'Program Alignment' Falls Into Place: Everything You Need To Know About US FDA's New Inspectional Approach
For the medical device industry, FDA's five regional offices – Pacific, Central, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast – will be replaced by three distinct divisions across the US encompassing 20 FDA district offices on May 15. Check out the latest US map from the agency showing where the device divisions will be located, and find out what your firm will be facing at its next facility inspection.
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Almost six months into its new "program alignment" inspection approach, FDA's initiative to inspect along commodity lines is still gaining its sea legs. A key FDA official says the agency is taking steps to train and retain specialized investigators. Meanwhile, FDA wants to use a geographic information system (GIS) tool to keep tabs on where investigators are inspecting.
The FDA Reauthorization Act, enacted last month, includes provisions that aim to improve FDA's inspection process, including putting a stop to arbitrary audit scheduling by the agency – a practice that can cause a facility inspection to drag on for weeks at a time. FDA has until early 2019 to draft a guidance document that lays out how it will ensure a more uniform inspection process that ensures greater parity between foreign and domestic audits. Steps mandated by the new law include notifying firms in advance of records that will be requested during an inspection and specifying a window of time for investigators to conduct the onsite inspections. But industry experts are of two minds as to whether any substantial changes will result from the new law. Also: FDA device center Director Jeff Shuren weighs in.
Device companies have an opportunity to leverage several major reforms and initiatives that are getting off the ground related to global facility inspections. But firms must constructively engage with the new programs to reap benefits, say Akin Gump attorneys and former top US FDA officials Nathan Brown and Howard Sklamberg in this guest column.