Draft guidance seeks to make drug labels clear, concise, more consistent

In an effort to assist applicants in writing the Indications and Usage section of labeling for human prescription drug and biological products, the FDA issued a new draft guidance. The FDA’s intent is to make information in prescription drug labeling easier for health care practitioners to access, read, and use. The goal of the guidance is to help ensure that the labeling is clear, concise, useful, and informative and, to the extent possible, consistent in content and format within and across drug and therapeutic classes (Notice, 83 FR 31759, July 9, 2018).

Indications

The Indications and Usage section should clearly communicate the scope of the approved indication, including the population to which the determination of safety and effectiveness is applicable. The guidance includes information on how and when evidence may support approval of an indication that is broader or narrower in scope than the precise population studied.

The indication should begin “Drug X is indicated” and be followed by the disease, condition, or manifestation of the cease or condition being treated, prevented, mitigated, cured, or diagnosed, and when applicable other information necessary to describe the approved indication. The other information may include selected patient subgroups or disease sub populations for whom the drug is approved, adjunctive or concomitant therapy or therapeutic modalities to use before initiation drug therapy, or specific tests needed to select patients in whom to use the drug.

Limitations of use

Limitations of use should be presented separately from the indication and should only be included when the awareness of such information is important for practitioners to ensure the safe and effective use of the drug. Limitations of Use are appropriate for drugs for which there is reasonable concern or uncertainty about effectiveness or safety in a certain clinical situation, drugs approved without evidence of benefits known to occur with other drugs in the same class, or drugs with dose, duration, or long-term use considerations.

Language

Certain products have statutory or regulatory required or recommended language for the Indications and Usage section. The guidance includes preferred wording and wording to generally avoid. For example, the guidance explains why it is better to use the phrase “reduce the risk” or “reduce incidence of” rather than using “prevent” in the indication. It also discusses when the terms “only” and “also indicated” should be avoided. Finally, product should be identified by the proprietary name or trade name if it has one, and other information such as the dosage form, and route of administration should not be included in the indication.

 

‘Fatigued’ providers must concentrate on complying with two-midnight rule

Some providers may be experience two-midnight rule “compliance fatigue” due to the changing rules and current lack of traditional enforcement activity, said presenters at the Health Care Compliance Association webinar, “Two Midnight Rule: Where Are We Now?” The two-midnight rule has been a “moving target” and its evolution has been challenging for providers, with CMS having issued more than 40 items of sub-regulatory guidance over the past 3.5 years. Presenters Lauren Gennett and Isabella Wood of King & Spaulding LLP said, however, that it is important for compliance personnel to emphasize the importance of continued compliance.

Two-midnight rule. The two-midnight rule is codified at 42 C.F.R. Sec. 412.3(d), which provides that an inpatient admission is considered reasonable and necessary under Part A if the admitting physician ordered the inpatient admission based on the expectation that the patient would require at least two midnights of medically necessary hospital services.

If an unforeseen circumstance, such as a beneficiary’s death or transfer, results in a shorter stay than the physician’s expectation of at least two midnights, the patient may be considered to be appropriately treated on an inpatient basis. An inpatient admission for a surgical procedure specified by Medicare as “inpatient only” under 42 C.F.R. Sec. 419.22(n) is also generally appropriate for payment under Medicare Part A, regardless of the expected duration of care.

Rare and unusual circumstances exception. There may be “rare and unusual circumstances” in which an inpatient admission for a service not on the inpatient only list may be reasonable and necessary in the absence of an expectation of a two midnight stay. CMS expanded this exception effective January 1, 2016 (see OPPS payment update a net cut for many, Health Law Daily, November 13, 2015). The exception is determined on a case-by-case basis by the physician responsible for the care of the beneficiary, subject to CMS medical review. Relevant factors include: (1) the severity of the signs and symptoms exhibited by the patient; (2) the medical predictability of something adverse happening to the patient; and (3) the need for diagnostic studies that appropriately are outpatient services.

