Off-Label Comms and Vigorous Predictability

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 09/18/2017
Where is the FDA going with off-label speech? Here’s what Commissioner Gottlieb had to say last week:

“It’s very clear right now that the courts recognize commercial free speech as constitutionally protected, and it’s very clear that the agency has lost a series of First Amendment challenges … What I want to make sure is that we have a legally enforceable set of rules that we’re operating from that we’re able to use to promote our public health goals. So we need to have clear regulation that is legally sustainable and we need to enforce against that vigorously.”

“To the extent that we have certain regulatory parameters that either we feel or others feel is in conflict with the court’s interpretation of what constitutes commercially protected speech and the cope of FDA’s ability to regulate that, we need to resolve that. We can’t be operating from a platform where our regulations might be in perpetual conflict with the courts and then we are reluctant to take action for fear that we might run afoul of the courts. We need to have clear regulation that is aligned with the interpretations of the courts around what is and what isn’t permissible and we need to enforce vigorously against that.”

Key phrase, “We need to have clear regulation.” That’s as welcome news as it is unusual since (when it comes to regulating speech), the agency’s default proposition has been vigorous ambiguity.

The Commissioner’s statement also seems to throw onto the dustbin of history, the agency’s memo (issued in the waning days of the Obama administration) Public Health Interests and First Amendment Considerations Related to Manufacturer Communications Regarding Unapproved Uses of Approved or Cleared Medical Products, which asserted FDA's stance against off-label communications.

Gottlieb-watchers understand his support of making sure physicians and patients have access to truthful accurate and non-misleading information about FDA-approved medicines –- both on and off-label. Time marches on and regulatory practices must evolve to better serve the public health.

Off-label communications is about getting the right medicine to the right patient in the right dose at the right time.  Off-label communications advances both the practice of medicine and the safe and effective use of medicines.

Stay tuned.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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