Turning Point, 2 Other Firms Sue FDA Over Market Denials

At least three suits stemming from marketing denial orders (MDOs) issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in response to premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) have been filed in the 2nd, 6th and 11th circuits courts of appeals (possibly more) against the FDA. Turning Point Brands (TPB) filed first a petition for review (a statutory review) with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. TPB then filed an emergency motion to stay the FDAs order to remove TPB’s products from the market. Bidi Vapor and at least one other company have filed similar suits.

Credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi

The TPB petition forced the FDA to provide an administrative record for its decisions on PMTAs. TPB sells various flavored e-liquids marketed under the Solace, VaporFi and Vapor Shark brands. TPB is now asking the court to review the FDA order “on the grounds that it is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, contrary to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” The company requests the court “vacate or modify” the FDA order and asks that TPB be allowed to “continue to market the products subject to the challenged order.”

In an explanation for its actions, the FDA’s director for its Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), Mitch Zeller, stated in a release that many of the accepted applications ultimately received an RTF letter at the filing stage of the review process because the application did not include required information. “For example, companies received RTF letters for not including required content such as ingredient listings, labels for each product to be marketed, or adequate environmental assessments,” he wrote.

In a joint news release with Zeller and acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock, the FDA explained that the applications from many MDO recipients “lacked sufficient evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers sufficient to overcome the public health threat posed by the levels of youth use” of electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) products.

The PMTAs submitted by TPB and denied by MDO included an in-depth toxicological review, a clinical study, and studies on patterns and likelihood of use, according to the motion to stay filed by TPB on Sept. 30. The stay contained responses from the FDA’s response to TPB’s petition for review. “TPB’s studies demonstrated that TPB’s products help adult smokers transition away from riskier traditional cigarettes. Those studies confirmed that youth users do not currently purchase TPB products and there is virtually zero likelihood that they will in the future,” the motion states.

TPB accuses the FDA of moving the goalposts for data needed to receive a marketing order based on what the agency “learned” from the “review [of] PMTAs for flavored ENDS so far,” according to the stay. TPB noted that the “North Star of administrative law” is that agencies cannot induce regulated parties to rely on “agency representations about regulatory requirements,” then penalize them using the previously unannounced criteria after-the-fact.

“But that is precisely what FDA did here,” the stay motion states. “[The] FDA reasoned that TPB failed to conduct ‘a randomized controlled trial and/or longitudinal cohort study’ or other studies performed ‘over time’ to show that TPB’s specific flavored products help adult users stop smoking more than tobacco-flavored products do. Yet FDA previously deemed these studies unnecessary.”