Wood said that CMS has not provided examples of services that might qualify for the “rare and unusual circumstances” exception. She noted that the exception is challenging for providers, who do not know how rare and unusual the circumstances must be to qualify for the exception. There is, she said, “a lot of wiggle room and uncertainty” for providers.

Inpatient admission orders. Before the two-midnight rule, there was not an express requirement for an inpatient admission order, but now 42 C.F.R. Sec. 412.3(a) requires that the inpatient admission order be in the medical record for the hospital to be paid for inpatient services under Part A. The physician is required to authenticate the order before discharge, which can be difficult for short stays. Gennett said that this requirement is “low hanging fruit for contractor denials.” There is, however, an exception for missing or defective orders that CMS originally included in January 2014 guidance and recently updated in the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, Pub. 100-02, Ch. 1 (see Change Request 9979, March 10, 2017).

Enforcement. From October 2013 through September 2015 Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) conducted limited “probe & educate” reviews, and quality improvement organizations (QIOs) began conducting reviews in October 2015. QIO review has had its challenges, however, and in 2016 CMS temporarily “paused” QIO patient status reviews (see QIOs back to reviewing Two-Midnight rule claims, Health Law Daily, September 13, 2016). In April 2017 the QIO record selection process changed; QIOs now sample the top 175 providers with a high or increasing number of short stay claims per area with a request for 25 cases, and all other providers previously identified as having “major concerns” in the prior round of review will have a request for 10 cases.

Recovery audit contractors (RACs) may conduct provider-specific patient status reviews for providers that have been referred by the QIO as exhibiting persistent noncompliancewith Medicare payment policies, including consistently failing to adhere to the two midnight rule. The presenters noted that providers should be “extra cautious” in light of the potential for RAC referrals.

The two-midnight rule is also on the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) radar. In December 2016, the OIG issued a report based on a claims review for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 concluding that hospitals are billing for many inpatient stays that were potentially inappropriate (see Two-midnight Medicare policy succeeding but still lacks full cooperation, Health Law Daily, December 19, 2016). The OIG also stated in its FY 2017 work plan that it intends to review hospitals’ use of inpatient and outpatient stays under the two midnight rule.

Kusserow on Compliance: More details on new DOJ corporate compliance guidelines

Previous blogs outlined the Department of Justice (DOJ) Fraud Section’s “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” guidance for compliance officers. Since then, many have inquired about getting more specific details on questions the DOJ is now using to determine the adequacy of compliance programs, particularly as they relate to management and Board oversight.  Subsequent to the publishing of the Evaluation, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the recent Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) Compliance Institute also reported modifying its corporate integrity agreements (CIAs) to increase accountability of organization leadership, including the Board, that follows a similar path to that of the DOJ.  With these changes in mind, the following recaps in more detail the DOJ list of “important topics and sample questions” it now uses when evaluating the effectiveness of corporate compliance programs. This 119-question resource offers great insights for compliance officers working to build and enhance their compliance programs. These guidelines have grown out of the DOJ’s hiring of Compliance Counsel Expert Hui Chen in November 2015. One thing to remember about these guidelines is that they relate to all industry sectors.  As such, they track with the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, but don’t focus on the health care sector in the way the OIG compliance guidance documents do.

Filip Factors

The Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations in the United States Attorney’s Manual describes specific factors that prosecutors should consider in conducting an investigation of a corporate entity, determining whether to bring charges, and negotiating plea or other agreements. Commonly known as the Filip Factors, they include “the existence and effectiveness of the corporation’s pre-existing compliance program” and the corporation’s remedial efforts “to implement an effective corporate compliance program or to improve an existing one.” The guidance was formulated to evaluate compliance programs after violations have been discovered and examining the existing misconduct as the benchmark against which the compliance program will be evaluated. It focuses on testing existing compliance programs and outlining steps that should be taken when problems are discovered to demonstrate a pre-existing commitment to compliance. It is also intended to inform the public about federal prosecutors’ review of compliance programs under the Filip Factors. There were eleven highlighted topics covered, as noted below, along with tie-in with OIG guidance, and followed with types of questions that one can expect the DOJ to ask when it confronts corporate misconduct.

