It seems like forever ago since the FDA’s 2015-2016 attempt to increase its regulatory powers, or more pointedly, since the FDA regulatory thugs have tried to dramatically restrict the personal freedom of US citizens.
The good news is that most of the major proposed changes are still up in the air. The not-so-good news is that now that the FDA has a new commissioner (Scott Gottleib was confirmed by the Senate on April, 27, 2017), I’m expecting things to happen, not all of them good.
Let’s review what’s up in the air/awaiting decision/finalization, but first let me remind you about the FDA’s two main mechanisms by which it increases its power over consumers and companies that provide health care goods:FDA guidance documents and warning letters.
Guidance documents are industry-wide statements of the FDA “current thinking” on a subject. They have a one way force-of-law. The FDA can sue you for doing something in violation of a guidance document, but you can’t sue the FDA about the guidance document because it’s just the “agency’s current thinking on a subject” and so there’s nothing you the consumer or the business person can do about it, at least until you get sued.
A “warning letters” tell a specific company that they’re violating the law and should stop or else. But you can’t sue the FDA to challenge the warning letter because it takes the position that it’s not sure, they might change their mind, it’s not a “final determination” or maybe they’re just kidding. You have to wait until the FDA goes after you.
The first takeaway is that so far, things are still mostly quiet on the FDA front, but as stated, I’d expect that to change with a new FDA commissioner on board.
The Big things up in the air in FDA Land
To recap the FDA’s broad efforts to expand its powers and jurisdiction and where the draft guidelines are awaiting final approval:
1. Stem Cells: The FDA proposed four guidance documents back in the 2015-2016 which would have basically destroyed the U.S. autologous stem cell business for everything from diseases to breast reconstruction after mastectomies. See my post on these guidance documents at: http://rickjaffeesq.com/category/stemcells/
2. Dietary Supplements: The FDA proposed changed via a revised definition of a new dietary ingredient which would have turned many dietary supplements into drugs or would require drug like testing. See my post at: http://rickjaffeesq.com/category/supplements/
3. Compounding pharmacies: new regulations would severely hamper the ability of compounding pharmacists to continue to operate.
If you’re an anti or concerned vaxxer, you already know, Scott’s public comments have been in line with Pharma’s and the rest of the vaccine establishment’s position. Better luck with the CDC.
Now might be an excellent time for the supplement industry and the autologous stem cell industry and its patient supporters to reengage in a federal campaign.
Still it’s not like the FDA has been asleep
So what has the FDA been up to since this year so far?
Probably the best way to get a beat on what the FDA is up to is to review the warning letters it has issued. I’ve done that and here’s what I’ve come up with:
(If you want to look over the FDA recent warning letters yourself, here’s the place:
Supplements have been given scrutiny in the following areas:
Supplements converted into unapproved cancer treatments:
Sometimes the FDA focuses on an issue or problem after receiving a complaint about a violation, then it goes after a bunch of folks violating the law usually on the same day. That happened in on April, 17th when the FDA sent almost a dozen warning letters to supplement makers who were marketing their products as cures or treatments of cancer. That’s a definite no-no in FDA controlled land.
Putting drugs into supplements
Some supplement manufactures have decided that the best way to increase the potency of their products to remedy some condition is by putting in a touch of a drug, or what the FDA calls an “active pharmaceutical ingredient” or “API”). It really kicks-up the product a notch, but of course, it’s illegal. I’ve worked on the issue, and the FDA’s remedies are quite draconian; for starters they make you write to all the customers and refund the money they paid, and do a product recall. And that’s it if you’re lucky. If you’re not or the feds think you did it intentionally, think an indictment on multiple FDA felony counts.
Are you a Good Manufacturer? (And that includes you distributors and resellers)
Supplement manufacturers have to manufacture their products in accordance with current good manufacturing practices (CGMP). It’s onerous but it’s the cost of doing business. Lately the FDA has sent a bunch of warning letters to supplement manufacturers complaining of lack of compliance with a lot of the technical and paperwork requirements. The surprising part of this area of regulatory law is that the downstream distributors and resellers also have quite significant regulatory obligations to ensure CGMP compliance and/or quality control. I’ve seen supplement distributors hung out to dry for very specific and somewhat onerous regulations.
Compounders Get unwanted attention
Even though the draft compounding guidelines are still pending, that hasn’t stopped the FDA from issuing warning letters to a few compounders. Things should really pick up for the FDA once the guidance documents are finalized.
So in short,
the FDA has been continuing to do what it is always does, which is some combination of protecting the public and interfering with the rights of consumers. How much of one versus the other depends on what your core beliefs or main issues are. But still, with these three big areas with pending draft guidelines (stem cells, dietary supplements and compounding), now that there is a new FDA commissioner, I’d look for some resolution of these big open issues in the next few months.
From all accounts, the new Commissioner is very friendly with Pharma and wants to see the drug approval process streamlined and shortened which will be good for Pharma. Don’t look for any help from him on the vaccine safety issue. The jury is still out on him on stem cells and supplements, but I don’t see much reason for optimism, unless there is a continued public outcry for access to more information about supplements and more access to our own body parts.
Here’s to hoping, (and maybe some doing).
Rick Jaffe, Esq.