For the first time since September 1989, federal agencies have issued draft guidance concerning drug master files (DMFs), submissions to the FDA that may be used to provide confidential, detailed information concerning the manufacturing, processing, packaging and storing of human drug products. Notably, the release of this draft guidance comes on the heels of a recent executive order by President Trump aiming to curb the use of agency guidance documents to avoid the formal rule-making process.
In a concise, six-page discovery order, a federal judge in Minneapolis may have just started the proverbial shifting of tectonic plates undergirding routine defense procedures in False Claims Act (FCA) litigation by requiring a defendant in an FCA lawsuit to produce the information provided to the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the DOJ’s process of determining whether to pursue the matter.
The FCA creates liability for persons or entities found to have knowingly submitted false claims to the government or having caused others to do so. Like some other federal laws, the FCA creates a private right of action; under the act, a private party—a whistleblower or “relator”—may bring a qui tam action on behalf of the government. When initially filed, the court seals the complaint pending the government’s investigation of the case. If the government chooses, it may intervene and pursue the matter. If not, the relator may pursue the case on its own. (In either case, the relator is entitled to a percentage of the government’s recovery.)
Despite recent bipartisan calls on the FDA to regulate hemp-derived CBD products, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration appears to be adhering to the status quo, at least with respect to issuing warning letters to companies deemed noncompliant with existing regulations. Case in point: on September 18, 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter (posted to the FDA’s website last week) to Alternative Laboratories, a dietary supplement manufacturer based in Naples, Florida.
According to the letter, the FDA conducted an inspection of Alternative’s dietary supplement manufacturing facility over five days in May and June; the inspection focused on the adequacy of labels for certain products manufactured and distributed by the company.
On August 26, 2019, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, District Judge Thad Balkman delivered his highly anticipated ruling in the state of Oklahoma’s lawsuit against certain pharmaceutical companies responsible for manufacturing and marketing prescription opioid medications. Because the other pharmaceutical companies named in the state’s case settled with the Attorney General’s Office earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals remained the primary subjects of the evidence at trial and the focus of the attention surrounding Judge Balkman’s then-forthcoming ruling.
As Judge Balkman stated in the published judgment, the defendants knowingly and misleadingly marketed their highly addictive prescription opioids, and by doing so caused harm for which the state could seek redress, as their “actions annoyed, injured, or endangered the comfort, repose, health or safety of Oklahomans.”
On August 20, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it had sent and posted a warning letter to an over-the-counter drug manufacturer citing “significant” violations of current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) and also issued a news release in connection with this letter. The letter was sent to NingBo Huize Commodity Co., Ltd., a China-based manufacturer of health and beauty products such as sunscreen lotion, shampoo, hand sanitizer and lip balm, following FDA’s inspection of the facility in March 2019. In particular, the warning letter, and concurrent press release and import alert, show that FDA continues to have significant concerns related to data integrity and will harshly sanction companies that falsify data.