Fosamax Ruling: “A Small Win for Defense, A Big Win for Plaintiffs”

SCOTUS Fosamax Ruling (May 20, 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

Small Win for Defendants

Defendants Won the argument that a Judge not a jury is the proper authority to decide impossibility preemption arguments arising under the FDCA (Food and Drug Cosmetics Act, Title 21). However, the win on this one issue is a hollow victory for defendants considering the entirety of SCOTUS order and opinion.

SCOTUS ruled that judges not juries are the proper authority to decide the issue however, SCOTUS also placed significant limits on what those lower court judges could and could not consider when ruling on impossibility pre-preemption arguments like those raise by Merck in the Fosamax Case.

JUSTICE THOMAS SUMMARY OF RULING

JUSTICE THOMAS, concurring:

I join the Court’s opinion and write separately to explain my understanding of the relevant pre-emption principles and how they apply to this case.

“Because Merck points to no statute, regulation, or other agency action with the force of law that would have prohibited it from complying with its alleged state-law duties, its pre-emption defense should fail as a matter of law”

Big Win for Plaintiffs

SCOTUS ruled that Judges decide however, SCOTUS went much further and defined limits on what facts and information could be considered by lower court judges when making decisions related to impossibly preemption arguments like those raised by Merck in Fosamax.

SCOTUS opinion limits the clear and convincing evidence standards to OFFICAL Acts taken by the FDA which would in general rise1. If the defendant did not go through the CBE process and make the change (the exact warning plaintiffs allege was needed) and the FDA later told them to remove the warning, then FDA OFFICALLY told them to remove the warning, then no pre-emption exists.

1. If the defendant did not go through the CBE process and make the change (the exact warning plaintiffs allege was needed) and the FDA later told them to remove the warning, then FDA OFFICALLY told them to remove the warning, then no pre-emption exists.

2. If the defendant did not ask to make the specific label change (which plaintiffs allege was needed) having provided the FDA all relevant information, and the FDA OFFICIALLY denied the label change, then no pre-emption exists.

Arguments that postulate “hypotheticals” (absent either of the above official actions (facts)) are not to be considered. Communications between the defendant and the FDA, Statements by the FDA that do not constitute an official act under the law, are not to be considered.

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 heard 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 event being 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’ referred 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, (see Fosamax [Merck] Appeal U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit).

SCOTUS RULED 9-0

Additional Concurring Opinion on the judgment only (Jury vs Judge only) from Justices Cavanaugh, Alito’s  and Chief Justice Roberts could be interpreted as allowing lower court Judges to consider other Official acts by the FDA other than those delineated above however, the additional opinion did not define what official acts other than the two discussed could be considered and inasmuch as these two official actions are constitute the limit of the powers relevant to such matters, delegated to the FDA by Congress, it is doubtful that a defendant could show a lower court Judge any other document (without posing hypotheticals) that would constitute an official action taken by the FDA that would have prevented the defendant from meeting its State Law duties (impossibility preemption).

In that the only powers delegated to the FDA by Congress (powers under the law) are those defined in the two types of actions listed above, relevant to the type of impossibility preemption arguments that were raised in Fosamax, based on unofficial actions, communications and statements from the FDA (and that defendants hoped to raise in numerous other cases) the Fosamax ruling taken in its entity, is a major blow to defendants hoping to open major cracks in Wyeth v Levine.

The central issue in this case concerns federal preemption, which as relevant here, takes place when it is “‘impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal requirements.’” Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, 570 U. S. 472, 480 (2013). See also U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. The state law that we consider is state common law or state statutes that require drug manufacturers to warn drug consumers of the risks associated with drugs. The federal law that we consider is the statutory and regulatory scheme through which the FDA regulates the information that appears on brand-name prescription drug labels. The alleged conflict between state and federal law in this case has to do with a drug that was manufactured by petitioner Merck Sharp & Dohme and was administered to respondents without a warning of certain associated risks.

FOSAMAX HISTORY

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.

MERCK SHARP & DOHME CORP. v. ALBRECHT Opinion of the Court(excerpt)

III

We turn now to what is the determinative question before us:

Is the question of agency disapproval primarily one of fact, normally for juries to decide, or is it a question of law, normally for a judge to decide without a jury?

The complexity of the preceding discussion of the law helps to illustrate why we answer this question by concluding that the question is a legal one for the judge, not a jury. The question often involves the use of legal skills to determine whether agency disapproval fits facts that are not in dispute. Moreover, judges, rather than lay juries, are better equipped to evaluate the nature and scope of an agency’s determination. Judges are experienced in “[t]he construction of written instruments,” such as those normally produced by a federal agency to memorialize its considered judgments. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U. S. 370, 388 (1996). And judges are better suited than are juries to understand and to interpret agency decisions in light of the governing statutory and regulatory context. Cf. 5 U. S. C. §706 (specifying that a “reviewing court,” not a jury, “shall . . . determine the meaning or applicability of the terms of an agency action”); see also H. R. Rep. No. 1980, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., 44 (1946) (noting longstanding view that “questions respecting the . . . terms of any agency action” and its “application” are “questions of law”). To understand the question as a legal question for judges makes sense given the fact that judges are normally familiar with principles of administrative law. Doing so should produce greater uniformity among courts; and greater uniformity is normally a virtue when a question requires a determination concerning the scope and effect of federal agency action. Cf. Markman, 517 U. S., at 390–391.

We understand that sometimes contested brute facts will prove relevant to a court’s legal determination about the meaning and effect of an agency decision. For example, if the FDA rejected a drug manufacturer’s supplemental application to change a drug label on the ground that the information supporting the application was insufficient to warrant a labeling change, the meaning and scope of that decision might depend on what information the FDA had before it. Yet in litigation between a drug consumer and a drug manufacturer (which will ordinarily lack an official administrative record for an FDA decision), the litigants may dispute whether the drug manufacturer submitted all material information to the FDA.

But we consider these factual questions to be subsumed within an already tightly circumscribed legal analysis. And we do not believe that they warrant submission alone or together with the larger pre-emption question to a jury. Rather, in those contexts where we have determined that the question is “for the judge and not the jury,” we have also held that “courts may have to resolve subsidiary factual disputes” that are part and parcel of the broader legal question.  Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 574 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2015) (slip op., at 6– 7). And, as in contexts as diverse as the proper construction of patent claims and the voluntariness of criminal confessions, they create a question that “‘falls somewhere between a pristine legal standard and a simple historical fact.’” Markman, 517 U. S., at 388 (quoting Miller v. Fenton, 474 U. S. 104, 114 (1985)). In those circumstances, “‘the fact/law distinction at times has turned on a determination that, as a matter of the sound administration of justice, one judicial actor is better positioned than another to decide the issue in question.’” Markman, 517 U. S., at 388 (quoting Miller, 474 U. S., at 114). In this context, that “better positioned” decisionmaker is the judge.

 IV

Because the Court of Appeals treated the pre-emption question as one of fact, not law, and because it did not have an opportunity to consider fully the standards we have described in Part II of our opinion, we vacate its judgment and remand the case to that court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

____________________________________________________________

How Big Pharma’s cadre of lobbyists and congressional insiders attempt to reap major dividends, as we address the Fosamax ruling remains 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 paying off very well.

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Analysis of Proposed Xarelto Settlement Discount Rates – Debunking Defendants Rationale

 

 

Analysis of Proposed Xarelto Settlement Discount Rates

Debunking Defendants Rationale

 This is a follow up to the Mass Tort Nexus article “Xarelto Settlement: Dead on Arrival” – link: Xarelto-Settlement-Dead-on-Arrival? April 15, 2019

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) This article is intended to address the Xarelto defendants’ contentions that certain settlement offer “discounts” are justified for client cases arising in 2015 and 2016 due to changes in the FDA label,  which the defendant contends brought warnings contained in the label into adequacy. This paper will also address defendant’s contention that cases arising under the laws of the States of Texas and Michigan merit a massive discount in settlement value (offers).

We will focus on the Xarelto label change from 11/07/2018, AND an additional label change was made on 01/15/2019 related to Eosinophilia, which could be relevant to many of the Xarelto cases already filed as well as give rise to a Xarelto Litigation II, that could involve more injured individuals than the current Xarelto Litigation. The relevance and significance of the 01/15/2019 “Eosinophilia” label change will be addressed by Mass Tort Nexus in the near future.

Mass Tort Nexus has also received information that there is an ongoing investigation related to Xarelto potentially causing kidney injury, which may or not be related to Eosinophilia. We will continue to provide more information related to this subject in future articles. Given the new Eosinophilia warning and the investigation related to Kidney injury, and the 11/07/2018 label change related to anticoagulation tests (and the possible impact on future Xarelto case trials) Mass Tort Nexus understands why the defendants might be eager to reach a settlement sooner rather than later. Conversely, there is no reason why plaintiffs’ firms should believe the defendants to be in a superior negotiating position, nor be willing to accept subpar settlements for their existing cases.

It is worth nothing that the 11/07/2018 label change (admission) by the defendant that the most commonly used anticoagulation tests are “not recommended” (in reality likely have no diagnostic value) would make it far more difficult for the defendants to prevail in future trials under the Learned Intermediary Doctrine, as doctors would be less likely to testify that, “they would still do everything exactly as they did when originally prescribing Xarelto.” Had the defendant revealed the foregoing before the prior bellwether trials, the outcome of those trials may have been very different.  It is not surprising that the defendants are eager to settled Xarelto cases without having to face another trial post the 11/07/2018 and 01/15/2019 label changes.

Had the defendants revealed the information related to the most common anticoagulation tests used as “not being recommended” prior to the bellwether trials, doctors testifying in support of a defendants “Learned Intermediary Defense” would likely face questions like these:

 Plaintiffs’ Counsel:  So, Dr. Smith, I see that you performed an INR test to make sure that my client was correctly anticoagulated, that their blood was not to thick or too thin, is that right?

Dr. Smith: Yes

Plaintiffs’ Counsel:  Were you aware that as of 11/07/2018 the defendants recommend that this test not be used and in fact, the literature shows that this test provides no diagnostic value when a person is taking Xarelto?

Dr. Smith: It unlikely that Dr. Smith will say he knew the above when he prescribed Xarelto as he would essentially be admitting to medical malpractice.

Plaintiffs’ Counsel:  So, Dr. Smith, would you still today, follow the same protocol when prescribing Xarelto and use an INR test to make sure the dose of Xarelto did not have the patient’s blood to thick (likely to clot) or too thin (likely to bleed).

Dr. Smith: Unlikely that Dr. Smith would say he would still do what the defendant now recommends he not do.

Plaintiffs’ Counsel:  Dr. Smith, just out of curiosity, do you think the words “No Routine Blood Testing Needed” mean the same thing as “The blood test routinely used don’t work”?

The same line of questioning could be used for doctors that treated a Xarelto bleed or clot.

The contention that any label change could render a product adequately warned for all circumstances and facts relevant to every possible client injury scenario is somewhat preposterous; however, we will address and rebut the defendant’s contentions more directly. Although the Xarelto warning label has been changed numerous times since 2016, we only need to review the label change made on 11/07/2018 (see below) to conclude that the label was not adequate in any clients case in which the referenced anticoagulation tests were used in the “dosing” of Xarelto or the treatment of any Xarelto related injury 11/07/2018.

