On June 24, 2019, in response to a directive from Congress, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the use of the FTC’s standalone authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to address high pharmaceutical prices. The committees had directed the FTC to examine, in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Congress’ intent regarding unfair methods of competition in Section 5 and in the FTC’s standalone Section 5 authority regarding unreasonable price increases, including those that occur over multiple years, on off-patent pharmaceutical drugs and biologics. The report broke down along party lines. The FTC’s Republican majority concluded that attempts by the Commission to rein in unreasonable drug prices using Section 5 alone, untethered from accepted theories of antitrust liability under the Sherman Act, are unlikely to find success in the courts. Democratic Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a dissenting statement in which they urged the FTC to examine ways to use its enforcement tools to restrain pharmaceutical pricing. Challenging high pharmaceutical drug prices has recently been a hotly debated political topic, and the report, along with the dissenting statement, will likely factor into that debate.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took another step to implement its Drug Competition Action Plan on June 18, 2019, by updating the information provided in the Paragraph IV Certifications List. The updated list will provide greater transparency regarding Paragraph IV certifications and potential exclusivities. That transparency will in turn lead to greater predictability for generic manufacturers regarding the potential timing of approval for their ANDAs and the potential degree of competition. The additional information will also give the public better insight into the status of generic regulatory exclusivities and the potential future availability of lower-cost generic alternatives for specific drug products.
At the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) public hearing on May 31, 2019 (read more about the hearing), over 100 people presented to a panel of FDA stakeholders and to over 500 attendees. Last week, FDA stated in a post that it recognizes the “significant public interest in these products, for therapeutic purposes and otherwise” but reiterated that “there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of many of these products.”
The good news for the industry is that FDA “recognize[s] the need to be clear and open about where things stand, and about the efficient and science-based way in which we are moving forward,” including “being transparent and up-front” as they continue to collect data and information on CBD. FDA is taking an “Agency-wide, integrated, and collaborative approach” to regulating products made from CBD and is exploring potential pathways to market for CBD products. However, FDA still grapples with how to balance the desire for widespread availability of CBD products with the desire to preserve incentives for research and drug development of CBD products.
On May 20, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a rare unanimous decision in Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, et al., holding that judges, not juries, must decide whether state law failure-to-warn claims against brand-name drug manufacturers are preempted by the FDA’s labeling regulations. In so holding, the Court further clarified the preemption standard set forth in an earlier decision, Wyeth v. Levine, concluding that such claims are preempted where a drug manufacturer can show “that it fully informed the FDA of the justifications for the warning required by state law and that the FDA, in turn, informed the drug manufacturer that the FDA would not approve changing the drug’s label to include that warning.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a draft guidance on voluntary recalls urging companies to institute recall plans and procedures in advance to ensure quick and effective execution when a recall is necessary: Initiation of Voluntary Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C. FDA broke the guidance into four main parts: (1) preparation for a recall; (2) response to a reported problem with a product; (3) initiation of a recall; and (4) FDA’s role in initiation of a recall. As firms develop plans for voluntary recalls, we recommend that they consult with counsel to ensure that they comply with regulatory requirements and appropriately address the concerns raised by the FDA in this draft guidance.