Antibiotics in animal feed and thin statutory interpretation: NRDC v. EPA

By Guest Contributor Diana R. H. Winters

Legal commentators have spent a lot of time this week sparring over statutory interpretation and the contrasting readings of the ACA by the Halbig and King courts.  The potential consequences of these cases demonstrate just how high the stakes of this enterprise can be.

With less fanfare, the Second Circuit decided a case yesterday that may too have large consequences for the health and welfare of the public.  In NRDC v. EPA, the court reversed a district court’s decision to require FDA to hold hearings on the withdrawal of approval for the use of two antibiotics—penicillin and tetracyclines—in animal feed.  This issue has enormous public health consequences, but the consequences of this case extend beyond antibiotic use, to agency practice in general.  The opinion sanctions egregious agency delay and a tremendous lacuna in decision making.

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When you Can Shed Blood for your Country but not Donate it

Portsmouth, Va. (Jan. 5, 2005) - A hospital corpsman assigned to USS Bataan (LHD 5), donates a pint of blood during the blood drive held by the Blood Donor Team. The Blood Donor Team stationed at Portsmouth Naval Hospital visits multiple commands throughout the area in efforts to boost the blood supply for the U.S. Armed Forces around the world. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham (Image from Wikimedia Commons).

A hospital corpsman donates a pint of blood. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham (Image from Wikimedia Commons).

I have a new article in JAMA this week, “Reconsideration of the Lifetime Ban on Blood Donation by Men Who Have Sex With Men,” co-authored with my former student Jeremy Feigenbaum and my frequent co-author Dr. Eli Adashi (former Dean of Medicine at Brown). In the article we show that FDA’s current policy is morally, ethically, and legally problematic. We are out of step with our peer countries (including the UK, Canada, South Africa) who do delay when men who have sex with men can give blood but not for a lifetime, the way the U.S. does. It is remarkable that if you have sex with a female prostitute or a woman who is HIV+ you face only a 12-month deferral in the U.S. but if you have had sex with a man, just once, ever, no matter his HIV status you face a lifetime delay.

We are in a world where the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down as unconstitutional, where Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been struck down so that gay men and lesbians can proudly serve their country and shed blood (their own, others) on the battlefield. It is time to change a 30-yr old policy prohibiting them giving blood. What’s more, given the the Windsor decision and the recent Ninth Circuit application of heightened scrutiny to the exclusion of gay jurors for jury duty, we think there are serious constitutional questions about FDA’s policy as well.

My preferred approach, and the one I think FDA should move towards, is the Italian “test and assess” which has no blanket classification of MSM but instead does individualized risk assessment. As we describe in our paper thus far has not increased the risk of HIV+ blood making its way into the blood supply.

The Williams Institute in 2010 estimated that 6% of men had at least once had sex with another man, meaning there are potentially 7.2 million men who could become blood donors but are excluded by FDA’s rule. We owe it not only to these men, but also to all those who could benefit from their blood donations to revisit this rule.

Limelight v. Akamai: Implications for Medical Method Patents

By Rachel Sachs

Last month, as it wrapped up the 2014 Term, the Supreme Court decided a patent law case that could have a major impact on method patents in the medical arena. No, I’m not talking about Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, the most Rorschach-like of the Term’s many patent opinions. I’m talking about Limelight Networks v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., in which the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Federal Circuit’s ruling on the scintillating question of divided infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b).

In Limelight, a splintered en banc decision, a majority of the Federal Circuit had overturned prior case law in ruling that liability for induced infringement of a method claim under § 271(b) was possible where no single entity had performed all the steps of that claim, but where those steps were divided between two or more parties, one of whom had induced the other(s) to infringe. (Previously, various opinions had held that induced infringement under § 271(b) required a single actor, just like direct infringement under current § 271(a) precedent.) In a unanimous opinion by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court reversed, essentially reinstating the single entity rule by holding that direct infringement under § 271(a) is required for inducement liability under § 271(b). Continue reading

Call for Submissions: Journal of Law and the Biosciences

JLB coverCall for Submissions: Journal of Law and the Biosciences

Deadline: Rolling.

