VALSARTAN U.S. SUPPLIERS IN CHINA AND INDIA ON FDA RECALL RADAR: SEE FDA WARNING LETTER TO ZHEJIANG HUAHAI PHARMACEUTICAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations

Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical 11/29/18

 

 

10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Via UPS                                                          Warning Letter: 320-19-04

November 29, 2018

Mr. Jun Du

Executive Vice President

Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Coastal Industrial Zone, Chuannan No. 1 Branch No. 9 

Donghai Fifth Avenue, Linhai, Taizhou Zhejiang 317016

CHINA

Dear Mr. Du:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected your drug manufacturing facility, Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., located at Coastal Industrial Zone, Chuannan No. 1 Branch No. 9, Donghai Fifth Avenue, Linhai, Taizhou Zhejiang, from July 23 to August 3, 2018.

 This warning letter summarizes significant deviations from current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) for active pharmaceutical ingredients (API).

Because your methods, facilities, or controls for manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding do not conform to CGMP, your API are adulterated within the meaning of section 501(a)(2)(B) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), 21 U.S.C. 351(a)(2)(B).

We reviewed your August 26, 2018, response in detail and acknowledge receipt of your subsequent correspondence.

During our inspection, our investigators observed specific deviations including, but not limited to, the following.

  1. Failure of your quality unit to ensure that quality-related complaints are investigated and resolved.

Valsartan API

Your firm received a complaint from a customer on June 6, 2018, after an unknown peak was detected during residual solvents testing for valsartan API manufactured at your facility. The unknown peak was identified as the probable human carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Your investigation (DCE-18001) determined that the presence of NDMA was caused by the convergence of three process-related factors, one factor being the use of the solvent (b)(4)). Your investigation concluded that only one valsartan manufacturing process (referred to as the (b)(4) process in your investigation) was impacted by the presence of NDMA.

However, FDA analyses of samples of your API, and finished drug product manufactured with your API, identified NDMA in multiple batches manufactured with a different process, namely the (b)(4) process, which did not use the solvent (b)(4). These data demonstrate that your investigation was inadequate and failed to resolve the control and presence of NDMA in valsartan API distributed to customers. Your investigation also failed:

  • To include other factors that may have contributed to the presence of NDMA. For example, your investigation lacked a comprehensive evaluation of all raw materials used during manufacturing, including (b)(4).
  • To assess factors that could put your API at risk for NDMA cross-contamination, including batch blending, solvent recovery and re-use, shared production lines, and cleaning procedures.
  • To evaluate the potential for other mutagenic impurities to form in your products.

Our investigators also noted other examples of your firm’s inadequate investigation of unknown peaks observed in chromatograms. For example, valsartan intermediates (b)(4) and (b)(4) failed testing for an unknown impurity (specification ≤ (b)(4)%) with results of (b)(4)% for both batches. Your action plan indicated that the impurity would be identified as part of the investigation; however, you failed to do this. In addition, no root cause was determined for the presence of the unknown impurity. You stated that you reprocessed the batches and released them for further production.

Your response states that NDMA was difficult to detect. However, if you had investigated further, you may have found indicators in your residual solvent chromatograms alerting you to the presence of NDMA. For example, you told our investigators you were aware of a peak that eluted after the (b)(4) peak in valsartan API residual solvent chromatograms where the presence of NDMA was suspected to elute. At the time of testing, you considered this unidentified peak to be noise and investigated no further. Additionally, residual solvent chromatograms for valsartan API validation batches manufactured using your (b)(4) process, with (b)(4) in 2012 ((b)(4), and (b)(4)) show at least one unidentified peak eluting after the (b)(4) peak in the area where the presence of NDMA was suspected to elute.

Your response also states that you were not the only firm to identify NDMA in valsartan API. In your case, FDA analyses of samples identified amounts of NDMA in valsartan API manufactured at your firm that were significantly higher than the NDMA levels in valsartan API manufactured by other firms. FDA has grave concerns about the potential presence of mutagenic impurities in all intermediates and API manufactured at your facility, both because of the data indicating the presence of impurities in API manufactured by multiple processes, and because of the significant inadequacies in your investigation.

In response to this letter:

  • Submit risk assessments for all APIs and intermediates manufactured at your facility for the potential presence of mutagenic impurities.
  • Provide an update on investigations and CAPA plans initiated to address the presence of NDMA and other potential mutagenic impurities in all APIs manufactured at your firm.
  • Provide a thorough, independent assessment of your overall system for investigating deviations, discrepancies, out-of-specification (OOS) results, complaints, and other failures. In addition, provide a retrospective review of all distributed batches within expiry to determine if your firm released batches that did not conform to established specifications or appropriate manufacturing standards.
  • Provide test results for all (b)(4)and intermediates for the presence of NDMA, N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), and other potentially mutagenic impurities.

(b)(4) API

Your firm received a customer complaint on September 13, 2016, concerning (b)(4) API batches ((b)(4) and (b)(4)) that exceeded the specification for (b)(4) (≤ (b)(4)ppm). (b)(4) has been classified as a probable human carcinogen. Your customer’s test results conflicted with your (b)(4) test results, which showed the two batches meeting the specification upon release. Your complaint investigation (CC-16008) identified no clear laboratory error, and no anomalies were detected during the production of the batches. Your investigation failed to evaluate other (b)(4) API batches to determine if the presence of excess (b)(4) was an adverse trend. For example, (b)(4)batches (b)(4), and (b)(4) were OOS for (b)(4) because of production errors; however, they were not discussed in your complaint investigation.

Your response states that (b)(4) API batches (b)(4) and (b)(4) were returned, reprocessed, and released to customers in non-U.S. markets.

Your response also states that in August 2017 you implemented a new (b)(4) test method that uses a (b)(4) LC-MS/MS method, to replace the (b)(4) LC-MS method that was prone to erroneous OOS results. You failed to verify the reliability of the (b)(4) results for all (b)(4) API batches (including (b)(4) batch (b)(4)) originally released using your (b)(4) LC-MS method, which you indicated was inferior to your updated method.