 11/07/2018 Xarelto Label Change

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/022406s029lbl.pdf

 5.0 Warnings and Precautions

 5.2 Risk of Bleeding

Reversal of Anticoagulant Effect

Additions and/or revisions underlined:

… anticoagulant activity of rivaroxaban. Use of procoagulant reversal agents, such as prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC), activated prothrombin complex concentrate or recombinant factor VIIa, may be considered but has not been evaluated in clinical efficacy and safety studies. Monitoring for the anticoagulation effect of rivaroxaban using a clotting test (PT, INR or aPTT) or anti-factor Xa (FXa) activity is not recommended.

Mass Tort Nexus Comment: The highlighted language above was added to the Xarelto FDA (U.S) 0n 11/07/2018, indicating that the use of PT, INR, aPTT anti-factor Xa (FXa) is not recommended. A more accurate statement (warning) would be that these tests have no diagnostic value and should not be used when evaluating dosing for individual patients nor treating bleeds and other conditions related to Xarelto, while the patient has Xarelto in their system.

 We will first address the 11/07/2018 label change as it related to the defendants contentions that the Xarelto label “adequately warned”  of the risks associated with label changes made in 2015 and 2016 as well as the justification (or lack thereof) for any discounts to base settlement offers arising therefrom.

Mass Tort Nexus opinion is as follows:

  1. At minimum, no discount is justified in any case arising before 11/07/2018, in which any of the anticoagulation tests now “not recommended” for use, where used by the prescribing physician immediately before and or any time after prescribing Xarelto, for use by the specific client. The doctor nor the patient were adequately warned with regard to these tests providing any diagnostic value that could serve to mitigate the risks associated with the use of Xarelto.  Additionally, for any client that presented at a medical facility (prior to 11/07/2018), with a Xarelto related injury which resulted in the use of the tests in the process of treating that injury, the warning label was not sufficient to mitigate the risks associated with the use of tests which the defendant now recommends not be used.
  2.  Today the warning label remains inadequate and no discount based on a contention that the warning label was brought into adequacy at any point in the past, is warranted. Until the defendants make further changes to the label including, but not limited to, giving the “anticoagulation” test “warning” greater prominence on the label as well as changing the “not recommended” portion of the statement to reflect a more truthful representation, that is less likely to be overlooked or misunderstood by prescribing physicians. An adequate warning would include information as to why the tests are not recommended (they likely have no diagnostic value).
  3.  It would be difficult for the defendants to argue that the fact that the most commonly used anticoagulation tests “are not recommended” for use in dosing Xarelto or treating a Xarelto injury, would not likely have impacted some doctors decision to prescribe the drug had they been previously warned prior to 11/07/2018. In reality, given the lack of prominence of the 11/07/2018 label change and the fact that no additional educational efforts are being made by defendants (that we are aware of), to insure that doctors are now aware that these tests are “not recommended” and in fact, likely have no diagnostic value, it is probable that the 11/07/2018 warning has not significantly decreased the risk posed Xarelto users, related to this new “warning.

 Before addressing Texas 82.007 and Michigan 600.2946, it is important to point out that one of the most Signiant claims made by the makers of Xarelto, in their effort to establish their product as being superior to Warfarin was that “no routine blood testing (anticoagulation tests) was needed” for patients using Xarelto. Patients taking Warfarin and other VKA’s (Vitamin K Antagonists) do require routine monitoring to insure their anticoagulation levels remain in a therapeutic range.

The “No Routine Blood Testing Needed” claim of the makers of Xarelto, made to the FDA and the public appears to have been very misleading. Mass Tort Nexus has yet to determine how the makers of Xarelto concluded that No Routine Blood Testing was needed for patients taking Xarelto. The 101,743 adverse event reports filed with the FDA related to Xarelto since 2011, is one indicator that “Routine Blood Testing” is needed to insure Xarelto user’s safety. If no Routine Blood Testing was needed, then why have Xarelto patients experienced such a high volume of bleeding and clotting events? The FDA warning letter sent to the makers of Xarelto (provided at the end of this document), is highly relevant to this topic.

If Xarelto was so well designed that a doctor could just assume that patients would be maintained with a therapeutic range (not too thin and likely to bleed or too thick and likely to clot), then why has the FDA received Xarelto 101,753 adverse event reports since 2011, many involving bleeding or clotting that might have been prevented with “routine testing’?

 

Texas and Michigan Cases

To the best of our knowledge, the defendant has yet to raise a defense under Texas 82.007 and Michigan 600.2946 in any case, much less prevail in arguments arising under these laws.

Neither Texas 82.007 nor Michigan 600.294 provide an absolute defense for drug manufacturers. Both state’s laws have language which provide a plaintiff with means, by which to overcome the presumption that these laws provide immunity for a given defendant. We will refer to the language in both States laws as the “savings clause” in the remainder of this article. We will also address each law separately with regard to the burden plaintiffs would face, in overcoming a defense raised under either Texas 82.007 or Michigan 600.294.

First, We Will review the “savings clause” for both Texas 82.007 and Michigan 600.2946 available to plaintiffs to overcome the presumption of drug manufacturer immunity arising under the two laws. See the relevant savings clauses and links to the entire statutes below:

Texas   82.007

(2)(b)  The claimant may rebut the presumption in Subsection (a) as to each defendant by establishing that:

(1)  the defendant, before or after pre-market approval or licensing of the product, withheld from or misrepresented to the United States Food and Drug Administration required information that was material and relevant to the performance of the product and was causally related to the claimant’s injury;

(3)(A) the defendant recommended, promoted, or advertised the pharmaceutical product for an indication not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration;

(B)  the product was used as recommended, promoted, or advertised;  

Michigan 600.2946

(5) In a product liability action against a manufacturer or seller, a product that is a drug is not defective or unreasonably dangerous, and the manufacturer or seller is not liable, if the drug was approved for safety and efficacy by the United States food and drug administration, and the drug and its labeling were in compliance with the United States food and drug administration’s approval at the time the drug left the control of the manufacturer or seller. However, this subsection does not apply to a drug that is sold in the United States after the effective date of an order of the United States food and drug administration to remove the drug from the market or to withdraw its approval. This subsection does not apply if the defendant at any time before the event that allegedly caused the injury does any of the following:

(a) Intentionally withholds from or misrepresents to the United States food and drug administration information concerning the drug that is required to be submitted under the federal food, drug, and cosmetic act, chapter 675, 52 Stat. 1040, 21 U.S.C. 301 to 321, 331 to 343-2, 344 to 346a, 347, 348 to 353, 355 to 360, 360b to 376, and 378 to 395, and the drug would not have been approved, or the United States food and drug administration would have withdrawn approval for the drug if the information were accurately submitted

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(5z3q41uoys1lzoajegixoc5p))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-600-2946

As a preliminary point, if any discount was justified arising under Texas 82.007or Michigan 600.2946, it should be minimal in light of the fact that the defendant has neither raised a defense in any individual case (to the best of our knowledge), nor prevailed in such a defense. A small discount might be warranted to allow plaintiffs to avoid the cost of litigating any matter raised by defense in the unlikely event that the defendants are willing to incur the cost of litigating the matter themselves.

Secondly, if any discount arising under Texas 82.007 and Michigan 600.2946 was justified, cases arising under Texas 82.007 would warrant a less significant discount than those arising under Michigan 600.2946, for reasons we will address below.

It is worth noting that the defendants must affirmatively raise a defense under Texas 82.007 or Michigan 600.2946 and doing so may expose their clinical trials, communications with the FDA, (including warning letters related to their advertising, one of which we have included at the end of this document), to discovery and scrutiny they may wish to avoid. Mass Tort Nexus would be interested in any internal communications, as well as third party communications the defendants engaged in related to the death of Arnold Palmer (including communications with his family) as we have long held the opinion that Xarelto may have caused or contributed to the death of Xarelto’s most famous spokesperson.

Comment: Texas 82.007, does not require a showing that any information that may have been withheld or misrepresentation made to the FDA was “intentional.” Texas 82.007 does not require a plaintiff to plead nor show that the FDA would, and the drug would not have been approved, or the United States Food and Drug Administration would have withdrawn approval for the drug if the information were accurately submitted. Michigan 600.2946, does require plaintiffs to show and plead that any misrepresentations or withholding of information and the drug would not have been approved, or the United States food and drug administration would have withdrawn approval for the drug if the information were accurately submitted.

Michigan 600.2946 obviously places a far more significant burden on a plaintiff seeking to rebut the presumption of immunity than does Texas 82.007. Pleading that a drug would not have been approved, or the United States food and drug administration would have withdrawn approval for the drug if the information were accurately submitted, can be problematic in light of the SCOTUS decision Buckman v. Plaintiff Legal Committee: https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep531341/

The foregoing should not be interpreted as presenting an impossible burden for plaintiffs to overcome under Michigan 600.2946 as was shown in the Second Circuit decision in DESIANO v. WARNER-LAMBERT & CO. https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-2nd-circuit/1209786.html. Also see TAYLOR v. SMITHKLINE BEECHAM Michigan Supreme Court decision https://caselaw.findlaw.com/mi-supreme-court/1355001.html. These two well-reasoned rulings and opinions make it clear that 1. Plaintiffs can meet the requirements set forth in Michigan 600.2946 to overcome the presumption of immunity without running afoul of Buckman. 2. Plaintiffs can prevail in overcoming a defense raised under Michigan 600.2946 as they did in DESIANO.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the burden placed un plaintiffs under Michigan 600.2946 is still far greater than that placed on plaintiffs by Texas 82.007.  It appears that any defendant has a better chance of prevailing in raising a defense under Michigan 600.2946 than one raised under Texas 82.007 however, given the fact that Michigan has a population of 9,996,000,(3.05% percent of the U.S. population) while Texas has a population of 27,700,000 (8.45% percent of the U.S. population), would the defendants be willing to undertake the time and expense (and continued concern from the market) involved in raising a defense under Michigan 600.2946, which would not dispose of a significant number of cases, if they prevail given that there is no reason to believe that a disproportionate number of the total Xarelto cases on file arise under Michigan law. Additionally, would the defendant be likely to undertake the time and expense (and continued concern from the market) involved in raising a defense under Texas 82.007, with a far less likelihood of prevailing than in Michigan.

The plaintiff’s burden with overcoming a defense raised under Texas  82.007 is obviously less arduous that than the burden over overcoming a defense raised under Michigan 600.2946. Due to the foregoing, the defendant’s application of the same discount (if any is justified) to cases arising under Texas law to those arising under Michigan Law, is not justified.