 1. Analysis and remediation of underlying misconduct. The OIG guidance stresses seeking out weaknesses identified to ensure they are addressed and prevent misconduct in the future.

  • Has the organization done an analysis to see if there was a systematic failure in compliance?
  • Did the company miss prior opportunities to detect the misconduct?
  • Has the company evaluated why those opportunities were missed?
  • What remediation was undertaken once a problem was discovered?
  • What specific changes has the company made to reduce the risk of a reoccurrence?

2. Senior and middle management. This tracks to the OIG call for “top-down” compliance programs beginning at the Board and executive levels and cascading down through all levels of management.

  • Did senior managers, through their words and actions, encourage or discourage the misconduct in question?
  • Has senior leadership taken concrete steps to demonstrate commitment?
  • Does the Board have access to the right expertise to help it perform its oversight function?

3. Autonomy and resources. Prosecutors look for signs of “autonomy,” such as whether compliance personnel have “direct reporting lines to anyone on the board of directors” and whether “relevant control personnel in the field have reporting lines to headquarters.” The OIG has been calling for this type of independence for compliance offices for decades, which permits unfiltered information to flow between the compliance officer, CEO, and Board. The DOJ also looks for signs of “empowerment,” such as instances where “specific transactions or deals . . . were stopped, modified, or more closely examined as a result of compliance concerns.”  With the relatively recent hiring of full-time compliance counsel at the Fraud Section, this has been a particular point of focus.

  • Does the compliance function have the right resources and stature within the company to perform effectively?
  • Was the compliance department involved in the training and decisions relevant to any misconduct?
  • Does the compliance department have appropriate independence?

4. Policies and procedures. Policies and procedures are a foundational component of any corporate compliance program, and the Compliance Program Guidance devotes considerable attention to this topic, as does the OIG in its guidance documents. As a threshold matter, prosecutors consider the “design and accessibility” of policies and procedures—including whether they are tailored to a company’s risk profile, have been effectively implemented and communicated, and have been evaluated to ensure usefulness. Prosecutors also consider the “operational integration” of a company’s compliance policies and procedures—including the adequacy of payment systems and other controls that should have helped detect or prevent misconduct.

  • Did the company have policies and procedures in place that prohibited the misconduct?
  • Has the company assessed whether its policies and procedures were effectively implemented?
  • Are key gatekeepers adequately trained?
  • Was the program properly integrated and were adequate controls put in place to detect misconduct?

5. Risk assessment. This factor relates to the OIG guidance relating to ongoing monitoring and auditing of high risk areas.

  • What methodology has been used to identify, analyze and address the risks the organization faced?
  • Does the company collect information and metrics to adequately assess risks?

6. Training and communications. As with the OIG guidance, there is considerable expectation that all covered persons will undergo compliance training on high risk areas, governing laws and regulations, and what to do when misconduct is believed to have occurred.

  • What training was in place and is it properly tailored for high-risk or control employees?
  • Is the training offered in the right form and language for the target employees?
  • How does the company communicate to employees about any misconduct that does occur?

7. Confidential reporting and investigation. Like the OIG, the new guidelines focus on the means by which employees and others may report potential wrongdoing, as well as how this information is acted upon by the organization.

  • Does the company have in place an effective way of collecting and analyzing allegations of misconduct?
  • Does the company ensure investigations have been properly scoped, conducted, and documented?
  • Did the investigation look to root causes of the misconduct?
  • Did the investigation go high up enough in the company?

8. Incentives and disciplinary measures. The OIG stresses consistent implementation of disciplinary action for wrongdoers, without regard to station within the organization.