In response to this letter, provide:

  • A risk assessment for all (b)(4) API batches manufactured within expiry.
  • A revised complaint handling procedure and details of any further controls your facility has implemented to ensure that all complaints are adequately documented and thoroughly investigated.
  • Procedures for accepting and reprocessing returned drugs.
  • Results of (b)(4) testing of all (b)(4)API batches released to the U.S. market using your updated (b)(4) LC-MS/MS (b)(4) test method.
  1. Failure to evaluate the potential effect that changes in the manufacturing process may have on the quality of your API.

In November 2011 you approved a valsartan API process change (PCRC – 11025) that included the use of the solvent (b)(4). Your intention was to improve the manufacturing process, increase product yield, and lower production costs. However, you failed to adequately assess the potential formation of mutagenic impurities when you implemented the new process. Specifically, you did not consider the potential for mutagenic or other toxic impurities to form from (b)(4) degradants, including the primary (b)(4) degradant, (b)(4). According to your ongoing investigation, (b)(4) is required for the probable human carcinogen NDMA to form during the valsartan API manufacturing process. NDMA was identified in valsartan API manufactured at your facility.

You also failed to evaluate the need for additional analytical methods to ensure that unanticipated impurities were appropriately detected and controlled in your valsartan API before you approved the process change. You are responsible for developing and using suitable methods to detect impurities when developing, and making changes to, your manufacturing processes. If new or higher levels of impurities are detected, you should fully evaluate the impurities and take action to ensure the drug is safe for patients.

Your response states that predicting NDMA formation during the valsartan manufacturing process required an extra dimension over current industry practice, and that that your process development study was adequate. We disagree. We remind you that common industry practice may not always be consistent with CGMP requirements and that you are responsible for the quality of drugs you produce.

Your response does not describe sufficient corrective actions to ensure that your firm has adequate change management procedures in place: (1) to thoroughly evaluate your API manufacturing processes, including changes to those processes; and (2) to detect any unsafe impurities, including potentially mutagenic impurities. For FDA’s current thinking on control of potentially mutagenic impurities, see FDA’s guidance document M7(R1) Assessment and Control of DNA Reactive (Mutagenic) Impurities in Pharmaceuticals To Limit Potential Carcinogenic Risk for approaches that FDA considers appropriate for evaluating mutagenic impurities, at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM347725.pdf.

In response to this letter, provide:

  • Detailed revised change management procedures describing how your firm will assess and control all impurities, including mutagenic impurities, in API and intermediates manufactured at your facility.
  • Detailed procedures describing how your firm establishes impurity profiles for products manufactured at your firm. These procedures should contain instructions for comparing at appropriate intervals against the impurity profile in the regulatory submission, or for comparing against historical data, to detect changes to the API resulting from modifications in raw materials, equipment operating parameters, or the production process.
  • A retrospective analysis of other API and intermediates manufactured at your firm to determine if they were adequately evaluated for anticipated and unanticipated impurities, including potentially mutagenic impurities.
     

CGMP Consultant Recommended

Based upon the nature of the deviations we identified at your firm, we strongly recommend engaging a consultant qualified to evaluate your operations and assist your firm in meeting CGMP requirements. Your use of a consultant does not relieve your firm’s obligation to comply with CGMP. Your firm’s executive management remains responsible for fully resolving all deficiencies and ensuring ongoing CGMP compliance.

 Quality Systems Guidance

 Your firm’s quality systems are inadequate. For guidance on establishing and following CGMP compliant quality systems, see FDA’s guidances: Q8(R2) Pharmaceutical Development, at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/guidances/ucm073507.pdfQ9 Quality Risk Management, at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/Guidances/ucm073511.pdf; and Q10 Pharmaceutical Quality System, at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/guidances/ucm073517.pdf.

 Additional API CGMP guidance

FDA considers the expectations outlined in ICH Q7 in determining whether API are manufactured in conformance with CGMP. See FDA’s guidance document Q7 Good Manufacturing Practice Guidance for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients for guidance regarding CGMP for the manufacture of API, at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/…/Guidances/ucm073497.pdf.

Conclusion

Deviations cited in this letter are not intended as an all-inclusive list. You are responsible for investigating these deviations, for determining the causes, for preventing their recurrence, and for preventing other deviations.

If you are considering an action that is likely to lead to a disruption in the supply of drugs produced at your facility, FDA requests that you contact CDER’s Drug Shortages Staff immediately, at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov, so that FDA can work with you on the most effective way to bring your operations into compliance with the law. Contacting the Drug Shortages Staff also allows you to meet any obligations you may have to report discontinuances or interruptions in your drug manufacture under 21 U.S.C. 356C(b) and allows FDA to consider, as soon as possible, what actions, if any, may be needed to avoid shortages and protect the health of patients who depend on your products.

FDA placed your firm on Import Alert 66-40 on September 28, 2018.

Until you correct all deviations completely and we confirm your compliance with CGMP, FDA may withhold approval of any new applications or supplements listing your firm as a drug manufacturer.

Failure to correct these deviations may also result in FDA continuing to refuse admission of articles manufactured at Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., located at Coastal Industrial Zone, Chuannan No. 1 Branch No. 9, Donghai Fifth Avenue, Linhai, Taizhou Zhejiang, into the United States under section 801(a)(3) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. 381(a)(3). Under the same authority, articles may be subject to refusal of admission, in that the methods and controls used in their manufacture do not appear to conform to CGMP within the meaning of section 501(a)(2)(B) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. 351(a)(2)(B).

After you receive this letter, respond to this office in writing within 15 working days. Specify what you have done since our inspection to correct your deviations and to prevent their recurrence. If you cannot complete corrective actions within 15 working days, state your reasons for delay and your schedule for completion.

