Food & Drug Regulatory

On 26 January 2023, the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (“PMCPA”) published its “Social Media Guidance 2023” (the “Guidance”).

The Guidance is the first of its kind in the UK and is long-awaited. 

The PMCPA is the self-regulatory body that administers and enforces the ABPI Code (the voluntary advertising code that many pharmaceutical companies adhere to in the UK).  The ABPI Code sets out a number of overarching principles but does not address social media in detail.  The PMCPA had some years ago published “digital guidelines” but these were archived for updating.

The first – and probably most important – thing to say about the Guidance is that it (finally) exists.  Social media has become a major compliance headache for UK pharmaceutical companies.  These days a significant number of PMCPA complaints, investigations and adjudications concern corporate or employee social media activity, particularly on LinkedIn.  The absence of clear and codified guidance until now led to a lack of clarity.  Key regulatory principles had evolved through a series of case rulings, which were often highly fact-dependent.  While dissecting cases into the early hours may be interesting for us pharmaceutical advertising lawyers, compliance teams will likely appreciate having codified guidelines to refer to.

Secondly, the Guidance is likely to disappoint anyone hoping for seismic shifts in the PMCPA’s regulatory approach.  Much of the Guidance aligns closely to rules and principles that had developed in the Authority’s case history.  It also broadly aligns with EFPIA’s and IFPMA’s recently published “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Social Media and Digital Media Channels” (see our blog post).

Continue Reading UK PMCPA Publishes First Ever Guidance to Pharmaceutical Companies about Social Media

Further to our discussion on the European Commission’s proposal to extend the transition period under the Medical Devices Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (MDR), the Commission has adopted a formal proposal for a legislative amendment of the MDR and In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (IVDR) and published a press release, Q&A and factsheet on the proposal. The proposal does not introduce any substantive changes to the broader MDR but focuses on amending the transitional provisions in the MDR.

The proposed changes to the MDR transition provisions aim to address concerns regarding Notified Body capacity and the significant number of medical devices yet to transition from the former Directives to the MDR. This situation is currently threatening the availability of such devices within the EU market.

Continue Reading European Commission proposes significant changes to transition timelines of the Medical Device Regulation and IVD Regulation

A snapshot by yours truly while following the debate on synthetic biology.  As you can see, business gets a seat in a place far, far away – in the back of the room.

After two weeks of intense negotiations in Montreal, on 19 December 2022, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the new Global Biodiversity Framework.  Covington partner Bart Van Vooren was on the ground as a business delegate to these talks. 

Brief Summary

This blog explains one the most consequential outcomes for companies from COP15: the decision to set up a global mechanism requiring the private sector to pay into a new Global Biodiversity Trust Fund.  The COP15 Decision was to decide to set up the mechanism immediately, and to tease out the details over the next two years.  In short, the new fund is expected to generate up to 15 billion USD per year from companies that “use digital sequence information on genetic resources“.  The revenue generated will then be disbursed in support of the four (4) Goals for 2050 and twenty-three (23) Targets for 2030 that together make up the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).  This new mechanism will no doubt impact most life sciences companies, but the COP15 Press Release hinted at two sectors that are being singled out (my emphasis):

Digital sequence information on genetic resources – a dominant topic at COP15 –  has many commercial and non-commercial applications, including pharmaceutical product development, improved crop breeding, taxonomy, and the monitoring of invasive species.

Reader beware, this blog is a long read.  I will first provide some insight on the political narratives and financial expectations underpinning the new system, and then deep dive into the legal nitty-gritty and (un)knowns of the Decision on Digital Sequence Information (DSI) adopted by COP15.

Continue Reading Outcome from COP 15: a New Global Biodiversity Fund Paid For by Life Sciences Companies that “Use Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources”

It’s all happening in the device space. Further to the European Commission’s meeting we discussed last week on the proposed three-year extension to the transition period under the Medical Devices Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (MDR), the EU Medical Device Coordination Group (MDCG) has now published guidance clarifying the use of the non-compliance procedure under Article 97 of the MDR.

Under Article 97, competent authorities can temporarily allow devices that do not comply with the MDR to continue to be placed on the market if they do not present an unacceptable risk to the health or safety of individuals or to public health.