 

Michigan and Texas Law and the 11/07/2018 Label Change

Texas 82.007 and Michigan 600.2946:

Texas 82.007: The defendants’ statements in the 11/07/2018 label change “not recommending” these tests are still arguably misleading given that the test apparently have no diagnostic value when a patient is taking Xarelto and more importantly represent important information previously withheld from the FDA and/or mispresenting to the FDA. A strict interpretation of C would not require a plaintiff to show that that the actions or inactions of the defendant were intentional. Arguably, the 11/07/2018 label change related to these tests could be rebut the presumption that the protection provided from Texas 82.007 is available to the defendant.

Michigan 600.2946: The same reasoning applied to the analysis of Texas  82.007 applies to Michigan 600.2946 in this matter with one exception, Michigan 600.2946 requires a showing that the defendants actions or inactions were intentional and a showing that the FDA would not have approved or would have withdrawn the approval for the product if not for the information withheld or misrepresentations made. MTN provides an analysis below aimed at showing what the defendants knew and when they knew it relevant to the warnings they neglected to add to their label until 11/07/2018.

Analysis

The following analysis is more relevant to Michigan 600.2946 than to Texas 82.007. There is a high degree of confidence that Plaintiffs would prevail in any defense raised under Texas 82.007.

In that overcoming a defense raised under Michigan 600.2946 requires a showing that the defendant intentionally made misrepresentations the FDA or intentionally withheld information from the FDA. Additionally, under Michigan 600.2946   plaintiffs must make a colorable argument that the FDA would not have approved the drug or would have later withdrawn approval, absent the misrepresentations or withheld information. The 11/07/2018 FDA label change related to anticoagulant testing would be an example of evidence plaintiffs might present to meet the requirements of Michigan 600.2946. In that Michigan’s law require plaintiffs show the offending actions or inactions of the defendant were intentional, demonstrating what the defendants knew (relevant to the referenced anticoagulation tests) and when they knew it would be important in overcoming a defense raised under Michigan 600.2946.

It should be noted that a defense raised under Michigan 600.2946 or Texas 82.007 exposes the defendant to broad discovery, through which plaintiffs would likely discover far more evidence to support their rebuttal arguments than can be discovered in the public domain.  For our instant purpose however, we will focus on determining when the defendant knew or should have known that the anticoagulation tests listed in the 11/07/2018 label change provide no diagnostic value for patients on Xarelto.

Mass Tort Nexus has conducted a review of the publicly available literature in order to establish what the defendant knew or should have know and when, related to anticoagulation testing with commonly used modalities and methods. We will not present a chronological listing (not exhaustive) of information in the public domain relevant to this topic.

 It should be noted that any information or data published in clinical literature must be developed over time (before it is reported). We can safely assume that any information reported in the medical literature in 2012 was known to the defendant at the time they sought the initial FDA approval for Xarelto, granted in July of 2011. If the defendants were to raise a defense under Michigan 600.2946 or Texas 82.007, plaintiffs would likely be allowed broad discovery which would reveal that the defendants possessed or should have possessed the information related to anticoagulation tests that they withheld from the FDA and prescribing physicians until 11/07/2018.

 No Exhaustive Review of the Literature

2012

The data below was taken from a presentation from Ohio Society of Pharmacist Association in 2012. Given the fact that the information below was reliant on clinical observations prior to the presentation of the below, it is likely that the defendant was aware of the issue related to INR testing, prior to seeking U.S. FDA approval (granted July 1, 2011)

Summary
• Dabigatran
– aPTT
• Appears to be a useful measure in hemorrhagic emergency
• Therapeutic ranges have not yet been established
– Ecarin clotting time
• Also useful in hemorrhagic emergency, but not widely available.
• Rivaroxaban and Apixaban
– Prothrombin time, but not INR
• Appears to be useful in hemorrhagic emergency
• Therapeutic ranges have not yet been established
– HepTest, PiCT, and chromagenic assay all appear to be
useful, but not commonly available

https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ohioshp.org/resource/resmgr/annualmeetinghandouts/effects_of_new_oral_anticoag.pdf

 May 2012

Rivaroxaban: Quantification by anti-FXa assay and influence on coagulation tests: a study in 9 Swiss laboratories.

RXA plasma levels can be quantified accurately and precisely by a chromogenic anti-FXa assay on different coagulometers in different laboratories. Ingestion of 10mg RXA results in significant alterations of both PT- and aPTT-based coagulation assays.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21840043?dopt=Abstract

July 2012 Rivaroxaban: A practical Guide

INR testing should be preformed just before the next intake of Rivaroxaban on the INR measurement

http://www.uclmontgodinne.be/files/RivaroxabanPracticalGuide06072012.pdf

Thrombosis Journal 2013

https://thrombosisjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-9560-11-11

Because rivaroxaban and other target-specific oral anticoagulants have different mechanisms of action from traditional anticoagulant agents, laboratory tests used for these traditional agents (such as PT/international normalized ratio [INR] or activated partial thromboplastin time) are not suitable for target-specific oral anticoagulants

Pub Med   May 2017

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28476405

Direct factor Xa inhibitors such as rivaroxaban or apixaban may prolong prothrombin time (PT) and elevate international normalized ratio (INR). However, these tests are not reliable for assessing the anticoagulation effects of these agents such as rivaroxaban or apixaban may prolong prothrombin time (PT) and elevate international normalized ratio (INR). However, these tests are not reliable for assessing the anticoagulation effects of these agents.

See the warning letter sent from the FDA to the makers of Xarelto. Mass Tort Nexus believes more warning letters like this one exist and will continue our efforts to discover all relevant FDA communications. This warning letter is highly relevant to the prior subject matter of this article.

(FDA Link to June 6, 2013 Warning Letter to Johnson & Johnson Re: Xarelto Label is Below)

NDA 202439 XARELTO (rivaroxaban) tablets   

June 6, 2013

Johnson & Johnson International, Inc.

 

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Food and Drug Administration

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Roxanne McGregor-Beck, Director

Johnson & Johnson International, Inc.

1000 Route 202 South

P.O. Box 300

Raritan, New Jersey 08869-0602

 

RE: NDA #202439

XARELTO (rivaroxaban) tablets

MA #215

Dear Ms. McGregor-Beck:

The Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed a direct-to-consumer (DTC) print advertisement (K02XS121040 AF) (Print Ad) for XARELTO (rivaroxaban) tablets (Xarelto) submitted by Johnson & Johnson International, Inc. (Johnson & Johnson) on behalf of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. under cover of Form FDA 2253 and observed during routine surveillance in the January/February 2013 issue of WebMD magazine. The Print Ad is false or misleading because it minimizes the risks associated with Xarelto and makes a misleading claim. Thus, the Print Ad misbrands Xarelto in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), 21 U.S.C. 352(n) and FDA implementing regulations. 21 CFR 202.1(e)(5)(i); (e)(7)(viii), (ix).

Background:

Below is the indication and summary of the most serious and most common risks associated with the use of Xarelto.1 According to its FDA-approved product labeling (PI), in pertinent part:

Xarelto is indicated to reduce the risk of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation.

There are limited data on the relative effectiveness of XARELTO and warfarin in reducing the risk of stroke and systemic embolism when warfarin therapy is well controlled.

 The PI for Xarelto contains Boxed Warnings regarding increased risk of stroke after discontinuation in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation and the risk of spinal/epidural

hematoma. The PI also contains Contraindications regarding active pathological bleeding and severe hypersensitivity reaction to Xarelto, as well as Warnings and Precautions regarding the risk of bleeding, use in patients with renal impairment and hepatic impairment, use with P-gp and strong CYP3A4 inhibitors or inducers, and risk of pregnancy related hemorrhage. The most common adverse reactions with Xarelto were bleeding complications.

Minimization of Risk Information

 Promotional materials are false or misleading if they fail to present risks associated with a drug with a prominence and readability reasonably comparable with the presentation of information relating to the benefits of the drug. Factors impacting prominence and readability include typography, layout, contrast, headlines, paragraphing, white space, and other techniques apt to achieve emphasis. The Print ad prominently presents various efficacy claims for Xarelto, such as, but not limited to, the following, that are presented in large, bolded and/or colorful text and graphics (emphasis original):

• “If you have atrial fibrillation (AFib)”

• “Ready to break your AFib routine?”

• “XARELTO® is the first and only once-a-day prescription blood thinner for patients with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, that is proven to reduce

the risk of stroke—without routine blood monitoring.”

• “…With XARELTO®, there’s no routine blood monitoring—so you have more time for yourself. There are no dietary restrictions, so you’re free to enjoy the healthy foods you love. And there are no dosage adjustments, which means you can manage your risk with just one pill a day, taken with your evening meal. Learn how XARELTO® can help simplify your AFib-related stroke risk treatment….”

In contrast, the risk information is presented on the preceding adjacent page without any of the emphasis (i.e. color scheme, borders, layout, and graphics) used with the efficacy claims. The result is a presentation which appears unconnected to the efficacy claims and is therefore not likely to draw readers’ attention. This overall presentation misleadingly  minimizes the risks associated with Xarelto because it fails to convey this important risk information with a prominence and readability reasonably comparable to the efficacy claims. We note that the Print Ad contains the statement, “Please see accompanying Medication Guide on the following pages” (emphasis original) at the bottom of the page, and that risk information is presented on an adjacent page, but this is not sufficient to mitigate the overall misleading presentation.

Misleading Claim

 The Print Ad includes the following claim (emphasis original):

• “And there are no dosage adjustments…”

The above claim misleadingly suggests that dosage adjustments are not necessary with Xarelto. However, according to the DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION section of the PI, the dose should be lowered to 15 mg once daily for patients with renal impairment who may have a CrCL of 15 to 50 mL/min. In addition, the WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS section of the PI states, “…Periodically assess renal function as clinically indicated…and adjust therapy accordingly….” Thus, patients with renal impairment may need to have their dosage adjusted while on Xarelto therapy.

Conclusion and Requested Action

For the reasons discussed above, the Print Ad misbrands Xarelto in violation of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. 352(n) and FDA implementing regulations. 21 CFR 202.1(e)(5)(i); (e)(7)(viii), (ix). OPDP requests that Johnson & Johnson immediately cease the dissemination of violative promotional materials for Xarelto such as those described above. Please submit a written response to this letter on or before June 20, 2013, stating whether you intend to comply with this request, listing all promotional materials (with the 2253 submission date) for Xarelto that contain violations such as those described above, and explaining your plan for discontinuing use of such violative materials.

Please direct your response to the undersigned at the Food and Drug Administration,

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, 5901-B Ammendale Road, Beltsville, Maryland 20705-1266 or by facsimile at (301) 847-8444. To ensure timely delivery of your submissions, please use the full address above and include a prominent directional notation (e.g. a sticker) to indicate that the submission is intended for OPDP. Please refer to MA# 215 in addition to the NDA number in all future correspondence relating to this particular matter. OPDP reminds you that only written communications are considered official. The violations discussed in this letter do not necessarily constitute an exhaustive list. It is your responsibility to ensure that your promotional materials for Xarelto comply with each applicable requirement of the FD&C Act and FDA implementing regulations.

Sincerely,

{See appended electronic signature page}

Zarna Patel, Pharm.D.