 Send your electronic reply to CDER-OC-OMQ-Communications@fda.hhs.gov or mail your reply to:

Rory K. Geyer

Compliance Officer

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

White Oak Building 51, Room 4235

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD 20993

USA

Please identify your response with FEI 3003885745.

Sincerely,

/S/

Francis Godwin

Acting Director

Office of Manufacturing Quality

Office of Compliance

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

 

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The Opioid Epidemic and State Courts – Why some aren’t filing into Opiate MDL 2804

Florida, Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts and others have started  their own Opioid Litigation in state courts across the country

By Mark A. York (December 10, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) Opioid abuse has been steadily increasing in the United States, and now state courts are becoming the legal venue of choice for filing lawsuits against the “opioid industry” and there may be a need for partnerships with other organizations to confront this epidemic. Lawsuits have already been filed in federal courts and by 22 U.S. states and Puerto Rico against Opiate Big Pharma. 

For a look at the Federal Opiate Litigation MDL 2804 see “OPIOID-CRISIS-BRIEFCASE -MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION” where states, counties, cities, indian tribes as well as unions, hospitals and individuals have filed more than 1000 lawsuits against the opioid industry as a whole.

BILLIONS IN PROFITS

The pharmaceutical industry spent a vast $6.4 billion in “direct-to-consumer” advertisements to hype new drugs in 2016, according tracking firm Kantar Media. That figure has gone up by 62% since 2012, Kantar Media says. This number may seem large at first but compared to the multi-billions in yearly profits just by opioid manufacturers over the last 15 years, the numbers is small.  Corporate earnings have risen every year since the push to increase opioid prescriptions in every way possible, to became an accepted business model in Big Pharma boardrooms across the country.

Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, the last year for which data was available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kentucky, one of the nation’s hardest-hit states, lost more than 1,400 people to drug overdoses that year.

A NEW INFANT NAS MDL 2872

Kevin Thompson of the Opioid Justice Team, has filed a motion for a new prescription opiate related multidistrict litigation, which was heard in front of the JPML panel on November 28, 2018 in New York City, where the panel was requested to designate MDL No. 2872 (INFANTS BORN OPIOID-DEPENDENT PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION) as a new and separate litigation focused on infants born addicted to opiates and suffering from what’s commonly knows as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and numerous other long-term medical issues.

The current Opiate MDL 2804 is not moving litigation related to individuals forward in any way. Thompson’s team is requesting that the infant cases be carved out from the sprawling lawsuit in Cleveland and transferred to a federal judge in West Virginia, one of the hardest hit states where roughly 5 percent of all babies are born dependent on opioids. The overall Infant NAS MDL 2872 docket can be viewed here MDL 2872 Infant NAS Re-infants-born-opioid-dependent-products-liability-litigation docket.

The misuse of opioids starting with the flood of prescription pain medicines, which has cast a wide net to now include heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and other drugs both legal and illegal is a serious national problem. In 2015 one in ten Americans reported using an illicit drug in the past 30 days.[1] Marijuana use and the misuse of prescription pain relievers account for the majority of illicit drug use. Of the 21.5 million Americans 12 or older who had a substance-use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million had a substance-use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, and 586,000 had a substance-use disorder involving heroin.[2]

 

Widespread use of opioids has had a devastating impact on many communities. In 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than in any year on record, with 78 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose. Drug overdose now surpasses motor-vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Most opioid-related overdoses involve prescription painkillers, but a growing number are the result of a powerful combination of heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often packaged and sold as heroin. Some of the largest concentrations of overdose deaths were in Appalachia and the Southwest, according to county-level estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[3]

One contributing factor behind the opioid epidemic is the increase in the use of prescription painkillers nationally. From 1991 to 2011, the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by U.S. pharmacies tripled from 76 million to 219 million.[4] This increase in the use of opioids is unique to America. The United States represents less than 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes roughly 80 percent of the world’s supply of opioid drugs.[5] There is also wide variation from one state to another in opioid-prescribing rates. In 2012 twelve states had more opioid prescriptions than people: Alabama (142.9 per 100 people), Tennessee (142.8), West Virginia (137.6), Kentucky (128.4), Oklahoma (127.8), Mississippi (120.3), Louisiana (118), Arkansas (115.8), Indiana (109.1), Michigan (107), South Carolina (101.8), and Ohio (100.1).[6]

The impact of the opioid epidemic touches every aspect of our public safety and judicial system. Drug-related arrests involving opioids are skyrocketing. In many communities, court dockets and probation caseloads are filled with individuals with opioid-use disorders. Access to treatment, particularly medication-assisted treatment combined with cognitive behavioral interventions, is limited—particularly in rural communities. This epidemic also comes at a price. In 2015 the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services began providing substance-abuse treatment in Ohio’s prisons, spending an estimated $30 million per year on drug treatment in prisons, $4 million on housing for individuals in recovery, and $1 million over two years for naloxone to reverse drug overdoses. The Ohio State Highway Patrol spent over $2 million to expand and improve their crime lab to keep up with substance testing.

In addition to the impact of opioid abuse on the criminal courts, the nation’s family courts and child welfare system are being deeply impacted. A recent report by the Administration for Children and Families shows that after years of decline, the number of children in foster care is rising. Nearly three-quarters of all states reported an increase in the number of children entering foster care from 2014 to 2015. The largest increases occurred in Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Arizona, and Minnesota. From 2012 to 2016, the percentage of removals nationally due to parental substance abuse increased 13 percent to 32.2 percent.

In addition to hundreds of cases consolidated in federal court in Opiate MDL 2804, the defendants face a wave of litigation in state courts as well as civil and criminal investigations by numerous state attorneys general and the federal government. Any settlement would have to protect the defendant companies from future lawsuits over the same issue and that may be difficult to negotiate given all the concurrent litigation in different courts.

