As of April 22, 2021, 218,947,643 million people have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Before or during the appointment, your provider directs you to a fact sheet for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. On the fact sheet, there were a couple of sentences that caught my eye “The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is a vaccine and may prevent you from getting COVID-19. There is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.” When I read this, I wanted more information about the difference is between being authorized or approved. Like many people, one can become hesitant when a product is not adequately tested; in fact, a Kaiser research project shows about 30% of people probably or definitely not get the vaccine.
Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced a scheduled meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (“VRBPAC”) to discuss the request for emergency use authorization (“EUA”) for a COVID-19 vaccine from Janssen Biotech Inc. The FDA has just under three weeks to complete its report before the VRBPAC’s meeting to make its recommendation on the vaccine. The review process may be more challenging than the past two reviews for Pfizer and Moderna due to the composition differences and effectiveness.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FDC) Act of 1938 requires pharmaceutical drugs to provide evidence of their safety before they are allowed on the market. As such, pharmaceutical companies submit applications to the Federal Drug Administration for approval. There are situations, however, in which patients seek to receive access to a particular pharmaceutical drug before the FDA approval process is complete. This blog will explore the various pathways to pre-approval access in addition to recent legislation and legal considerations for such pathways, in addition to the principles and common obstacles that pharmaceutical companies face within such pathways.
The ability to access experimental drug treatments has long been contentious in the United States. Prior to the 1938 Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, pharmaceutical drugs were largely unregulated. This Act required, for the first time, that drugs sold to the public were safe. Increasing regulations regarding the marketing, testing, and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs were established throughout the next fifty years. In the 1980s, however, a puzzling illness became known to the public. This illness was called HIV/AIDS, a debilitating virus that caused the body’s own immune system to attack itself. This illness has killed over 32 million people in the United States and worldwide, and particularly impacted the population of gay men. Because homosexuality was still fairly taboo in the 1980s, many argue that the country dragged its foot in researching and approving treatment for HIV/AIDS. Due to significant advocacy, much progress has been made with this particular illness, and the country has slowly evolved from the slow and strict processes that once regulated potential pharmaceutical drug treatments.
Amid the epidemic levels of youth use of e-cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, released a policy on January 2, 2020, requiring enforcement against certain unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to kids. According to the policy, the FDA intends to prioritize enforcement against fruit and mint flavored, cartridge-based electronic nicotine delivery system (“ENDS”). The FDA looks to regulate all ENDS products that manufactures have failed to make safe for use, as well as any ENDS product marketed for use by minors. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (“NYTS”), a survey conducted annually by the FDA in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows approximately 1.6 million youths were using ENDS products frequently, with nearly one million using e-cigarettes daily. The FDA’s enforcement policy is not a “ban” on flavored cartridges. If a company can demonstrate to the FDA that a specific product meets the applicable standard set forth by Congress, including considerations on how the marketing of the product may affect youth initiation and use, then the FDA could authorize that product for sale.
In 2014, Congress passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act in the hopes of encouraging innovation for new sunscreen ingredients. Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new regulations regarding over-the-counter sunscreens to keep up with recent scientific and safety information. This proposal will be available for ninety days from its announcement on February 21, 2019, and addresses safety concerns of common sunscreen ingredients. Further, the proposal addresses the labeling of sunscreen, trying to make it easier for consumers to identify the product information. While this proposal seeks to alleviate safety concerns, the regulation could potentially make it more difficult for new ingredients to be approved.
The FDA regulationson human subject protection and Institutional Review Boards(IRBs) provide guidance to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects who participate in FDA-regulated clinical investigations. The regulations conform with the requirements set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Federal Policy of Human Research Subjects(45 CFR 46, part A). In order to reduce confusion and burdens associated with complying with both the FDA regulations and the HHS policies regarding human subject protections, the FDA is revising the current “common rule”.