Regulatory Review Officer

Office of Prescription Drug Promotion

{See appended electronic signature page}

Amy Toscano, Pharm.D., RAC, CPA

Team Leader

Office of Prescription Drug Promotion

 

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FDA To McKesson – You Failed In Opioid Diversion Reporting: “FDA Cites Proof Of Failure To Report In-House Diversion”

McKesson Corp. Failed In Opioid Diversion Reporting: “By Failing To Report In-House Diversion”

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) In a very clear and direct statement, the FDA has issued a formal warning letter to McKesson Corp. where “failure to monitor and report” diversion of prescription opiates including when the diversion took place within McKesson’s in-house control. Examples of opiate deliveries to Rite-Aid pharmacies containing naproxen instead of opiates were delivered in broken-seal containers. Even after Rite-Aid reported the diversions on more than one occasion, there was a failure by McKesson to report the diversion to authorities as required by law, as well as failing to conduct a proper internal investigation.

A December 2018 congressional report on prescription pill dumping squarely placed the blame on U.S. prescription drug distributors and the Drug Enforcement Administration for not doing enough to help mitigate the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

The report released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee followed an 18-month investigation and focused on the three largest U.S. wholesale drug companies, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, and regional distributors outlines a pattern of total avoidance at the highest levels where opioid prescription reporting was required by law.

The report cited examples of massive pill shipments to West Virginia, which has a population of 1.8 million and has by far the nation’s highest death rate from prescription drugs. McKesson shipped an average of 9,650 hydrocodone pills per day in 2007 to a now-closed pharmacy in Kermit, which has a population of about 400. The shipments were 36 times above a monthly dosage shipment threshold the company had established that year. Why there was no reporting on the catastrophic numbers remains a matter to be resolved in litigation, because McKesson offers no realistic explanation for their bad conduct in failure to report as required by law.

The report cited  prior federal records that showed drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia from 2007 to 2012, a period when 1,728 people fatally overdosed on the painkillers. For instance, drug companies collectively poured 20.8 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills into the small city of Williamson, West Virginia, between 2006 and 2016, according to a set of letters the committee released Tuesday. Williamson’s population was just 3,191 in 2010, according to US Census data.  These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,” committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a joint statement to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The nation is currently grappling with an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that, on average, 115 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. West Virginia currently has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country. Hardest hit have been the regions of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucy where for some reason the opioid industry chose to focus their efforts, the how and why of their focus is being addressed in the federal and state courts across the country, with the primary cases being filed in the “Opiate Prescription Multidistrict Litigation MDL 2804” , being heard in the US District Court-Northern District of Ohio, in front of Judge Dan Polster, see Opiate Prescription MDL 2804 Briefcase.

It would now seem that McKesson will have to defend their failed diversion reporting conduct not only in the thousands of lawsuits they are facing, but in the renewed scrutiny that comes along with being outed as on eof the primary causes of the existing opioid crisis in America.

THE FULL FDA WARNING LETTER TO MCKESSON CORPORATION DATED FEBRUARY 7, 2019 IS BELOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Via SIGNATURE CONFIRMED DELIVERY
February 7, 2019

John H. Hammergren

Chief Executive Officer

McKesson Corporation

One Post Street

San Francisco, California 94104

 

Dear Mr. Hammergren:

From June 25 to July 3, 2018, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators conducted an inspection at your corporate headquarters located at One Post Street, San Francisco, California.  FDA investigators also inspected your distribution center facility at 9700 SW Commerce Circle, Wilsonville, Oregon, from June 26 to 29, 2018.

This warning letter summarizes significant violations of the verification requirements found in section 582(c)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) (21 U.S.C. 360eee(c)(4)). These verification requirements are intended to help preserve the security of the supply chain for prescription drug products, thereby protecting patients from exposure to drugs that may be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful.  The verification requirements at issue include those that apply to wholesale distributors when they determine or are notified that a product is suspect or illegitimate.[1]

FDA issued a Form FDA 483 to McKesson Corporation at its San Francisco corporate headquarters on July 3, 2018.  FDA reviewed your firm’s responses, dated July 25, 2018, September 25, 2018, and November 4, 2018.

During FDA’s inspection, FDA investigators observed that your firm failed to have systems in place to enable compliance with the verification requirements of section 582(c)(4) of the FD&C Act. Specific violations include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  1. Your firm failed to respond to illegitimate product notifications as required, which includes identifying all illegitimate product subject to such notifications in your possession or control and quarantining such product (section 582(c)(4)(B)(iii)).

      2. Your firm failed to quarantine and investigate suspect product (section 582(c)(4)(A)(i)).

      3. Your firm failed to keep, for not less than 6 years, records of the investigation of suspect product and the disposition of        illegitimate product (sections 582(c)(4)(A)(iii) and 582(c)(4)(B)(v)).

Failure to comply with any of the requirements under section 582 of the FD&C Act is a prohibited act under section 301(t) of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 331(t)).

Example 1: In September and October 2016, McKesson was notified by your pharmacy trading partner, Rite Aid, that three separate Rite Aid pharmacies received illegitimate product, which they reported had been distributed by McKesson. Initially, McKesson was notified by Rite Aid on September 1, 2016, that their pharmacy located in Milford, Michigan, received a bottle labeled as containing 100 tablets of oxycodone hydrochloride (NDC 0406-8530) manufactured by Mallinckrodt. The seal of the bottle was broken, and the bottle contained no oxycodone hydrochloride.  The bottle contained only 15 tablets, which were later determined to be naproxen.  Rite Aid reported to McKesson that it had received this product through a transaction with McKesson.  Mallinckrodt submitted an illegitimate product notification (via Form 3911) to FDA about this oxycodone hydrochloride, noting that “the tablets that were in the bottle were foreign tablets.”

Rite Aid’s pharmacy located in Waterford, Michigan, also received illegitimate product, which they reported had been distributed by McKesson.  The pharmacy received one bottle, also labeled as containing 100 tablets of oxycodone hydrochloride, which had a broken seal and did not contain oxycodone hydrochloride.  The bottle’s contents were also replaced with 15 tablets of naproxen.  Rite Aid reported to McKesson that it had received this product through a transaction with McKesson. On September 15, 2016, Rite Aid alerted McKesson by email about this discovery of product with missing tablets.  Mallinckrodt submitted an illegitimate product notification to FDA (via Form 3911) about the oxycodone hydrochloride, noting that the Rite Aid pharmacy in Waterford “reported that upon opening a bottle of Mallinckrodt Oxycodone 30mg the seal was broken and 100 tablets of Oxycodone 30mg were missing.  Fifteen tablets of generic Aleve ([n]aproxen sodium 220mg tablets) manufactured by Amneal Pharmaceuticals were inside the bottle.”

On October 6, 2016, Rite Aid’s pharmacy located in Warren, Michigan, also received illegitimate product, which they reported had been distributed by McKesson.  The pharmacy had ordered five bottles of oxycodone hydrochloride.  In three of the bottles they received, all the oxycodone hydrochloride had been removed.  These three bottles contained various combinations of naproxen and ciprofloxacin hydrochloride.  Mallinckrodt submitted an illegitimate product notification (via Form 3911) to FDA about these products, noting that “three bottles were missing all 100 tablets of [o]xycodone [h]ydrochloride 30mg tabs and contained foreign tablets.”

Your firm’s investigation of these three incidents of illegitimate product determined that, because of the lack of evidence of tampering with these packages and the proximity of these three Rite Aid pharmacies, it was likely that the oxycodone hydrochloride was replaced with other product while the packages were in the possession or control of McKesson.

These instances illustrate your firm’s failure to have systems in place to enable compliance with the requirements of section 582(c)(4) of the FD&C Act. After receiving illegitimate product notifications from Rite Aid, your firm was required to respond by identifying all illegitimate product subject to such notification that was in its possession or control, including any product that was subsequently received (section 582(c)(4)(B)(iii)). McKesson was then required to quarantine such product within its possession or control from product intended for distribution until such product was dispositioned (section 582(c)(4)(B)(i)(I)), dispose of any illegitimate product within its possession or control (section 582(c)(4)(B)(i)(II)), take reasonable and appropriate steps to assist trading partners to dispose of illegitimate product not in the possession of McKesson (section 582(c)(4)(B)(i)(III)), and notify within 24 hours FDA and all immediate trading partners that may have received such illegitimate product (section 582(c)(4)(B)(ii)). Your firm was also required to keep, for not less than 6 years, records of the disposition of illegitimate product (sections 582(c)(4)(B)(v)).

Although your firm conducted an investigation related to these bottles of oxycodone hydrochloride, your firm was unable to demonstrate that you met key obligations under section 582(c)(4). For example, you did not demonstrate that you identified all illegitimate product subject to the notification, such as by searching for product with the same lot number or NDC, or that you quarantined any such product. Similarly, your firm failed to demonstrate that you notified your immediate trading partners who may have received product with the same lot number or NDC. This is particularly troubling because your firm’s investigation noted that the oxycodone hydrochloride was likely replaced with different product at a McKesson distribution center. Also troubling is that during the FDA inspection of your firm’s San Francisco headquarters, a McKesson representative stated that incidents involving stolen or diverted controlled substances are not treated as Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) verification events within the firm. In fact, DSCSA explicitly defines illegitimate product to include “a product for which credible evidence shows that the product is counterfeit, diverted, or stolen.”[2] Finally, your firm provided no records to demonstrate the disposition of these illegitimate products.

Corrective Actions

FDA has reviewed your firm’s responses to the Form FDA 483 and subsequent correspondence.

  1. Your firm’s response to the Form FDA 483 states that while you investigated “incidents related to potential diversion and theft issues … the incidents were not necessarily related to suspect or illegitimate products.”  This response parallels your representative’s statement to FDA investigators at your San Francisco headquarters that incidents involving stolen or diverted controlled substances are not treated as DSCSA verification events within the firm.  These statements demonstrate a lack of understanding of the definitions of suspect and illegitimate products, and of your firm’s responsibilities when notified of an illegitimate product by a trading partner.  All prescription drug products in finished dosage form for administration to a patient[4]– including those containing controlled substances – are subject to DSCSA verification requirements in section 582(c)(4). Moreover, the statute defines illegitimate product to include “a product for which credible evidence shows that the product is counterfeit, diverted, or stolen.”[5] Under the law, your firm must treat incidents involving suspect and illegitimate products as subject to DSCSA requirements, including products that are controlled substances.
  2. Your firm’s response to the Form FDA 483 cannot be evaluated because it lacks sufficient supporting documentation.  Your response states that McKesson plans to make procedural updates to its standard operating procedures, without describing what these updates are or providing new standard operating procedure documents for review.  FDA does not have enough information to conclude that future investigations of suspect or illegitimate product by McKesson will be conducted in a manner compliant with DSCSA.  Your firm’s response dated November 4, 2018, contains similar information as your previous response; namely regarding updates you have made to various policy documents.  Again, however, your firm provided no supporting documentation for review.
  3. Although your November 4, 2018, response to FDA states that you intend to form a “Product Safety Committee that will be responsible for coordination of all actions related to suspect or illegitimate product,” your firm provided no information about the composition of this committee or the procedures under which the committee will function.  As a result, your response does not demonstrate how the proposed change will improve McKesson’s compliance with DSCSA verification requirements.