The primary federal litigation involving many cities and counties was consolidated by the JPML in December 2017 in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, in front of Judge Daniel Polster. The defendants include Purdue, J&J, Teva, Endo, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. The federal litigation is growing daily see, Opiate Prescription MDL 2804, US District Court of Ohio link.

The time has now arrived for Opioid Big Pharma, in all forms to face the facts that for close to 20 years they have flooded the mainstream commerce of America with massive amounts of opiates with little to no oversight, which whether caused by a catastrophic systemic failure on many levels, or simple greed, the time has now come for the opiate industry to face the music of complex litigation in state and federal court venues across the country.

The judiciary can play a critical role in addressing the opioid epidemic. In August 2016, representatives from the Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia courts convened for the first-ever Regional Judicial Opioid (RJOI) Summit. The judicial summit brought together multidisciplinary delegates from each state to develop a regional action plan and consider regional strategies to combat the opioid epidemic. RJOI member states continue to work both within their home states and regionally to share promising practices, as well as to implement the objectives of the regional action plan. Courts are encouraged to work with partners in similar ways to:

  • Invest in local, state, and regional multidisciplinary, system-level strategic planning to identify policies or practice changes that can improve treatment engagement and reduce the risk of overdose death. Judges are particularly effective at using their convening power to bring together a variety of agencies and community stakeholders. The sequential intercept model is an effective approach to identifying gaps and opportunities for diverting criminal-justice-involved people to treatment. Communities are encouraged to not focus singularly on heroin use but to focus on substance-use disorders in general. A recent CDC study found that nearly all people who used heroin also used at least one other drug; most used at least three other drugs.[7]
  • Implement law-enforcement diversion programs, prosecutor diversion programs, or both to deflect or divert individuals with substance-use disorders from the criminal justice system into treatment at the earliest possible point.
  • Expand court diversion and sentencing options that provide substance-abuse treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Problem-solving courts, such as adult drug courts or veterans treatment courts, are the most notable examples of effective approaches.  
  • Incorporate strategic screening questions designed to identify criminal-justice-involved individuals at high-risk for overdose death into all criminal-justice-agency intake forms. Specifically, research suggests that individuals with a history of non-fatal overdoses, individuals with a history of opioids in combination with benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam) and Soma (Carisoprodol), and individuals with an opioid-use disorder recently released from a confined environment (e.g., residential treatment or incarceration) are at particular risk for overdose death. This population should be prioritized for treatment and overdose-prevention services, such as naloxone access.

On January 24, 2017, the Bureau of Justice Assistance released funding for a “Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program.” Through this solicitation, courts and their partners may implement overdose outreach projects, technology-assisted treatment programs, and diversion and alternatives to incarceration.

What remains to be seen is where and how the directly affected “individuals” who were prescribed millions of addictive opiates and subsequently became addicted and where thousands more overdosed and died, remains to be seen.

Who will be the advocate to make sure that these individuals as well as their children, families and communities as a whole are placed on the road to recovery. Historically, Big Pharma is not an industry to put the best interests of the paying consumer at the forefront of their agendas.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health” (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51), report prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, Maryland, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/.

[2] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015).

[3] L. M. Rossen, B. Bastian, M. Warner, D. Khan, and Y. Chong, “Drug Poisoning Mortality: United States, 1999–2014,” National Center for Health Statistics, 2016.

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Prescription Opioids and Heroin,” Research Report Series, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Washington, D.C., 2015. Retrieved from https://d14rmgtrwzf5a.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/rx_and_heroin_rrs_layout_final.pdf.

[5] L. Manchikanti and A. Singh, “Therapeutic Opioids: A Ten-Year Perspective on the Complexities and Complications of Escalating Use, Abuse, and Nonmedical Use of Opioids,” Pain Physician 11, 2nd supp. (2008): S63-S88.

[6] L. J. Paulozzi, K. A. Mack, and J. M. Hockenberry, “Vital Signs: Variation Among States in Prescribing Pain Relievers and Benzodiazepines—United States,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, 2014.

[7] National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2011-2013.

 

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The FDA 510(k) System Overhaul -Process For Medical Device Approval: Is this a win for Big Pharma?

 

IS BIG PHARMA LOBBYING DICTATING FEDERAL REGULATORY POLICY IN WASHINGTON D.C. NOW?

By Mark A. York (December 5, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Official FDA announcement: FDA changes 510(k) program for approval and review of medical devices Nov. 26, 2018

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) On November 26, 2018 the FDA announced an overhaul of the 510(k) system that is meant to prompt manufacturers to base new products on technologies that are 10 years old or less. Almost 20% of the products currently cleared by the system were based on devices older than 10 years. For consumer safety, the FDA is considering whether to publicize the manufacturers and their devices that are based on older products.

The FDA is supposed to protect the interests of the general public and ensure that new devices, as well as existing ones are functioning as designed. More often that is not the case, as the FDA either fails to review medical device failures or simply ignores them.

The FDA has a reporting and tracking database that permits the public to review and see what devices are unsafe or causing adverse events, see FDA Medical Device Adverse Event Report Database.

Now there seems to be an effort by the FDA to pull back on the reporting functions in their official oversight duties. This includes the reporting requirements for problematic medical devices.

But earlier this year, the FDA made a rule change that could curtail that database, which was already considered to be of limited scope by medical researchers and the FDA itself.

For the FDA Medical Device Reporting Program (MDR): FDA.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/ReportaProblem

BIG PHARMA LOBBYING INFLUENCE

Pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers, collectively Big Pharma, spend far more than any other industry to influence politicians. Big Pharma has poured close to $2.5 billion into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.

Hundreds of millions of dollars flow to lobbyists and politicians on Capitol Hill each year to shape laws and policies that keep drug company profits growing. The pharmaceutical industry, which has about two lobbyists for every member of Congress, spent $152 million on influencing legislation in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Drug companies also contributed more than $20m directly to political campaigns last year. About 60% went to Republicans. Paul Ryan, the former speaker of the House of Representatives was the single largest beneficiary, with donations from the industry totaling $228,670.

