As ad-promo guidances go, this is a hefty one, weighing in at nearly 40 pages. For comparison, last year's two social guidances released on social media guidance day totaled 30 pages combined.
Rather than trying to provide a comprehensive digest of the guidance, I'm going to here provide a framework for understanding the guidance and point out some the items that leapt out at me on a first reading.
1. What is this guidance about?Up till now, FDA's two primary groups responsible for overseeing the promotion of prescription drugs and biologics, the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and Advertising and Promotional Labeling Branch (APLB) in the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) have had different policies about accepting electronic filing of promotional materials. APLB accepted them; OPDP didn't.
Moving forward, both agencies will accept promotional material submissions electronically, and they will do so using the common eCTD format used for all other electronic submissions, such as NDAs and BLAs.
2. Which submissions are affected?This guidance affects only submissions of promotional materials to the FDA, and such submissions are either voluntary or mandatory. All promotional materials for any prescription drug must be filed with FDA at the time of initial dissemination or publication (though see here for an important exception regarding social media). In addition, a small class of products (call subpart H or E) have additional mandatory submissions.
In addition, companies sometimes request voluntarily that FDA provide feedback (so-called advisory comments) on draft promotional materials. Companies do so to minimize the likelihood of receiving an FDA enforcement action, since the worst situation a company can find itself in is having spent money to develop promotional materials only to have FDA take enforcement activity that requires the company pull the existing materials and lose the time and money of creating all new materials. Voluntary submissions of promotional materials primarily include requests for advisory comments from the FDA on a newly approved product in its launch phase, TV spots, new messaging, or perhaps as a result of previous enforcement activity.
Because all submissions of final samples of promotional materials include a completed copy of Form 2253, these submissions are typically referred to as 2253 submissions. Though note that APLB requires that companies include Form 2253 for voluntary submissions of draft materials for advisory comments; and that difference will continue even in the new eCTD submissions as proposed in this guidance.
3. Guidances are usually voluntary; but this one isn't (sort of)
Right now, everything in this guidance is voluntary; and the guidance itself is in draft status. There is no requirement that any company begin adopting the procedures set out in this guidance today.
HOWEVER, after this guidance is finalized by the FDA, then parts of the guidance (the parts addressing mandatory submissions of promotional materials) will become mandatory 24 months later.
So, even after the final guidance is released (and there's no way of knowing when that will be), only parts of this guidance will represent mandatory changes; but the mere fact that some parts of the guidance are mandatory is itself a significant difference from most other guidances.
4. But aren't TV spots required to be submitted for review 45 days prior to use?
No. PhRMA's guiding principles on DTC television advertising recommends that companies submit them to the FDA with sufficient time for FDA to review them, but this is not a regulatory requirement. It is only binding on PhRMA signatories, and even then, the companies are not required to submit the materials for advisory comment, just to give FDA time to comment, should the Agency choose to do so.
Also, FDASIA granted FDA authority to mandate that TV spots be submitted to FDA 45 days prior to airing for FDA to comment, and FDA issued a draft guidance about how it would implement such a program. However, as this new guidance states repeatedly, that guidance has not yet been implemented, and FDA does not want companies to follow those procedures currently. The process itself is deeply problematic, as I pointed out in an appendix to my primer on the topic.
5. Is there any glaring change from current 2253 submission processes?
This guidance provides far more extensive discussion of the submission of promotional material than previous direction. Most of the discussion will sound familiar to ad-promo professionals. One item that leaps off the page in the section on final samples submission is this passage:
Firms are also encouraged to submit annotated versions of the promotional material(s) cross-referenced to the product labeling and references, if applicable. (page 6)
Standard final samples submissions do not include references, and this "encourage[ment]" appears in a section of the document that otherwise will cover mandatory changes. Adopting this change would be deeply problematic for most promotional materials.
In the standard review and approval process, the references are only included for the initial medical legal regulatory (MLR) review, and then deleted from subsequent check-changes, and final samples submissions to the pharmaceutical company. Adding references back for the final 2253 submission would create significant additional expense, and would create additional possibility for error during the most time-sensitive portion of an elaborate process.