 Conclusion

The violations cited in this letter are not intended to be an all-inclusive statement of violations at your facilities. You are responsible for investigating and determining the causes of the violations identified above, and for preventing their recurrence or the occurrence of other violations. It is your responsibility to ensure that your firm complies with all requirements of federal law.

Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in legal action without further notice, including injunction. Unresolved violations in this warning letter may also prevent other federal agencies from awarding contracts.

Within fifteen (15) working days of your receipt of this letter, please notify this office in writing of the specific steps that you have taken to (1) correct the violations identified in this warning letter, and (2) identify and conduct appropriate investigations and follow-up related to other reports of suspect or illegitimate product that you have identified or received. Please include an explanation of each step being taken to prevent the recurrence of violations and include copies of related documentation. In addition, provide the steps your firm has taken to prevent incidents of theft and diversion. If you disagree with the characterization of the violations of the FD&C Act in this warning letter, include your reasoning and any supporting infom,ation for our consideration. If you cannot complete corrective actions within fifteen (15) working days, state the reason for the delay and the time within which you will complete the corrections.
Please send your electronic reply to ORAPHARM4_Responses@FDA.HHS.GOV or mail your reply to:
CDR Steven E. Porter, Jr.
Director, Division of Pharmaceutical Quality Operations IV
U.S. Food & Drug Administration
19701 Fairchild Rd.
Irvine, California 92612-2506
Sincerely,

Alonza Cruse

Director

Office of Pharmaceutical Quality Operations

Office of Regulatory Affairs

 

 

 

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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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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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Why Does the FDA Ignore “Off-Label” Drug Marketing?

“BY REMOVING FDA OVERSIGHT BIG PHARMA RUNS AMOK”

By Mark A. York (August 1, 2018)

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA)  In 2017 and continuing into 2018, Big Pharma has been fighting major legal battles related to off-label marketing of drugs for unintended uses. They also engaged in a parallel strategy, where they were influencing the FDA and other policy making agencies behind the scenes in Washington DC. Big Pharma was paying millions to lobbyists, making campaign donations and generally buying influence as they always have. It was a foregone conclusion that with the Trump administration view of , “no regulatory oversight required” that there would be some loosening of the FDA regulatory shackles.

Big Pharma was getting ready for freedom to sell, sell, sell their drugs in any way they could, including off-label marketing of the drugs for unintended use purposes. A corporate policy, that’s technically illegal, yet results in billions of dollars in profits every years for Big Pharma. Then the FDA rolled out an unexpected new proposed rule, in March 2017 cracking down on “off-label’ marketing of drugs. This new rule change wasn’t in Big Pharma’s bests interests, sending the drug industry into a furious lobbying scramble. Bring in the Trump camp and on January 12, 2018 Big Pharma and the army of lobbyists and elected officials that were recruited, seem to have succeeded in stopping the FDA rules change that would have tightened up “off label” marketing of drugs.

Trump stops FDA enforcement rule change: January 12, 2018 Food and Drug Administration Press Release: FDA Delays Change to “Off-Label” Drug Use Enforcement Rules

This seems to be further evidence of the Trump administration permitting private corporations to control what goes on behind the scenes in federal regulatory agencies these days. The same loosening of enforcement rules has been seen in the EPA as well as in Dept. of Energy oversight enforcement authority. Whatever else you might think about the ramped up Trump vs. Obama administration mindset, this rule delay is an example of the new FDA leadership doing what is in the best interests of those they are supposed to be regulating, the drug makers, and not in the interests of the US consumers.

To put this into perspective, consider the current “Opioid Crisis” gripping the entire country, where “off-label” marketing of opiates for the last 20 years by drug makers, has resulted in thousands of deaths each year, unknown financial losses and the related social impact felt in every state across the country. Another result is the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804, (see OPIOID CRISIS BRIEFCASE: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) where litigation started when hundreds of counties, states and cities and other entities impacted by the catastrophic expense related to combatting the opiate healthcare crisis fought back. The various parties have filed lawsuits against opioid drug makers and distributors, demanding repayment of the billions of dollars spent on addressing the massive costs related to opioid abuse, primarily due to opioid based prescription drugs flooding the country.

When the Obama administration ended on January 9, 2017, the FDA issued a Final Rule on “Clarification of When Products Made or Derived from Tobacco are Regulated as Drugs, Devices, or Combination Products; Amendments to Regulations Regarding ‘Intended Uses.’” That “clarification” was meant to enable additional enforcement and control over drug makers rampant “off -label” marketing of drugs for purposes that were never FDA approved. This was an attempt by the FDA to have the ability to punish off-label promotions, where previously the process was a two-step regulatory review, whereby off-label promotions are said to prove an indicated use not included in the label and, thus, not accompanied by adequate directions for use – making the product misbranded. These regulations have been around since the 1950s, but a recent series of court decisions invoking the First Amendment called into question the FDA’s interpretation of “intended use” and its efforts to shut down truthful medical-science communications about potential benefits from off-label use.

In a 2015 proposed rule, the FDA referred to striking the language from regulations permitting the FDA to consider a manufacturer’s mere knowledge of actual use as evidence of intended use, which would have further enabled Big Pharma drug marketing abuses to go unchecked. But then, the FDA’s January 9, 2017 proposal reversed course, stating that retained knowledge of off-label use as evidence of intended use, clarified that any relevant source of evidence, whether circumstantial or direct could demonstrate intended use, and ultimately invoked the dreaded “totality of the evidence” standard. This would have enable the FDA to begin oversight and enforcement of practices such as the blatant and wide open “off-label” marketing of opioid prescription drugs that started in the mid-1990’s and never stopped.

Instead of putting a check on Big Pharma abuses, we have the Trump administration placing a hold on new regulations, and delaying the “intended use” regulation change to March 19, 2018, so that comments could be received and considered, and thereby enabling the Big Pharma “lobby machine” to become fully engaged across all DC circles, ensuring that the FDA changes are effectively put to rest.

The bottom line is that the FDA is now proposing to “delay until further notice” the portions of the final rule amending the FDA’s existing regulations on “off-label” drug use, when describing the types of evidence that may be considered in determining a medical product’s intended uses.  The FDA will receive comments on this proposal through February 5, 2018.

Here is the official FDA publication of January 16, 2018:

The Federal Register:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/16/2018-00555/clarification-of-when-products-made-or-derived-from-tobacco-are-regulated-as-drugs-devices-or

WHAT IS “OFF-LABEL” MARKETING?

Global health care giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiaries will pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from allegations relating to the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor, including promotion for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and payment of kickbacks to physicians and to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy provider.  The global resolution is one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, including criminal fines and forfeiture totaling $485 million and civil settlements with the federal government and states totaling $1.72 billion.

“The conduct at issue in this case jeopardized the health and safety of patients and damaged the public trust,” stated Eric Holder, then US Attorney General, “This multibillion-dollar resolution demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to preventing and combating all forms of health care fraud.  And it proves our determination to hold accountable any corporation that breaks the law and enriches its bottom line at the expense of the American people” he added.

The resolution includes criminal fines and forfeiture for violations of the law and civil settlements based on the False Claims Act arising out of multiple investigations of the company and its subsidiaries.

“When companies put profit over patients’ health and misuse taxpayer dollars, we demand accountability,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “In addition to significant monetary sanctions, we will ensure that non-monetary measures are in place to facilitate change in corporate behavior and help ensure the playing field is level for all market participants.”

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring, among other things, that drugs intended for use in humans are safe and effective for their intended uses and that the labeling of such drugs bear true, complete and accurate information.  Under the FDCA, a pharmaceutical company must specify the intended uses of a drug in its new drug application to the FDA.  Before approval, the FDA must determine that the drug is safe and effective for those specified uses.  Once the drug is approved, if the company intends a different use and then introduces the drug into interstate commerce for that new, unapproved use, the drug becomes misbranded.  The unapproved use is also known as an “off-label” use because it is not included in the drug’s FDA-approved labeling.

“When pharmaceutical companies interfere with the FDA’s mission of ensuring that drugs are safe and effective for the American public, they undermine the doctor-patient relationship and put the health and safety of patients at risk,” said Director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations John Roth.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates the government’s continued focus on pharmaceutical companies that put profits ahead of the public’s health.  The FDA will continue to devote resources to criminal investigations targeting pharmaceutical companies that disregard the drug approval process and recklessly promote drugs for uses that have not been proven to be safe and effective.”

 J&J RISPERDAL MARKETING ABUSE

In a related civil complaint filed today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States alleges that Janssen marketed Risperdal to control the behaviors and conduct of the nation’s most vulnerable patients: elderly nursing home residents, children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The government alleges that J&J and Janssen caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs by promoting Risperdal for off-label uses that federal health care programs did not cover, making false and misleading statements about the safety and efficacy of Risperdal and paying kickbacks to physicians to prescribe Risperdal.

“J&J’s promotion of Risperdal for unapproved uses threatened the most vulnerable populations of our society – children, the elderly and those with developmental disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane Memeger.  “This historic settlement sends the message that drug manufacturers who place profits over patient care will face severe criminal and civil penalties.”

In its complaint, the government alleges that the FDA repeatedly advised Janssen that marketing Risperdal as safe and effective for the elderly would be “misleading.”  The FDA cautioned Janssen that behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients were not necessarily manifestations of psychotic disorders and might even be “appropriate responses to the deplorable conditions under which some demented patients are housed, thus raising an ethical question regarding the use of an antipsychotic medication for inappropriate behavioral control.”

The complaint further alleges that J&J and Janssen were aware that Risperdal posed serious health risks for the elderly, including an increased risk of strokes, but that the companies downplayed these risks.  For example, when a J&J study of Risperdal showed a significant risk of strokes and other adverse events in elderly dementia patients, the complaint alleges that Janssen combined the study data with other studies to make it appear that there was a lower overall risk of adverse events.  A year after J&J had received the results of a second study confirming the increased safety risk for elderly patients taking Risperdal, but had not published the data, one physician who worked on the study cautioned Janssen that “[a]t this point, so long after [the study] has been completed … we must be concerned that this gives the strong appearance that Janssen is purposely withholding the findings.”

The complaint also alleges that Janssen knew that patients taking Risperdal had an increased risk of developing diabetes, but nonetheless promoted Risperdal as “uncompromised by safety concerns (does not cause diabetes).”  When Janssen received the initial results of studies indicating that Risperdal posed the same diabetes risk as other antipsychotics, the complaint alleges that the company retained outside consultants to re-analyze the study results and ultimately published articles stating that Risperdal was actually associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.

The complaint alleges that, despite the FDA warnings and increased health risks, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen aggressively marketed Risperdal to control behavioral disturbances in dementia patients through an “ElderCare sales force” designed to target nursing homes and doctors who treated the elderly.  In business plans, Janssen’s goal was to “[m]aximize and grow RISPERDAL’s market leadership in geriatrics and long term care.”  The company touted Risperdal as having “proven efficacy” and “an excellent safety and tolerability profile” in geriatric patients.