Over the past decade, manufacturers have also paid out at least $1.6 billion to settle charges of regulatory violations, including corruption and fraud, around the world, according to the consortium, which published its report findings on November 26, 2018.

The new FDA rule, which had been sought by medical device manufacturers, opens the door for a decrease in reported information for nearly 9 out of 10 device categories, a recent review found. It could allow manufacturers to submit quarterly summarized reports for similar incidents, rather than individual reports every time malfunctions occur, meaning there will be much less detail about individual cases.

As part of the worldwide scrutiny of medical devices and at times, the  affiliated dangers, a massive investigation known as “The Implant Files” was undertaken by a group of journalists around the world.  Led by editors and reporters from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, it took a year to plan and another year to complete

ICIJ partnered with more than 250 journalists in 36 countries to examine how devices are tested, approved, marketed and monitored. This included an analysis of more than 8 million device-related health records, including death and injury reports and recalls.

The Implant Files review encompassed more than 1.7 million injuries and nearly 83,000 deaths suspected of being linked to medical devices over 10 years, and reported to the U.S. alone.

Like the rest of Big Pharma, the medical device manufacturers have created an intricate web of corporate and political influence including at the Federal Drug Administration, where the FDA is charged with oversight of medical devices.

The new rule is one of several regulatory changes favoring the medical device industry that have been proposed and enacted since the beginning of the Trump administration. They are part of a decades-long campaign to decrease U.S. regulation of the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, which is a massive global business that has existed for years with minimal international scrutiny.

A recent analysis of the 10 largest publicly traded medical device companies in the U.S. found that since the start of the Trump administration, the companies have spent more than $36.5 million on efforts to influence rules and legislation. Some of these companies manufacture a variety of medical products, including pharmaceuticals and lab equipment, but four of the 10 exclusively manufacture devices and lobbying disclosures for all 10 emphasize efforts to influence policy around devices.

BUYING A PRESENCE IN WASHINGTON

The medical device industry was worth $405 billion worldwide in 2017, according to an Accenture market analysis. Despite its size, the medical device industry has only a patchwork of international oversight, even though when things go wrong with a device, the consequences can be serious.

But the single largest medical device market in the world is the U.S., worth an estimated $156 billion in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. As the medical device market has boomed over the past several decades, the industry has built a sizable presence in Washington, D.C.

Many medical device companies have built sophisticated lobbying arms, often employing their own team of lobbyists in addition to hiring outside firms for specific issues. Several of the largest companies used between 15 and 50 lobbyists in 2017 alone, an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) found.

There are also two main trade groups for the industry to which device makers contribute membership fees to, both of which pack a hefty lobbying punch on their own. Since the start of 2017, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), the older and larger group, has spent more than $6 million and the Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA) has spent nearly $2.6 million. The groups’ policy goals echo those that individual companies list on their lobbying disclosures, among them: decreasing taxes on devices, increasing insurance coverage and reimbursement and the FDA’s approval process for bringing a device to market.

The medical device lobbying effort is vast, with lobbyists seeking to be heard on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement codes, device purchasing policies at the Veterans Administration, even cybersecurity and trade issues. Companies regularly lobby Congress and target agencies and offices across the executive branches in D.C., from the FDA to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid and the National Security Council.

Altogether, the industry has spent more than $20 million per year for the past five years lobbying the federal government, according to an analysis of campaign finance and lobbying data from CRP.

With the change in administration in 2017, that spending increased to more than $26 million, $2.2 million more than its highest level in any of the previous four years. Based on disclosures from the first three quarters of the year, medical device lobbying in 2018 is on pace to exceed 2017 levels.

An industry spokesperson noted that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends more heavily on lobbying than the device industry. Big Pharma-pharmaceuticals, which was worth more than $453 billion in the U.S. in 2017, spent more than $171 million the same year, more than six times as much as the device industry, according to a Statista market analysis.

The lobbying resources of the device industry far outweigh those of consumer and patient advocates, which are often on the other side of regulatory debates on Capitol Hill.

Very few advocacy groups spend time lobbying on devices, said Dr. Diana Zuckerman, a former HHS official under Obama and president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington.

“When we’ve talked to congressional staff about this,” she said, “they say things like, ‘Well, we’re getting calls every day, all day long from various device companies or their lawyers,’ and the nonprofits are basically going to the Hill for visits a few hours a year.”

Zuckerman’s group is one of about a half dozen to lobby on devices over the past few years. Each of the largest spends no more than a few-hundred-thousand dollars annually to lobby on devices and all other consumer issues, according to their federal lobbying disclosures.

Trial lawyer groups, which the device industry spokesperson noted often sue device makers, also spent less than one third of what the device industry did in 2017, a CRP analysis found.

Three companies that spent the most on lobbying in the past five years were  ask about their lobbying efforts. Baxter International and Abbott Laboratories did not comment. Medtronic said, “Despite the company nearly doubling in size, our lobbying-related efforts over the last 10 years have remained relatively stable.”

Previously, Abbott, Medtronic and a half-dozen other international device makers told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that they conduct business with the highest ethical standards, adhere to all laws and have rigorous programs to prevent employee misconduct.

In a statement, Mark Leahey, president of MDMA, said, “As millions of Americans benefit daily from the more than 190,000 different medical devices available and in use in the United States, our members continue to work with patient groups and policy makers to advance policies that promote improved access for patients and providers. This dynamic innovation ecosystem remains committed to developing the cures and therapies of tomorrow, while reducing adverse events and learning from ongoing research and each patient’s experience.”

OBAMA – TRUMP COMPARISON

During its eight-year tenure, the Obama administration permitted some deregulation but also instituted the first FDA product ban since the 1980s.