Continue Reading New Guidance on the Application of Article 97 of the MDR to Legacy Devices Certified under the MDD or AIMDD

The European Commission intends to extend the transition period under the Medical Devices Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (MDR) for an additional three years. The proposal comes among concerns with the number of devices yet to transition to the MDR, along with rising costs of re-certification and extended time periods for assessment. It is estimated that around 23,000 certificates of conformity for EU medical devices have not yet transitioned, which will expire on May 26, 2024 (if not before). Low notified body capacity is a key contributing factor for the transition delays.

Continue Reading European Commission Announces Intention to Introduce Three-Year Extension to the MDR Transition Period

On the 27 October 2022, the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) issued a preliminary ruling  regarding the definition of foods for special medical purposes (“FSMP”).  The CJEU held that for a food product to be classified as an FSMP, it must cover the increased or specific nutritional requirements caused by the disease.  It is not sufficient that the product counteracts the disease or alleviates its symptoms, as that would blur the lines between foods and medicinal products. 

1. Background to the Dispute

This ruling arose in the context of an action brought by Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb e.V. (“VSW”) against Orthomol pharmazeutische Vertriebs GmbH (“Orthomol”) regarding two Orthomol products classification as FSMPs.  This action was brought before the Landgericht Düsseldorf (Regional Court, Düsseldorf, Germany) at the first instance and was then appealed to the Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf (Higher Regional Court, Düsseldorf, Germany) which then referred the case to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. 

Continue Reading CJEU clarifies the Food for Special Medical Purposes Definition

The German regulation of pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceuticals is probably one of the most complicated legal areas in the entire world of life sciences laws. Now, the German government is adding another layer of complexity to the existing rules.

On 20 October 2022, the German Parliament has accepted the draft Act for the Financial Stabilization of the German Statutory Health Insurance System („GKV-FinStG“). The new act was subject to month-long controversial discussions within and outside of the Parliament and affected stakeholders. This was due to the fact that the new rules will affect almost all players within the healthcare system, including the health insurers, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and, especially, the pharmaceutical industry. The new law encompasses significant cost-containment measures as the German healthcare system faces increased costs while, at the same time, the system suffers from a reduced inflow of funds.

Continue Reading Germany significantly tightens Drug Pricing and Reimbursement Laws

The UK has reaffirmed its commitment to leading the way in regulatory innovation in software as a medical device (“SaMD”) and artificial intelligence as a medical device (“AIaMD”).  On 17 October 2022, the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) published its Guidance on “Software and AI as a Medical Device Change Programme – Roadmap.”  It builds on the Government response to consultation on the future regulation of medical devices in the UK and follows on from the Software and AI as a Medical Device Change Programme, which was published in 2021.  The MHRA has provided deliverables, which map out a course for change to the regulation of this sector.

Continue Reading Change is Coming for Software and AI Medical Devices in the UK

The Medical Device Coordination Group (“MDCG”) has published a new position paper (MDCG 2022-14) acknowledging the significant and urgent lack of capacity of EU notified bodies.  It acknowledges the risk that this could lead to many existing and new medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices (“IVDs”) not undergoing timely conformity assessments under Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (the “MDR”) or Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (the “IVDR”) (together, the “Regulations”)).  In turn, this could mean patients miss out on access to, potentially, lifesaving medical devices and IVDs.  As such, the MDCG has suggested actions for mitigating such challenges.  Importantly, there is a focus on flexibility and pragmatism.

Continue Reading Notified body capacity needed! MDCG proposals recognize need to increase notified body capacity to ensure device availability

On 28 September 2022, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) published joint guidelines concerning the use of social media and digital media channels by pharmaceutical companies (Joint Digital Guidelines).  IFPMA  and EFPIA are umbrella trade bodies for the innovative pharmaceutical industry on the global and European stages, respectively.

The Joint Digital Guidelines are timely.  Digital communications and the use of social media have become hot compliance topics for the pharmaceutical industry, both in Europe and globally.  Actors in the healthcare world increasingly use digital communication channels; many clinicians, patients and patient organizations actually prefer to receive content digitally.  With more content comes higher compliance risk.  Digital communications, particularly over social media, can spread fast across borders and are often publicly accessible. 

It is no surprise that a very significant number of pharmaceutical advertising cases in European markets now concern digital channels or social media.  This certainly reflects our experience; and this is an area where our pharmaceutical advertising experts are continually advising clients.

Continue Reading IFPMA and EFPIA Publish New Joint Guidance Note on Social Media and Digital Channels