In addition to promoting Risperdal for elderly dementia patients, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen allegedly promoted the antipsychotic drug for use in children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The complaint alleges that J&J and Janssen knew that Risperdal posed certain health risks to children, including the risk of elevated levels of prolactin, a hormone that can stimulate breast development and milk production.  Nonetheless, one of Janssen’s Key Base Business Goals was to grow and protect the drug’s market share with child/adolescent patients.  Janssen instructed its sales representatives to call on child psychiatrists, as well as mental health facilities that primarily treated children, and to market Risperdal as safe and effective for symptoms of various childhood disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism.  Until late 2006, Risperdal was not approved for use in children for any purpose, and the FDA repeatedly warned the company against promoting it for use in children.

The government’s complaint also contains allegations that Janssen paid speaker fees to doctors to influence them to write prescriptions for Risperdal.  Sales representatives allegedly told these doctors that if they wanted to receive payments for speaking, they needed to increase their Risperdal prescriptions.

In addition to allegations relating to Risperdal, today’s settlement also resolves allegations relating to Invega, a newer antipsychotic drug also sold by Janssen.  Although Invega was approved only for the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, the government alleges that, from 2006 through 2009, J&J and Janssen marketed the drug for off-label indications and made false and misleading statements about its safety and efficacy.

As part of the global resolution, J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay a total of $1.391 billion to resolve the false claims allegedly resulting from their off-label marketing and kickbacks for Risperdal and Invega.  This total includes $1.273 billion to be paid as part of the resolution announced today, as well as $118 million that J&J and Janssen paid to the state of Texas in March 2012 to resolve similar allegations relating to Risperdal.  Because Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, J&J’s conduct caused losses to both the federal and state governments.  The additional payment made by J&J as part of today’s settlement will be shared between the federal and state governments, with the federal government recovering $749 million, and the states recovering $524 million.  The federal government and Texas each received $59 million from the Texas settlement.

NURSING HOME PATIENT ABUSES BY J&J

The civil settlement also resolves allegations that, in furtherance of their efforts to target elderly dementia patients in nursing homes, J&J and Janssen paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc., the nation’s largest pharmacy specializing in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients.  In a complaint filed in the District of Massachusetts in January 2010, the United States alleged that J&J paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare under the guise of market share rebate payments, data-purchase agreements, “grants” and “educational funding.”  These kickbacks were intended to induce Omnicare and its hundreds of consultant pharmacists to engage in “active intervention programs” to promote the use of Risperdal and other J&J drugs in nursing homes.  Omnicare’s consultant pharmacists regularly reviewed nursing home patients’ medical charts and made recommendations to physicians on what drugs should be prescribed for those patients.  Although consultant pharmacists purported to provide “independent” recommendations based on their clinical judgment, J&J viewed the pharmacists as an “extension of [J&J’s] sales force.”

J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay $149 million to resolve the government’s contention that these kickbacks caused Omnicare to submit false claims to federal health care programs.  The federal share of this settlement is $132 million, and the five participating states’ total share is $17 million.  In 2009, Omnicare paid $98 million to resolve its civil liability for claims that it accepted kickbacks from J&J and Janssen, along with certain other conduct.

“Consultant pharmacists can play an important role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.  “This settlement is a reminder that the recommendations of consultant pharmacists should be based on their independent clinical judgment and should not be the product of money paid by drug companies.”

OFF-LABEL USE OF HEART DRUG NATRECOR

The civil settlement announced today also resolves allegations that J&J and another of its subsidiaries, Scios Inc., caused false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for the heart failure drug Natrecor.  In August 2001, the FDA approved Natrecor to treat patients with acutely decompensated congestive heart failure who have shortness of breath at rest or with minimal activity.  This approval was based on a study involving hospitalized patients experiencing severe heart failure who received infusions of Natrecor over an average 36-hour period.

In a civil complaint filed in 2009 in the Northern District of California, the government alleged that, shortly after Natrecor was approved, Scios launched an aggressive campaign to market the drug for scheduled, serial outpatient infusions for patients with less severe heart failure – a use not included in the FDA-approved label and not covered by federal health care programs.  These infusions generally involved visits to an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office for four- to six-hour infusions one or two times per week for several weeks or months.

The government’s complaint alleged that Scios had no sound scientific evidence supporting the medical necessity of these outpatient infusions and misleadingly used a small pilot study to encourage the serial outpatient use of the drug.  Among other things, Scios sponsored an extensive speaker program through which doctors were paid to tout the purported benefits of serial outpatient use of Natrecor.  Scios also urged doctors and hospitals to set up outpatient clinics specifically to administer the serial outpatient infusions, in some cases providing funds to defray the costs of setting up the clinics, and supplied providers with extensive resources and support for billing Medicare for the outpatient infusions.

As part of today’s resolution, J&J and Scios have agreed to pay the federal government $184 million to resolve their civil liability for the alleged false claims to federal health care programs resulting from their off-label marketing of Natrecor.  In October 2011, Scios pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor FDCA violation and paid a criminal fine of $85 million for introducing Natrecor into interstate commerce for an off-label use.

“This case is an example of a drug company encouraging doctors to use a drug in a way that was unsupported by valid scientific evidence,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Brian Stretch.  “We are committed to ensuring that federal health care programs do not pay for such inappropriate uses, and that pharmaceutical companies market their drugs only for uses that have been proven safe and effective.”

Non-Monetary Provisions of the Global Resolution and Corporate Integrity Agreement

In addition to the criminal and civil resolutions, J&J executed a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  The CIA includes provisions requiring J&J to implement major changes to the way its pharmaceutical affiliates do business.  Among other things, the CIA requires J&J to change its executive compensation program to permit the company to recoup annual bonuses and other long-term incentives from covered executives if they, or their subordinates, engage in significant misconduct.  J&J may recoup monies from executives who are current employees and from those who have left the company.  The CIA also requires J&J’s pharmaceutical businesses to implement and maintain transparency regarding their research practices, publication policies and payments to physicians.  On an annual basis, management employees, including senior executives and certain members of J&J’s independent board of directors, must certify compliance with provisions of the CIA.  J&J must submit detailed annual reports to HHS-OIG about its compliance program and its business operations.

“OIG will work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for marketing and promotion that violate laws intended to protect the public,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson.  “Our compliance agreement with Johnson & Johnson increases individual accountability for board members, sales representatives, company executives and management.  The agreement also contains strong monitoring and reporting provisions to help ensure that the public is protected from future unlawful and potentially harmful off-label marketing.”

FEDERAL AND STATE JOINT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

This resolution marks the culmination of an extensive, coordinated investigation by federal and state law enforcement partners that is the hallmark of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which fosters government collaborations to fight fraud.  Announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HEAT initiative has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.

The criminal cases against Janssen and Scios were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Northern District of California and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.  The civil settlements were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of California and the District of Massachusetts and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch.  Assistance was provided by the HHS Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, Office of the General Counsel-CMS Division, the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

This matter was investigated by HHS-OIG, the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, TRICARE Program Integrity, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

One of the most powerful tools in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $16.7 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $11.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The department enforces the FDCA by prosecuting those who illegally distribute unapproved, misbranded and adulterated drugs and medical devices in violation of the Act.  Since 2009, fines, penalties and forfeitures that have been imposed in connection with such FDCA violations have totaled more than $6 billion.

The civil settlements described above resolve multiple lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  From the federal government’s share of the civil settlements announced today, the whistleblowers in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will receive $112 million, the whistleblowers in the District of Massachusetts will receive $27.7 million and the whistleblower in the Northern District of California will receive $28 million.  Except to the extent that J&J subsidiaries have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to the criminal charges discussed above, the claims settled by the civil settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability

With the Trump Administration still claiming that no regulatory oversight is needed to monitor the US drug industry, that they can self-regulate, it appears that there will be no letup in the rampant “off-label: and unintended use marketing of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.  The one way that Big Pharma is held accountable is in the courtroom, although financial damages and penalties against the drug companies amounting to billions of dollars each year being awarded by juries, wont change FDA policy, it does provide a small amount of official recognition that there are ongoing abuses by the pharmaceutical industry in the USA.

 

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New York And Other State Court Opioid Litigation Moves Forward Along With Federal Opiate Rx MDL 2804

“LAWSUIT FLOOD VERSUS ENTIRE OPIOID INDUSTRY IS GETTING BIG PHARMA’S ATTENTION”

By Mark A. York (June 11, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opioid litigation in New York and other state courts, where hundreds of counties and cities have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors,  are now moving forward even with the explosion in the Federal Opiate Litigation MDL 2804 OPIOID-CRISIS-BRIEFCASE -MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION, where more than 500 states, counties, cities as well as unions, hospitals and individuals have filed lawsuits against the opioid industry as a whole.

At one point, the opiate industry attempted to raise arguments stating that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet determined whether narcotic painkillers are unnecessarily dangerous – a central question in any litigation, which was quickly denied and seems to show that Opiate Big Pharma is once again attempting to hide behind the FDA shield.

In a two-page order issued in March by Judge Jerry Garguilo of the Suffolk County Supreme Court, New York where he ruled that there is “no compelling reason to impose a stay of proceedings” until the FDA completes its own review of the benefits and risks of opioids. The lawsuits by most of the counties in New York, which have been consolidated in Garguilo’s court, are “backward-looking” toward allegedly fraudulent marketing materials and tactics the drug companies used to convince doctors and patients their products had low risk of addiction.

In another state court, the first of many opioid litigation trials to be scheduled is now set in Oklahoma, where Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman set May 28, 2019 for the start of the trial. ate has been set for a lawsuit by a state against pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic, according to Oklahoma‘s attorney general. See Original Complaint – State of Oklahoma vs. Purdue Pharma et al, June 30, 2017 (Cleveland County, OK District Court)

Oklahoma, one of at least 20 states besides New York that have opioid lawsuit dockets against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017, and seeks unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

The New York state court lawsuits are joined by another somewhat unique group of plaintiffs in the legal battle over the opioid-epidemic with class actions filed by consumers who claim they’re seeing skyrocketing health insurance costs as a result of the crisis.

The suits, filed in New York and four other states, were brought by individual persons against opioid manufacturers and distributors, and are among the few class actions filed against drug makers and marketers. The vast majority of cases have been separate actions brought by government entities like cities and counties.

The plaintiffs in this new wave of cases have filed across the country in federal courts in  USDC SD New York (Complaint) , a New Jersey Complaint,  a Massachusetts Complaint, an Illinois Complaint as well as a California Complaint  where they’ve filed lawsuits on behalf of those who paid increased health insurance costs–including higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments–because of effects attributable to the opioid epidemic.

The proposed classes include businesses and individuals who paid for health insurance as part of employer-sponsored plans.

“We don’t know anyone who in the litigation is addressing the private sector harms to consumers and businesses from increased premiums and other insurance costs that flow to anyone in the health insurance market as a result of the fact that insurers are paying more for addictions,” said Travis Lenkner, one of the plaintiffs attorneys filing the cases.