Beginning in 2014, warning letters to industry began to drop steeply and approval of new devices to rise. By 2017, the number of FDA warning letters to device manufacturers about product safety had dropped to nearly 80 percent less than those issued in 2010, while approval numbers for new devices were more than three times as high as at the beginning of the decade. The FDA says the decrease in warning letters is due to a more interactive approach to working with violative companies, and the uptick in approvals is due to an increase in staffing and efficiency.

Under Obama, some FDA regulators responsible for overseeing the device industry pushed for deregulation. Administrators largely kept it in check, said Peter Lurie, an FDA associate commissioner during the Obama administration.

“It was accompanied by very heavy lobbying on Capitol Hill as well,” said Lurie. Priorities included faster device approval times and decreasing taxes.

During Obama’s final year in office, the FDA banned its first device in more than 30 years, a type of surgical glove and proposed a ban on a home shock collar for behavior modification. That ban is still pending.

The industry successfully pushed for changes in a proposed regulation on unique device identifiers, the identification codes for individual devices, similar to automotive vehicle identification numbers, and won the suspension of a tax on medical devices created to help fund the Affordable Care Act.

“Now with the advent of the Trump administration,” said Lurie, “the deregulatory gloves are off and we’re seeing a number of the device industry’s most desired objectives come to fruition.”

President Trump vowed to cut regulations across the government by 75 percent when he came into office.

In 2002, Congress instituted a program in which the device industry pays “user fees” to fund the FDA office that oversees it, amounts which are agreed upon in negotiations between industry and the regulator every five years. In its first year, the fees provided 10 percent of funding for the device center, but by 2018, the fees brought in more than $153 million, providing more than 35 percent of the center’s budget.

“It’s carefully negotiated for weeks and months at a time,” said Jack Mitchell, former director of Special Investigations for the FDA. “And there’s a laundry list of things that the industry gets FDA to agree to and that they’re paying for.”

If the most recent agreement, negotiated in 2017, had not gone through by the deadline, the agency would have legally been required to temporarily layoff at least one third of its device center staff. The final agreement included a decrease in approval time for certain devices.

“We do not believe user fee funding has influenced our decision making,” the FDA said in a statement, noting that other parts of the FDA are also funded by user fees.

The agency also noted that it held meetings with patient stakeholders in addition to industry when negotiating the user fee agreement, saying, “Patients are a critical part of the user fee process.”

The FDA emphasized that it does not always agree with the industry, citing as examples its support of legislation that makers of reusable devices provide instruction on how to prevent bacterial contamination, and including device identifier codes in insurance claims forms.

MAKING FDA APPROVAL EASIER FOR BIG PHARMA

The changes to how adverse events are reported was seen as an overwhelming industry success.

The FDA database in which surgical complications are entered is known as the Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience Database (MAUDE), which includes more than 750,000 incidents per year. The adverse events range from minor malfunctions to patient deaths linked to products being used around the world.

Despite its size, it’s widely accepted that the database is only a rather limited record of the full scale of medical device complications and adverse events.

The rule went into effect in August. The FDA said in a statement in November that though the reports are valuable, they were never meant to be sole source for determining if a device is causing harm.

“This type of reporting system has notable limitations,” said the FDA, “including the potential submission of incomplete, inaccurate, untimely, unverified, or biased data.”

Patients are able to report adverse events to the database themselves, but few know to do so. Companies are required to report the events, once they are notified., which they don’t always do. The FDA said thirty-three percent (33%)  of all FDA warning letters to device makers were to companies that failed to meet rules for reporting complications with devices.

The more companies that fail to file properly, the less the database accurately reflects what is happening to patients with devices.

Under the rule change, companies could be allowed to submit quarterly summarized reports for similar incidents, rather than individual reports each time malfunctions occur. Previously, qualified manufacturers could submit summarized reports if they filed a request with the agency. Now they can do so without making a request.

“[The database] is the way we’ve learned about some very serious health issues,” said Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of San Francisco who studies adverse events like Hershey’s. “It’s the most widespread and publicly available database for adverse events, which is extremely important for patient safety.”

In a public comment in support of the rule change, AdvaMed called the change a “commonsense approach” that will reduce the volume of reports manufacturers need to submit to the FDA and streamline the information the FDA receives about malfunctions.

“This process will actually make it easier for third parties to assess the malfunction data in [the database],” said Greg Crist, a spokesperson for AdvaMed. “Comparing the old alternative summary reporting program to this new initiative is comparing apples to oranges.”

In response to public comments that critical report information would be lost with the change in reporting, the FDA wrote in the published rule that, “We do not believe there will be an adverse impact on the content of information provided to FDA.”

In a statement, the agency said the new program “streamlines the process for reporting of device malfunctions and allows us to more efficiently detect potential safety issues and identify trends. It also frees up resources to better focus on addressing the highest risks.”

But Redberg, is worried that the new rule change will make searching an already unwieldy database more difficult, decreasing the ability of researchers and the public to search for misfiled reports or see accurate numbers of adverse events.

“It makes things easier for industry, it makes things worse for patients,” she said. “I really think it’s a public health crisis. We have more and more devices in use, and for many of them we really have no idea how safe they are because we don’t have accurate reporting.”

How these changes are affecting medical care in the US, and more importantly the publics right to be informed of adverse events and problems with medical devices, their approval process and who’s lobbying who and for what in the FDA should be open and transparent.  

(Certain images and text excerpts in this article were reprinted from third party media sources)

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Why is the US Solicitor General Supporting Merck in Supreme Court Fosamax Preemption Appeal?

WILL BIG PHARMA LOBBYING EFFORTS BE PAYING DIVIDENDS IN 2019?

