diagnostic companies), pharmaceutical companies ...

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Today, on April 29, 2024, following more than a decade of discourse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA” or the “Agency”) released its long-awaited “Medical Devices; Laboratory Developed Tests” Final Rule (the “Final Rule”) formalizing the Agency’s authority to regulate laboratory developed tests (“LDTs”) as medical devices.

Since FDA issued its Proposed Rule (the “Proposed Rule”) in the Fall of 2023, Epstein Becker Green (EBG) and other industry stakeholders have eagerly awaited FDA’s issuance of the Final Rule and have speculated as to the provisions the Agency would choose to finalize.

Now, with the wait finally over, EBG joins the rest of industry in our review of the Final Rule, and we will be preparing a more in-depth analysis of the Final Rule and its potential impact on laboratories and the nationwide healthcare system. For now, here are important preliminary takeaways from the Final Rule.

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On October 31, 2023, FDA hosted a webinar to address some of the frequently asked questions the agency has received since the September 29, 2023 release of its proposed rule on laboratory developed tests (“LDTs”). The materials from the webinar are available on FDA’s CDRH Learn webpage. Importantly, FDA announced during the webinar that the agency does not currently plan to extend the comment period for the proposed rule beyond the standard 60-day timeframe, and therefore, comments are still due on Monday December 4, 2023. In both the preamble to the proposed rule and stated ...

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In a last minute push before an anticipated government shutdown, FDA put down its marker for moving forward toward regulation of lab developed tests (“LDTs”). Unlike past proposals from FDA and Capitol Hill, FDA has taken a simple approach: laboratories that make LDTs for clinical use are manufacturing in vitro diagnostic medical devices (“IVDs”) for commercial distribution, and as such must eventually comply with FDA’s already-established IVD requirements. The FDA zeitgeist boils down to this: It doesn’t matter if the lab is large or small, for profit or ...

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As discussed in our June Insight, earlier this year FDA publicly announced its development of a proposed rule that would expressly define laboratory developed tests (“LDTs”) as medical devices and subject them to the agency’s regulatory authority. Such a rule would be FDA’s first comprehensive attempt to impose its authority over LDTs since its 2014 draft guidance, which FDA ultimately chose not to finalize, and comes after several failed congressional legislative attempts to do the same.

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Recently Colleen and Brad had a debate about whether Medical Device Reports (“MDRs”) tend to trail recalls, or whether MDRs tend to lead to recalls. Both Colleen and Brad have decades of experience in FDA regulation, but we have different impressions on that topic, so we decided to inform the debate with a systematic look at the data. While we can both claim some evidence in support of our respective theses based on the analysis, Brad must admit that Colleen’s thesis that MDRs tend to lag recalls has the stronger evidence. We are no longer friends. At the same time, the actual data didn’t really fit either of our predictions well, so we decided to invite James onto the team to help us figure out what was really going on. He has the unfair advantage of not having made any prior predictions, so he doesn’t have any position he needs to defend.

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On June 22, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its proposed “Transitional Coverage for Technologies” (TCET) pathway—the Biden administration’s highly anticipated take on a mechanism to expedite coverage for certain devices designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as breakthrough devices.[1]

As described in the notice with comment period (the “Procedural Notice”), the voluntary TCET pathway aims to streamline efforts between CMS, the FDA, and manufacturers of certain FDA-designated breakthrough devices to more efficiently advance breakthrough devices through the CMS coverage determination processes using a “coverage with evidence development” (CED) approach.

Under the proposed three-phase framework, manufacturers of breakthrough devices accepted into the TCET pathway would enter a period of transitional coverage through a TCET national coverage determination (NCD), during which the device’s manufacturer would be able to generate evidence for CMS to use to determine the breakthrough devices’ post-TCET final coverage status.

Notably, CMS stated that the agency only anticipates accepting five candidates to participate in the TCET pathway each year.[2] Stakeholders must submit comments on the TCET pathway by August 28, 2023.

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On January 24, 2023, FDA published a notice in the Federal Register entitled, “Clarification of Orphan-Drug Exclusivity Following Catalyst Pharms., Inc. v. Becerra.”[1]  In brief, the Catalyst decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals[2] 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.”

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Since the passage of the Medical Device Amendments of 1976, FDA has regulated in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests as medical devices, subject to a full suite of FDA requirements.  During that time, FDA has also asserted that it has the authority to regulate in-house tests developed and performed by CLIA-certified, high-complexity clinical laboratories (generally referred to as laboratory-developed tests or LDTs) but chose as a matter of enforcement discretion not to regulate LDTs.  Over time, the Agency chipped away slowly at LDT enforcement discretion, carving out certain kinds of tests (e.g., direct-to-consumer LDTs) and thus making them subject to regulation, but by and large did not take broad steps to regulate LDTs.

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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).

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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.[1]  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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On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed sweeping bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid epidemic. The Substance Use–Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, or the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (“H.R. 6” or “the Law”), aims to “reduce access to the supply of opioids by expanding access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”[1] Congress has already appropriated $8.5 billion to implement this “landmark legislation” in 2018 and 2019.

In a series of Client Alerts, Epstein ...

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