The opioid cases add a new type of plaintiff into the wide-reaching opioid litigation, which have also includes states, Native American tribes, pension funds and hospitals.

John Parker, senior vice president of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, speaking on behalf of distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., all named as defendants, called the opioid epidemic a “complex public health challenge.”

“Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated,” he said in a statement. “Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”

Purdue Pharma spokesman Bob Josephson noted that his company’s products account for less than 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals defended the labels on its prescription opioids and called the allegations “baseless and unsubstantiated.”

Representatives of the other manufacturing defendants, which include Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Insys Therapeutics Inc., did not respond to requests for comment.

It is now fairly common knowledge in the legal world that there is more than enough data that links increased health insurance costs to the opioid epidemic as well as the overall catastrophic impact of the flood of opioids into the America marketplace.

The suits cite statistics. In California, for instance, health insurance premiums for family coverage increased 233.5 percent from 2002 to 2016. Monthly premiums for the plaintiff in that case, Jordan Chu, jumped from $160.52 in 2016 to $240.76 this year. New Jersey residents with private health insurance spent $5,081 in insurance premiums in 2014, up from $2,454 in 2001. And an average family plan in New York with annual costs of $9,439 in 2003 had jumped to $19,375 in 2016.

Plaintiff counsel stated that they will be filing suits in more states and fight any attempts to transfer these cases to the Northern District of Ohio, where U.S. District Judge Dan Polster is overseeing the opioid multidistrict litigation, MDL 2804, even though the cases were filed in federal courts. A damaging discovery win for the plaintiffs was the order of May 18, 2018, see DEA ARCOS Database Access Order May 8, 2018 MDL 2804, where Judge Polster ordered the DEA to turn over distribution data for all 50 states based on the revelations in a prior DEA related order where the Opioid Drug distribution data provided very solid information on all the parties involved in creating the opioid crisis over the last 15 years.

The New York court docket parallels the federal and many other opioid based complaints, filed in state courts across the country where parties have decided to pursue their claims in their state courts versus the federal docket. These filings in both state and federal courts, will only increases the pressure on manufacturers and wholesalers to either win dismissal of these cases or prepare for an accelerated trial schedule.

There are currently more than 500 of the nation’s 3,200 counties have sued and plaintiff lawyers hope to soon get that number to 1,500, which some lawyers consider critical mass for a settlement.

The defendant companies argue they can’t be held liable for selling a legal product sold only with a doctor’s prescription whose distribution was controlled and overseen, from manufacturing to retail sales, by federal and state regulators.

The plaintiffs argue manufacturers used a variety of tactics, including misleading marketing materials and highly paid physician-influencers, to convince prescribing physicians their products were safe for treating chronic pain when, in fact, they were highly addictive.

In the March order, Judge Garguilo rejected the defendants’ claim that the FDA has exclusive authority to determine whether, in effect, opioids should be sold for anything other than relieving the pain of terminal illness. Regardless of what the FDA determines, the judge said, the municipal plaintiffs have the right to seek redress for their costs associated with addiction.

“Because the focus of this lawsuit is on the state of scientific knowledge that existed when the defendants made their marketing claims, there is no risk of inconsistent rulings, and none of the current studies will have any bearing on whether the defendants’ representations were misleading when made,” the judge wrote. The court isn’t being asked to decide the risks and benefits of opioids but whether the defendants misrepresented those risks and benefits, he added.

In case the defendants didn’t grasp the judge’s ultimate goal, the judge restated his “previously expressed desire” for a “prompt resolution of this matter.” The federal judge overseeing multidistrict litigation in Ohio, Judge Dan Aaron Polster, has similarly urged defendants to engage in settlement talks, although a global resolution of the litigation could prove difficult to negotiate.

In addition to hundreds of cases consolidated in federal court, the defendants face a wave of litigation in state court, like the New York cases, as well as lawsuits and investigations by 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 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.

For those looking to tap into the opioid litigation or learn what the current status is in both state and federal court opioid litigation, please visit www.opioidcrisissummit.com where Mass Tort Nexus is hosting national political leaders and lead opiate counsel who are active in the day to day opioid crisis and have the most up to date case information during the two day event taking place July 21-22, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale.

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More States Are Now Filing Lawsuits Against Big Pharma’s Opioid Rx Cash Cow Industry

Florida, Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee Join Opioid Litigation

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Mass Tort Nexus Media) Litigation against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and the rest of the Opioid Big Pharma industry just jumped significantly, as six more states have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, et al. The ongoing allegations against the opioid pharmaceutical industry as a whole, where numerous governmental entities from across the country have asserted that the opiate makers have fueled a national opioid crisis. This is primarily based on corporate boardroom designed deceptive opioid marketing campaigns, designed to sell prescription opioids, and minimize the previously well-known medical risks, including addiction and overdose, while generating billions of dollars in sales.

For up to date information on the Opioid Litigation across the country see, OPIOID-CRISIS-BRIEFCASE-INCLUDING-MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION (https://www.masstortnexus.com/Briefcases/Drugs/254/)

Prescription and illegal opioids account for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths in the United States, a toll that has quadrupled over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Drug overdose deaths in 2015 far outnumbered deaths from auto accidents or guns.

Texas saw 1,186 opioid-related deaths in 2015, while the nation as a whole had 33,000 such deaths that year. Researchers have flagged opioids as one possible factor in Texas’ staggering rise in women’s deaths during and shortly after pregnancy.

State attorneys general of Nevada, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee assert that Purdue Pharma violated state consumer protection laws by falsely denying or downplaying the addiction risk while overstating the benefits of opioids. The lawsuits also names pharmaceutical manufacturers Endo Pharmaceuticals, Allergan, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Mallinckrodt, as well as drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation.

“It’s time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction they’ve caused,” Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi told a press conference.

Medical professionals say a shift in the 1990s to “institutionalize” pain management opened the doors for pharmaceutical companies to encourage doctors to massively increase painkiller prescriptions, and Purdue Pharma led that effort. Which is now directly linked to the massive increase in drug overdoses, now see as the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

OxyContin was launched in the mid-90s by Purdue Pharma and aggressively marketed as a safe way to treat chronic pain. But it created dependency in many even as prescribed, and the pills were easy to abuse. Mass overprescribing has led to an addiction and overdose catastrophe across the US, more recently rippling out into rising heroin and fentanyl deaths.

Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

Florida and the other states also, named drug makers Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Allergan, units of Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Mallinckrodt, as well as drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. The distributors played a part in opioid abuse through oversupply, including failing to identify suspicious orders and report them to authorities, including the DEA and other oversight agencies, contributing to an illegal secondary market in prescription opioids, such as Purdue’s OxyContin, Endo’s Percocet and Insys Therapeutics fentanyl drug Subsys, a fast acting and extremely addictive drug.

Teva, in a statement, emphasized the importance of safely using opioids, while AmerisourceBergen said it was committed to collaborating with all stakeholders to combat opioid abuse.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance, an umbrella group for drug distributors, said in a statement that accusations that distributors were responsible for the abuse of opioid prescriptions defied common sense and lacked understanding of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

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.

THE SACKLERS AND PURDUE

Lawsuits have already been filed by 16 other U.S. states and Puerto Rico against Purdue and the related opioid drug companies and distributors. Purdue, which is a privately held company, owned by the Sackler brothers and family, in February said it stopped promoting opioids to physicians after widespread criticism of the ways drugmakers market highly addictive painkillers.

Purdue Pharma is owned by the Sackler family, listed at 19th on the annual Forbes list of wealthiest families in the country at a worth of $13 billion. The family’s fortune largely comes from OxyContin sales, which its company branded and introduced as an extended release painkiller in 1995.

Two branches of the Sackler family control Purdue, which developed and continues to make OxyContin, the narcotic prescription painkiller regarded as the “ground zero” of America’s opioids crisis.

Bondi said state attorneys general from New York, California and Massachusetts were preparing similar lawsuits, with Massachusetts last week sending a letter to Purdue notifying the company of its intention to sue. The California and New York attorney general offices did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue, in a statement, denied the accusations, saying its drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and accounted for only 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions, seemingly ignoring the 600 lawsuits filed against them in the last year, as well as the minimum of 15 federal and state criminal investigations that are underway across the country.  At the forefront of the criminal investigations is the U.S. Attorney, John H. Durham, District of Connecticut, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, based in New Haven, CT the state which is also where Purdue Pharma is headquartered, who is leading a multi-group task force looking into the potential criminal conduct of not only Purdue, but the entire Opiate Big Pharma industry as a whole.

“We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help these states address the opioid crisis, this group of attorneys general have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” Purdue said.

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.

Separate litigation involving at least 433 lawsuits by U.S. cities and counties were consolidated in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 federal lawsuits which accuse drugmakers and the opioid industry as a whole, of deceptively marketing opioids and the distributors of ignoring indications that the painkillers were being diverted for improper uses.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing the consolidated litigation, has been pushing for a global settlement. He had previously invited state attorneys general with cases not before him to participate in those talks, from the start of the MDL 2804 litigation being assigned to his courtroom.

Despite filing separate lawsuits, the six attorneys general on Tuesday said they would continue to engage in settlement discussions with Purdue and other companies. “You always want to settle and prevent a prolonged litigation,” said Florida’s Bondi. “But we’re sending a message that we’re fully prepared to go to war.”

PURDUE-OXYCONTIN HISTORY

On December 12, 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the opioid analgesic OxyContin. It hit the market in 1996. In its first year, OxyContin accounted for $45 million in sales for its manufacturer, Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. By 2000 that number would balloon to $1.1 billion, an increase of well over 2,000 percent in a span of just four years. Ten years later, the profits would inflate still further, to $3.1 billion. By then the potent opioid accounted for about 30 percent of the painkiller market. What’s more, Purdue Pharma’s patent for the original OxyContin formula didn’t expire until 2013. This meant that a single private, family-owned pharmaceutical company with non-descript headquarters in the Northeast controlled nearly a third of the entire United States market for pain pills.

OxyContin’s ball-of-lightning emergence in the health care marketplace was close to unprecedented for a new painkiller in an age where synthetic opiates like Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl had already been competing for decades in doctors’ offices and pharmacies for their piece of the market share of pain-relieving drugs. In retrospect, it almost didn’t make sense. Why was OxyContin so much more popular? Had it been approved for a wider range of ailments than its opioid cousins? Did doctors prefer prescribing it to their patients?

During its rise in popularity, there was a suspicious undercurrent to the drug’s spectrum of approved uses and Purdue Pharma’s relationship to the physicians that were suddenly privileging OxyContin over other meds to combat everything from back pain to arthritis to post-operative discomfort. It would take years to discover that there was much more to the story than the benign introduction of a new, highly effective painkiller.

US DEPT OF JUSTICE INDICTMENTS

While the FDA has failed, the US Department of Justice has launched a massive crackdown on opiate drug makers including indictments of company executives, sales & marketing personnel as well as the doctors and pharmacies that have enabled the flood of easy access narcotics into the US market for over 15 years. The question is “how and why” did the FDA drop the ball or was this an intentional lack of enforcement and oversight by the FDA and other agencies due to Big Pharma influence over Congressional members who would blunt any true oversight of drug companies.