By Mark A. York (December 7, 2018)

The Supreme Court’s decision involving Merck’s osteoporosis drug Fosamax could have a ripple effect across Big Pharma and Mass Torts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in June to hear Merck & Co.’s appeal in the long running Fosamax liability litigation, (MDL No. 2243, District Judge: Honorable Joel A. Pisano, USDC New Jersey) where plaintiffs are suing Merck & Co over its osteoporosis drug Fosamax, (see Fosamax [Merck] Appeal U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit).

The plaintiffs have requested the U.S. Supreme Court uphold a federal appeals court ruling that allowed their cases to move forward, however acting U.S. Solicitor General Jefferey Wall asked for permission to present oral arguments. It would be a plus for Merck, because Wall has been a major supporter of the Big Pharma position on the issue of preemption, which revolves around the question of whether FDA decisions protect pharma companies from state legal challenges.

How the Court answers this question will no doubt shape the drug and device industry for years to come. Levine provided that a drug manufacturer could not be held liable under a failure-to-warn theory if the FDA had previously considered—and rejected—a proposed amendment to the product’s warning label. But Levine did not clearly define when preemption would apply in these circumstances, and as a result, lower courts have struggled to uniformly apply this rule.  With Albrecht, the Court now has an opportunity to clear up the ambiguities left in Levine’s wake.

On December 3, 2018 the Supreme Court agreed to let the Solicitor General’s office participate in the oral arguments, which probably caused the executive suites at Big Pharma to raise a toast to Jeffrey Wall.

The pre-emption question dates back to the original Fosamax case, which was filed by patients who suffered femoral fractures while taking the osteoporosis drug. Merck added language to the product’s label about the risk in 2011, but more than 500 patients claimed that their injuries occurred before then, and Merck should have warned them sooner.

In January 2019, the full Supreme Court will hear arguments in Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, a case arising out of the In Re: Fosamax (Alendronate Sodium) Products Liability Litigation. Fosamax is a drug used to treat osteoporosis, with a cited adverse evenet bieng that it may inhibit bone repair, which could result in an atypical femoral fracture.

The central claim at issue concerns the Fosamax warning label, which initially did not warn of the risk of an atypical femoral fracture. Plaintiffs contend that the label should have included such a warning, while Merck counters that it tried to add language addressing the risk of a “Low-Energy Femoral Shaft Fracture,” but was prevented from doing so by the FDA, who affirmatively told Merck to “hold off” on adding any such language until the FDA could decide on “atypical fracture language, if it is warranted.”  Ultimately, the FDA rejected Merck’s proposed warning label, stating that the justification for such language was “inadequate.” The FDA reversed course the following year, and Merck then added a risk of atypical femoral fracture to Fosamax’s label.

Based on these facts, Merck moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claims, arguing that such claims were preempted under Wyeth v. Levine because “clear evidence” demonstrated that the FDA would not—and did not—approve of the proposed label change.  The District Court agreed, but the Third Circuit did not, holding instead that: (1) Levine’s reference to “‘clear evidence’ referr[ed] solely to the applicable standard of proof,” which Merck failed to satisfy; and (2) the issue of whether the FDA would have rejected the label change was a fact question for the jury.

Merck said it tried to update the label earlier, but failed because the FDA rejected its proposed wording. Because it was the FDA’s call, pre-emption should apply, Merck claimed and Wall concurred. Now, the Supreme Court will offer 10 minutes for the U.S. to make its case.

“The government has a significant interest in the proper resolution of the case, which concerns the manner in which the scope and effect of an FDA labeling decision is determined in private tort litigation,” asserted Wall in his MOTION OF THE UNITED STATES AS AMICUS CURIAE FOR LEAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN ORAL ARGUMENTS.

At least three court members (Thomas, Gorsuch, and Roberts) appear likely to support preemption under this set of facts, and it would not be unreasonable for Kagan, Ginsburg, and/or Breyer to hold similarly, given that the latter two were both part of the Levine majority, which stated that preemption would apply if there existed “clear evidence that the FDA would not have approved a change[.]” Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U.S. 555, 571 (2009). The odds of a five-justice majority favoring preemption could be buttressed if Kavanaugh is confirmed. Regardless, all one can truly hope for is that the Court avoids a plurality decision, since such an outcome would leave the Third Circuit’s opinion intact and muddy the waters further.

SCOTUS Docket: Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht

17-290 3d Cir.  Hearing Date January 7, 2019

Issue: Whether a state-law failure-to-warn claim is pre-empted when the Food and Drug Administration rejected the drug manufacturer’s proposal to warn about the risk after being provided with the relevant scientific data, or whether such a case must go to a jury for conjecture as to why the FDA rejected the proposed warning. CVSG: 05/22/2018.

