• April 22, 2024

Nothing to See: Reagan-Udall Submits CTP Review

 Nothing to See: Reagan-Udall Submits CTP Review

Credit: Yaran

Credit: Postmodern Studio

The Reagan-Udall Foundation today submitted its recommendations to Robert Califf , commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The findings are what many in the industry are calling “meaningless” and “less than compelling.”

The report concludes that vaping industry stakeholders observed a lack of “consistent implementation” of what the industry understood to be the policies of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), particularly with respect to tobacco harm reduction and the requirements needed to navigate the premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) process.

The “Operational Evaluation of FDA’s Tobacco Program” was facilitated at Califf’s request. The announcement came as Califf attempted to push past several controversies that dominated his second stint running the agency, including his issuing of a marketing denial order (MDO) to e-cigarette maker Juul Labs and later having to rescind that order.

The report did highlight several wide-ranging problems that the report states hinder its ability to regulate the industry and reduce tobacco-related disease and death. The report stated that the CTP should make “process improvements and identify and address the policy and scientific questions” that underpin its regulatory framework. The review concluded that CTP’s implementation of its program also has been affected by “changes in leadership and administrations.” In its first 13 years, CTP has operated under seven different commissioners in three different administrations, and recently hired a third CTP director, Brian King.

“From the stakeholders’ perspective, policy shifts with broad impact on the industry occurred without notice. The Center has faced significant challenges in clearing its policies through the career and political infrastructure. It took years to establish requirements and standards governing application reviews, frustrating industry and creating problems for the Center itself when it received deficient applications,” the report states. “Issues in application reviews resulted in litigation necessitating re-review of some applications. The current environment reflects an unintended shift from what was structured by law as a pre-market authorization framework to the reality of a post-market regulatory environment, which is much more difficult to deal with given that there are few incentives for industry to come into compliance and many incentives for industry to delay the process.”

The evaluation and resulting recommendations focused on four program areas: regulations and guidance, application review, compliance and enforcement, and communication with the public and other stakeholders, according to the review. The review and recommendations are meant to assist the agency in making changes to better carry out its regulatory responsibilities; to strengthen its relationships with stakeholders

The report identified several fundamental issues that the center needs to address and it states that the report offers “cross-cutting as well as program-specific recommendations to help CTP operate more effectively,” according to the authors of the review.

The key points from the report can be summarized as follows:

  • The panel observes that CTP has been forced to operate primarily in a reactive mode, moving
    from one challenge to the next, mainly provoked by the outside forces. The Center should transition to becoming a more proactive and strategic program. With more substantial engagement with stakeholders and the public, CTP should take the time now to think strategically about where it is today and where it needs to go in the next several years.
  • Although CTP has a critical mission to protect the public health from tobacco-related disease and death and is regulating products that have no inherent benefit and huge societal costs, it is a government regulatory program with a duty to run efficiently, fairly, and transparently. This responsibility to function as an effective product regulator should be captured in the Center’s mission, vision, and goals and carried out to the best of the Center’s ability.
  • The panel recognizes that to improve the effectiveness of its application review, the Center should make process improvements and identify and address the policy and scientific questions that underpin its regulatory framework.
  • CTP needs to work with other entities on strategies to clear the market of illegal tobacco products more rapidly and provide more transparency to the public on its efforts to do so. This work is challenging but essential as CTP adopts a more strategic approach. While there is much the Center can do on its own, the panel notes that enforcement of the premarket requirements in the tobacco laws, particularly to help prevent youth use of tobacco products, requires the involvement and support of agencies other than FDA. The authors encourage the agency to elevate this issue and pursue a more comprehensive approach that leverages the resources of other agencies with a declared role in tobacco control.

“Overall, the panel is confident that many of the concerns raised in this report can be addressed by CTP’s
talented and dedicated staff, with the support of FDA leadership,” the report states.

Numerous comments from purported staffers of the FDA for the Reagan Udall assessment claimed the regulatory agency is in a state of disarray and being influenced by outside forces, not scientific research. One comment stated that reviewers of premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) in the CTP Office of Science (OS) lack the autonomy to exercise “best scientific practices” in their reviews of PMTAs. The report fails to address these issues.

The panel was comprised of former federal public health leaders, regulatory strategists, and process improvement specialists. Lauren Silvis, served as chair of the group, which included Jane Axelrad, Keith Flanagan, Charlene Frizzera, and Alberto Gutierrez.

“The panel provided recommendations to help the Agency’s tobacco program strengthen its operations as it works to reduce the harm associated with tobacco use,” said Lauren Silvis. “The Center for Tobacco Products has made significant progress in establishing a regulatory program for tobacco products and our recommendations are intended to help the Center develop additional tools for achieving its public health objectives.”

Through multiple listening sessions, interviews, and an online portal, the group received and carefully reviewed input from a range of stakeholders, including FDA staff and the public, according to the report. The author’s claim the report offers “cross-cutting and program-specific recommendations” for the FDA to consider, “focusing on regulations and guidance, application review, compliance and enforcement, and communication with the public and other stakeholders.”

The report did not address tobacco policy issues, which are outside the scope of the evaluation, according to a Reagan-Udall Foundation.

One industry stakeholder, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution from the FDA for its brands under PMTA review by the agency, said the report’s findings were “a joke” and “completely ignorant of the real problems at the CTP.”

Califf said Monday he will review the recommendations with the aim of outlining the agency’s next steps by February.

Earlier this month, Reagan-Udall delivered its food report that was commissioned at the same time as the tobacco report. The food response suggests the agency’s leadership be restructured to improve its response to emergencies, including the recent shortage of baby formula

Reagan-Udall was created by Congress to help further FDA’s mission. The non-profit receives funding from both the FDA and the industries it regulates, including drugmakers.

The report can be found at reaganudall.org.