News in Review, June 15, 2016

Federal investigators subpoena information related to charitable organizations from three companies, Congress proposes an amendment to the FDCA, the head of the FDA speaks on off-label information, and New Hampshire’s Attorney General targets the manufacturer of a popular painkiller.

The temperatures are rising well past 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that can only mean one thing…time to hit the beach! Pack up the station wagon, minivan, or whatever mode of transportation best accommodates your gear and head to the sand and surf for some fun and relief from the heat! Of course, the standard precautions and warnings are in order: use plenty of sunscreen; mind the flags regarding ocean conditions; and above all, be wary of teens resembling Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello bursting into fits of random dancing and singing (now there’s a dated reference for you). Of course, you’ll need plenty of reading material before you drift off into a coconut oil scented daydream. So after you finish the latest from Mary Higgins Clarke or that true crime tome, please enjoy the next best beach read…this edition of the Compliance New in Review.

The waves of compliance just got slightly chopping for a trio of drug manufacturers. Three companies, Gilead, Jazz and Biogen, received subpoenas from federal investigators for information related to their relationships with charitable organizations that help patients with medication costs. Charities receiving support from industry companies claim those companies have no say or influence on which patients they help or what drugs are covered. The government’s concern centers on whether the contributions are essentially illegal kickbacks.

Oh sunny day – a panel of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee proposed an amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act that would allow companies more leeway in sharing truthful off-label information. The proposed amendment would limit the definition of intended use to the manufacturer’s “objective intent,” and allow for the dissemination of materials for scientific exchange, if the information in the materials is backed by scientific evidence. The panel expressed concern about the need for doctors to be kept abreast of the latest medical information, and frustration at the lack of movement by the FDA on guidance related to the dissemination of off-label information.

The head of the FDA also rode the off-label promotion wave when he spoke at the BIO International Convention. In his remarks, Robert Califf noted that supportable information worth sharing should be included on the product’s label, and he questioned why companies would not include useful information on the label or in the prescribing information. Califf also encouraged the industry to embrace social media, saying, “the best way to develop products in the future is likely going to involve a lot of people with diseases to have a handle on what their needs are, what their expectations are, and what their risk tolerance may be.”

As expected, Vermont was first in the water with a law requiring transparency of drug pricing. State officials will identify 15 drugs for which they want information about the reasons for price increases. The manufacturers of those drugs will have to submit information to justify the price increases.

New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has filed suit against Purdue over the company’s refusal to provide documents related to the marketing of OxyContin. The AG’s office claims the company is providing HCPs with misleading information regarding the product. The suit claims the company touts the drug lasts for 12 hours, and it also does not appropriately address end-of-dose failure. The AG also claims the company downplays the risks associated with addiction. Purdue says it is more than willing to cooperate with the investigation, provided the AG’s office does not share any documentation with private attorneys. The company believes a financial conflict of interest exists with the firm retained to assist in the investigation, and it should not be compelled to turn over information while a court case is pending.

A report from Reuters questions the independence of firms hired by companies under a CIA to serve as an Independent Review Organization (IRO). Unlike other agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services does not prohibit companies under a CIA from hiring an IRO with which they have an existing relationship. Critics claim those arrangements represent a conflict of interest. A representative of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) said she has not witnessed any issues with these arrangements. Spokespersons for various industry companies said they disclose all their business relationships to the OIG in advance.

The seas have also been choppy for Salix Pharmaceuticals recently. The company agreed to pay $54 million to settle allegations it provided kickbacks to physicians for prescribing its products. According to the DOJ, the company admitted to paying doctors to be speakers for the company as an inducement for prescribing its products. The government claims the programs at which the doctors spoke were largely social in nature and provided little or no information related to a product. In addition to resolving the federal case, the settlement will resolve several related state fraud cases.

That’s all for this edition of the News in Review. Until next time, we wish you safe sailing and calm compliance waters!

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