Date Proceedings and Orders (key to color coding)
Jun 23 2017 Application (16A1264) to extend the time to file a petition for a writ of certiorari from July 23, 2017 to August 22, 2017, submitted to Justice Alito.
Jun 27 2017 Application (16A1264) granted by Justice Alito extending the time to file until August 22, 2017.
Aug 22 2017 Petition for a writ of certiorari filed. (Response due September 25, 2017)
Aug 31 2017 Waiver of right of respondents Affronti, Joanne, et al. to respond filed.
Sep 11 2017 Blanket Consent filed by Petitioner, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. on 09/12/2017
Sep 19 2017 Waiver of right of respondents Esther Parker & Pamela Paralikis to respond filed.
Sep 20 2017 Blanket Consent filed by Respondents, Albrecht, Doris, et al. on 09/21/2017
Sep 21 2017 Order extending time to file response to petition to and including October 25, 2017, for all respondents.
Sep 22 2017 Because Justice Alito now realizes that he should have recused himself from consideration of this application, the order of June 27, 2017, is vacated. Pursuant to Rule 22.2, the application (16A1264) to extend the time to file a petition for a writ of certiorari from July 23, 2017 to August 22, 2017, has been submitted to Justice Sotomayor.
Sep 22 2017 Application (16A1264) granted by Justice Sotomayor extending the time to file until August 22, 2017. (Justice Alito is recused)
Sep 25 2017 Brief amicus curiae of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America filed.
Sep 25 2017 Brief amici curiae of Product Liability Adisory Council, Inc., et al. filed.
Oct 25 2017 Brief of respondents Doris Albrecht, et al. in opposition filed.
Nov 08 2017 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 12/1/2017.
Nov 08 2017 Reply of petitioner Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. filed. (Distributed)
Dec 04 2017 The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.
May 22 2018 Brief amicus curiae of United States filed (to be corrected and reprinted).
May 22 2018 Brief amicus curiae of United States filed (Corrected brief received 5/29/18).
Jun 05 2018 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 6/21/2018.
Jun 05 2018 Supplemental brief of respondents Doris Albrecht, et al. filed. (Distributed)
Jun 07 2018 Supplemental brief of petitioner Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. filed. (Distributed)
Jun 27 2018 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 6/27/2018.
Jun 28 2018 Petition GRANTED. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.
Jul 27 2018 Motion for an extension of time to file the opening briefs on the merits granted. The time to file the joint appendix and petitioner’s brief on the merits is extended to and including September 13, 2018. The time to file respondents’ brief on the merits is extended to and including November 14, 2018.
Jul 27 2018 Motion for an extension of time to file the opening briefs on the merits filed.
Sep 12 2018 Blanket Consent filed by Respondents, Doris Albrecht, et al..
Sep 13 2018 Brief of petitioner Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. filed.
Sep 13 2018 Joint appendix (2 volumes) filed. (Statement of costs filed)
Sep 17 2018 Blanket Consent filed by Petitioner, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp..
Sep 20 2018 Brief amicus curiae of Washington Legal Foundation filed.
Sep 20 2018 Brief amici curiae of Product Liability Adisory Council, Inc., et al. filed.
Sep 20 2018 Brief amici curiae of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, et al. filed.
Sep 20 2018 Brief amicus curiae of United States filed.
Oct 12 2018 Motion of the Acting Solicitor General for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument filed.
Oct 26 2018 Justice Alito is no longer recused in this case.
Nov 14 2018 Brief of respondents Doris Albrecht, et al. filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amicus curiae of Public Citizen filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amici curiae of Commonwealth of Virginia, et al. filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amici curiae of Joseph Lane, M.D., and Vincent Vigorita, M.D. filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amici curiae of MedShadow Foundation, et al. filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amicus curiae of The Cato Institute filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amici curiae of Tort Law Professors John C. P. Goldberg and Benjamin C. Zipursky filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amici curiae of Public Law Scholars filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amici curiae of Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., et al. filed.
Nov 21 2018 Brief amicus curiae of American Association for Justice filed.
Nov 28 2018 SET FOR ARGUMENT ON Monday, January 7, 2019
Nov 30 2018 CIRCULATED

The SCOTUS ability to resolve the preemption question could have a ripple effect on the entire pharma industry. The issue generated heated debate a few years back, when a liability case raised questions about whether generics makers can be held responsible for patients’ injuries, given that they must use label language the FDA approved for branded versions of the drugs.

In a close 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that generics makers could not be held liable in those cases.

Initially, it looked as if Merck would prevail in its preemption argument, too, as the  defense had won two bellwether lawsuits filed over alleged Fosamax injuries. Then, in 2014, a federal judge tossed out 5,000 lawsuits from patients who claimed their fractures were caused by Fosamax, followed by a federal appeals court reviving those cases by over-ruling that dismissal.

Lawyers representing the patients in this case have argued that Merck’s preemption argument is faulty because it’s largely based on an internal memo recounting a phone conversation one of its employees had with the FDA.

“Respondents are aware of no other preemption case in which the manufacturer relied on hearsay accounts of informal FDA communications,” the lawyers said in a recent brief.

Merck developed Fosamax to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures from osteoporosis. However, numerous studies have linked the medication to an elevated risk of abnormal femur fractures. Furthermore, plaintiffs in the litigation argue that Merck had an intrinsic obligation to its consumers to provide stronger warnings that users could experience femur fractures from little or no trauma while taking the medication. This includes falling from standing height or less.

Merck introduced Fosamax in 1995, and the company didn’t add a thigh bone fracture risk warning label to the drug until 2011. Plaintiffs claim Merck knew about the risk for years but concealed it to maximize sales and profits.

Fosamax was a blockbuster drug with annual sales of over $3 billion, until the company  lost its exclusive patent rights in 2008, even then the brand name drug still brought in $284 million in sales in 2016.

Both Merck and the Solicitor General contend that if the FDA believed there was scientific reasoning to support a labeling change, the agency would have added the warning, because federal laws require it to do so.

As SCOTUS gets set to hear the case, many individuals and organizations have filed briefs in support, urging the justices to uphold the lower court ruling that would allow those thousands of Fosamax suits to go forward. Consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, for example, filed a brief earlier this month suggesting that Merck’s pre-emption argument is invalid because federal statutes do not support the idea that “the FDA’s rejection of a particular proposed warning constitutes a determination ‘that no new labeling language is warranted.’”

Besides, Public Citizen argued (PDF), SCOTUS should preserve patients’ rights to pursue drug liability claims in state courts, and by siding with Merck, the judges might make it much harder for those suits to be filed.

“Allowing patients to pursue tort claims against pharmaceutical manufacturers for injuries caused by inadequate warnings is important as both an incentive for manufacturers to be vigilant about product safety and a means to provide remedies to patients,” Public Citizen wrote. “For this reason, the case has important implications that go well beyond the interests of the parties.”

How Big Pharma’s cadre of lobbyists and congressional insiders appears to be paying major dividends as we approach 2019 remaons to be seen, but considering the wide-open lack of federal oversight for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers by the current administration, it would appear that Big Pharma investments in the FDA and related oversight agencies is apying off very well.

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