  • Is there proper accountability, as demonstrated by discipline for managers under whose watch misconduct occurred?
  • Is the application of discipline consistent?
  • Is there an incentive program for good compliance and ethical behavior?
  • Can the company point to specific examples of actions taken (such as promotions or awards denied) as a result of compliance and ethics considerations?

9. Continuous improvement, periodic testing, and review. The OIG calls for compliance officers to ensure that there is an audit work plan that focuses on identified high-risk areas. Many of these high-risk areas are specifically identified in its compliance guidance documents, advisory opinions, annual work plans, etc.

  • What types of audits would have identified the misconduct at issue and were they conducted?
  • Did management and the board follow up on audit findings and failures? Does the company test its controls?
  • Does the company routinely update its compliance program and make sure it adequately addresses current risks?

10. Third party management. In the case of the OIG, considerable attention and concern is placed on arrangements with individuals in a position to influence the flow of business. It calls for an Arrangements Database that includes processes, policies, and monitoring of such agreements.

  • Does the company’s third party management process adequately analyze risk?
  • Are there appropriate controls with regard to third parties?
  • Does the company adequately respond to third-party red flags?
  • Has company suspended, terminated, or audited a third party as a result of compliance issues?

11. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A). This analysis focuses on due diligence and integration.

  • In the event misconduct is discovered after a merger, was proper due diligence conducted during the M&A process?
  • How has the compliance function been integrated into the M&A process?

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2017 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

 

FDA may allow unapproved use of medical products during emergencies

In the event of emergencies, such as pandemic threats or attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents, the FDA may authorize emergency use of medical products that are unapproved, or of approved products for an unapproved use. The FDA may take action to employ “medical countermeasures” (MCMs) after a relevant U.S. agency has declared an emergency or threat justifying such use.

Emergency Use Authorizations

The FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) power is distinct from the power to use a medical product under an investigational application. Before an EUA may be issued, the HHS Secretary must make an EUA declaration based on one of the following:

  • the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination that there is a domestic emergency, or potential for emergency, involving a risk of attack with a CBRN agent;
  • the Secretary of Defense’s determination that there is a military emergency, or potential for emergency, involving a risk of attack on U.S. military forces involving CBRN agents;
  • the Secretary of HHS’ determination that  there is a public health emergency, or potential for emergency, that would affect national security or the health and security of U.S. citizens living abroad, involving a CBRN agent or related disease; or
  • the Secretary of Homeland Security’s identification of a material threat sufficient to affect national security of the health of US citizens living abroad.

After the EUA declaration is issued, the FDA Commissioner is expected to confer, to the extent feasible and appropriate, with the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before authorizing emergency use of a product.

EUA Criteria

The CBRN agents in the EUA declaration must be capable of causing serious or life-threatening harm. Medical products eligible to be considered for an EUA require a lower level of evidence than the typical effectiveness standard that the FDA uses when approving products, and are those with the possibility of effectiveness in preventing, diagnosing, or treating serious or life-threatening conditions. The FDA may also make available products that might mitigate a disease or condition caused by an FDA product (including emergency use products) used due to the CBRN agent.

The product must be one that has benefits known to outweigh known and potential risks, as determined by assessing the totality of scientific evidence available. Additionally, there must be no adequate, approved, and available alternative to the product in an EUA. This criterion is satisfied if the potential alternative product lacks sufficient supplies, is contraindicated for special populations, lacks an approved dosage form for special populations, or may not withstand the CBRN agent.

EUA Requests

Although most EUA requests will likely be submitted by government agencies, industry sponsors are eligible to submit such a request. In the event that a sponsor wishes to do so, the FDA recommends the inclusion of an organized summary of scientific evidence supporting a product’s safety and effectiveness, as well as approved alternatives. Other relevant information includes a description of the product and its intended use, a description of the product’s FDA approval status, the need for the product, and information about the adequacy and availability of approved alternative products.