For criminal opioid cases see: Federal Venues and Courts Where Opioid Indictments Are Pending As Of July 2017

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON SPEAKS TO THE OPIATE CRISIS ISSUES”

Former President Bill Clinton pulled no punches as he focused directly on the opiate issues “Nobody gets out of this for free,” which seems to be where most of the finger pointing and blame game rests, which is one of the prime issues of the highest importance. The checkbook to pull the country out of this national opiate epidemic will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars and even then, the costs of social and economic damage to date, will never be recovered. Clinton further commented on how the opioid epidemic “creeps into every nook and cranny of our country” and needs to be addressed as both a huge national problem and a community-by-community tragedy, adding “this can rob our country of the future.”

RURAL vs. BIG CITY OPIATES

Almost 2.75 million opioid prescriptions were filled in New York City each year from 2014 to 2016. Which is a very high number for a major city, but not nearly the millions of opiate prescriptions written in the more rural regions of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, where the number of opiates prescribed equaled 100 plus pills per month for every resident in these states, with West Virginia numbers being, 780 million painkillers prescribed in six years.

As more and more cities, states and counties files suits against the opiate drug industry as a whole, there will be a point where Opiate Big Pharm will have to decide whether to admit it’s fault in the opioid crisis, or simply continue to evade responsibility and leave the process up to lawyers and the courts to assign a financial penalty for the alleged corporate opioid abuses.

FDA Failed to Cite Opioid Big Pharma

Perhaps a look at former US Representative Tom Price, will provide insight into how our lawmakers work within the healthcare industry. Rep. Price was appointed by President Trump to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which the FDA reports to, was forced to resign as HHS head due to various transgression within 6 months of being appointed, as well as leaks that while a sitting congressman he enacted a bill favoring a medical device makers extension of a multi-year government contract. Not only did Price enact the bill, he purchased stock in the company prior to the bill introduction and secured a massive profit on the stock price increase after the contract extension was announced. In normal business circles this is considered “insider trading” and is illegal, but when you’re one of those people in charge of creating the rules and regulations, there’s an apparent “get out of jail card” that comes with your congressional seat.

As long as the US Congress fails to correct the lack of oversight by the FDA and other regulatory agencies into what and how dangerous drugs and products are placed into the US marketplace, there will always be bad drugs entering the healthcare pipeline in the United States, with the now enduring default misnomer of “Profits Before Patients” firmly in place in boardrooms and within our government.

As the Opioid litigation expands across the country in both state and federal courtrooms, it remains to be seen if the anticipated payouts will surpass the $200 billion payday for governments in the 1998 Big Tobacco Litigation settlement.

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.

 

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New York City sues Big Pharma over opioids – joining Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee and other major cities

New York City Joins Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee in Suing Opioid Industry Players

“PROFITS OVER PATIENTS BY BIG PHARMA CONTINUES”

 

MAJOR CITIES SUE BIG PHARMA OVER OPIOIDS

 

                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) New York City has filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that make or distribute prescription opioids, on Tuesday the complaint was filed in New York state court, Superior Court of Manhattan, which is a break from other Opioid lawsuits filed by cities, who filed into federal court, see OPIOID-CRISIS: MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION. The primary claims state that the opiate drug companies fueled the deadly epidemic now afflicting the most populous U.S. city, joining Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee and other major cities across the country in holding Big Pharma drug makers accountable for the opioid crisis.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio stated the lawsuit seeks $500 million in  damages to help fight the crisis, which kills more people in the city annually than homicides and car accidents combined, which at last count was more than 1,100 from opioid-induced overdoses in 2016.

He also clarified “Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” making his point clear as to where responsibility for the opioid crisis rests.

Named defendants include manufacturers Allergan Plc (AGN.N), Endo International Plc (ENDP.O), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), Purdue Pharma LP and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA), and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp (ABC.N), Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N) and McKesson Corp (MCK.N), sourced from Reuters.

 

All were accused in the city’s complaint of creating a public nuisance, and the distributors were cited for negligence. The same allegations have been asserted in other complaints, including RICO claims by many plaintiffs who assert the companies conspired and created the opioid crisis by developing questionable opioid marketing plans, including offering financial incentives and making payments directly to doctors and others to write opiate prescriptions.

Allergan, Endo, J&J, Purdue, Teva, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson have all stated that they historically emphasized the importance of using opioids safely, in their business operations

BIG PHARMA OFF-LABEL DRUG ABUSES

Endo, J&J and Purdue denied the city’s allegations, with McKesson and Cardinal Health not immediately responding to requests for comment. All companies listed in the complaint have repeatedly been cited, fined and entered into consent decrees with the federal and state governments regarding questionable marketing practices related to prescription drugs. Often these fines have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars and never admit liability, simply agreeing to stop the cited activity, which as reflected in the hundreds of opioid based complaint recently filed, the agreement to cease and desist in “off label” or inappropriate drug marketing efforts has not been applied to the opiate prescription industry.

New York City, with over 4 million residents, has joined a long list of U.S. states and municipalities suing drug companies over opioid abuse, often referring to the drug makers “off label” use, where sales reps have continuously pushed an agenda of the opiates being “non-addictive” and part of proper healthcare.

OPIATES: A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

The national opioid crisis incited President Trump to designate the it as a national public health emergency in November 2107, and the administration extended the emergency as of January 19, 2018. Although it should be noted that President Trump has not applied any federal funding to the now official “public health emergency” thereby leaving the state and local governments to push forward in the efforts to combat the opioid crisis on their own.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, played a role in 42,249 U.S. deaths in 2016, up 28 percent from 2015 and 47 percent from 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The complaint filed in state court in Manhattan, New York accused manufacturers of having for two decades misled consumers into believing that prescription opioids were safe to treat chronic non-cancer pain, with minimal risk of addiction.

The distributors played a part in opioid abuse through oversupply, including failing to identify suspicious orders and report them to authorities, including the DEA and other oversight agencies, contributing to an illegal secondary market in prescription opioids, such as Purdue’s OxyContin, Endo’s Percocet and Insys Therapeutics fentanyl drug Subsys, a fast acting and extremely addictive drug.

MILLIONS OF PILLS PRESCRIBED

Almost 2.75 million opioid prescriptions were filled in New York City each year from 2014 to 2016. Which is a very high number for a major city, but not nearly the millions of opiate prescriptions written in the more rural regions of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, where the number of opiates prescribed equaled 100 plus pills per month for every resident in these state, with West Virginia numbers being 780 million painkillers in six years.

As more and more cities, states and counties files suits against the opiate drug industry as a whole, there will be a appoint where Big pharm will have to decide whether to admit it’s fault in the opioid crisis, or simply continue to evade responsibility and leave the process up to lawyers and the courts to simply assign a financial penalty for the alleged corporate opioid abuses.

The case docket information is: City of New York v Purdue Pharma LP et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 450133/2018.

 

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FDA Delays “Off-Label” Intended Use Rule Change For Drugs

“Trump Lets Big Pharma Off The Hook”

By Mark. A. York (January 23, 2018)

Trump Removes FDA Rules

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) Just as Big Pharma was looking at 2017 victories related to off-label marketing of drugs for unintended uses, drug makers were expecting some loosening of the regulatory shackles. Then the FDA rolled out a new rule on that subject, that wasn’t in Big Pharma’s bests interests, sending the drug industry into a lobbying scramble. Bring in the Trump camp and on January 12, 2018 Big Pharma and the army of lobbyists and elected officials in their camp, seem to have succeeded in stopping the FDA rules change that would have tightened up “off label” marketing of drugs.

Trump stops FDA enforcement rule change: January 12, 2018 Food and Drug Administration Press Release: FDA Delays Change to “Off-Label” Drug Use Enforcement Rules

This seems to be further evidence of the Trump administration permitting private corporations to control what goes on behind the scenes in federal regulatory agencies these days. The same loosening of enforcement rules has been seen in the EPA as well as in Energy oversight enforcement authority. Whatever else you might think about the ramped up Trump vs. Obama administration mindset, this delay is an example of the new FDA leadership doing what is in the best interests of those they are supposed to be regulating, the drug makers, and not in the interests of the US consumers.

To put this into perspective, consider the current “Opioid Crisis” gripping the entire country, where “off-label” marketing of opiates for the last 20 years by drug makers, has resulted in thousands of deaths each year, unknown financial losses and the related social impact felt in every state across the country. Another result is the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804, (see OPIOID CRISIS BRIEFCASE: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) where litigation started when hundreds of counties, states and cities and other entities impacted by the catastrophic expense related to combatting the opiate healthcare crisis fought back. The various parties have filed lawsuits against opioid drug makers and distributors, demanding repayment of the billions of dollars spent on addressing the massive costs related to opioid abuse, primarily due to opioid based prescription drugs flooding the country.

As the Obama administration ended on January 9, 2017, the FDA issued a Final Rule on “Clarification of When Products Made or Derived from Tobacco are Regulated as Drugs, Devices, or Combination Products; Amendments to Regulations Regarding ‘Intended Uses.’” That “clarification” was meant to enable additional enforcement and control over drug makers rampant “off -label” marketing of drugs for purposes that were never FDA approved. This was an attempt by the FDA to have the ability to punish off-label promotions, where previously the process was a two-step regulatory review, whereby off-label promotions are said to prove an indicated use not included in the label and, thus, not accompanied by adequate directions for use – making the product misbranded. These regulations have been around since the 1950s, but a recent series of court decisions invoking the First Amendment called into question the FDA’s interpretation of “intended use” and its efforts to shut down truthful medical-science communications about potential benefits from off-label use.

In a 2015 proposed rule, the FDA referred to striking the language from regulations permitting the FDA to consider a manufacturer’s mere knowledge of actual use as evidence of intended use, which would have further enabled Big Pharma drug marketing abuses to go unchecked. But then, the FDA’s January 9, 2017 proposal reversed course, stating that retained knowledge of off-label use as evidence of intended use, clarified that any relevant source of evidence, whether circumstantial or direct could demonstrate intended use, and ultimately invoked the dreaded “totality of the evidence” standard. This would have enable the FDA to begin oversight and enforcement of practices such as the blatant and wide open “off-label” marketing of opioid prescription drugs that started in the mid-1990’s and never stopped.

Instead of putting a check on Big Pharma abuses, we have the Trump administration placing a hold on new regulations, and delaying the “intended use” regulation change to March 19, 2018, so that comments could be received and considered, and thereby enabling the Big Pharma “lobby machine” to become fully engaged across all DC circles, ensuring that the FDA changes are effectively put to rest.

The bottom line is that the FDA is now proposing to “delay until further notice” the portions of the final rule amending the FDA’s existing regulations on “off-label” drug use, when describing the types of evidence that may be considered in determining a medical product’s intended uses.  The FDA will receive comments on this proposal through February 5, 2018.

Here is the official FDA publication of January 16, 2018:

The Federal Register:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/16/2018-00555/clarification-of-when-products-made-or-derived-from-tobacco-are-regulated-as-drugs-devices-or

 

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