The Journal of Law and the Biosciences (JLB) is actively soliciting original manuscripts, responses, essays, and book reviews devoted to the examination of issues related to the intersection of law and biosciences, including bioethics, neuroethics, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cells, enhancement, patent law, and food and drug regulation. JLB welcomes submissions of varying length, with a theoretical, empirical, practical, or policy oriented focus.

JLB is the first fully open access peer-reviewed legal journal focused on the advances at the intersection of law and the biosciences. A co-venture between Duke University, Harvard Law School, and Stanford University, and published by Oxford University Press, this open access, online, and interdisciplinary academic journal publishes cutting-edge scholarship in this important new field. JLB is published as one volume with three issues per year with new articles posted online on an ongoing basis.

For more information about JLB, click here. To submit a manuscript, click here.

Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Health Care, Law, and Ethics

Update: The Moore Foundation has generously paid to make my article available as open access on their website here. Today I am speaking at Health Affairs’ “Using Big Data to Transform Health Care” in DC, that will also launch its new issue devoted to the topic. I have a co-authored paper in the volume entitled “The Legal And Ethical Concerns That Arise From Using Complex Predictive Analytics In Health Care” that has just been released. Ironically the article is behind a paywall (while data wants to be free, I guess big data is different!) Here is the abstract.

Predictive analytics, or the use of electronic algorithms to forecast future events in real time, makes it possible to harness the power of big data to improve the health of patients and lower the cost of health care. However, this opportunity raises policy, ethical, and legal challenges. In this article we analyze the major challenges to implementing predictive analytics in health care settings and make broad recommendations for overcoming challenges raised in the four phases of the life cycle of a predictive analytics model: acquiring data to build the model, building and validating it, testing it in real-world settings, and disseminating and using it more broadly. For instance, we recommend that model developers implement governance structures that include patients and other stakeholders starting in the earliest phases of development. In addition, developers should be allowed to use already collected patient data without explicit consent, provided that they comply with federal regulations regarding research on human subjects and the privacy of health information.

I will also have a related paper on mobile health coming out later this summer that I will blog about when it comes out…

Religious Freedom and Access to Health Care

SCOTUSfrontCheck out the “hot off the press” New England Journal of Medicine Perspectives piece “When Religious Freedom Clashes with Access to Care” by Petrie-Flom Faculty Director I. Glenn Cohen, Executive Director Holly Fernandez Lynch, and NEJM Executive Editor (and PFC Faculty Affiliate), Gregory Curfman.  We review the legal background for SCOTUS’ Hobby Lobby decision, summarize the majority and dissenting opinions, and clarify some key implications of the case, including further problematization of the employer-based health insurance system, reduced likelihood of future attempts to offer religious exemptions to health care mandates, and expanded religious challenges in the health care space.  We close by noting that although the public’s ire and praise has been directed at the Justices, they were applying Congress’ statute – and Congress could (but is very unlikely to) amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be less stringent, or otherwise intervene to ensure that women have affordable access to contraceptive services regardless of their employer’s beliefs.

Take a look and let us know what you think!

REGISTRATION OPEN: 9/18 conference on post-trial access

pills_genericvariety_slidePost-Trial Responsibilities: Ethics and Implementation

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East AB, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

This event is free and open to the public, but due to limited seating registration is required. Please register online.

Law, policy, and guidance are vague, sometimes conflicting, and generally lacking in concrete solutions for questions regarding post-trial responsibilities. The issues are complex and demand thoughtful discourse to move the clinical trial enterprise towards meaningful solutions.  Areas that currently lack clarity include:

  • What types of interventions or resources should be included within post-trial responsibilities?
  • What is a reasonable duration for post-trial responsibilities to extend?
  • What is the mission and purpose of various stakeholders in the conduct of clinical research and how do these roles intersect with post-trial access responsibilities?

This conference will bring together diverse stakeholders to address and develop consensus around some of these questions.

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Profits or Drugs?

By Bob Bohrer

Cross-post from Pharmaceutical Policy

There were two stories in The New York Times that, although not directly related, are the basis for today’s post. The first, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Do Drug Companies Make Drugs, or Money?,appeared in the Business Section on page B1 on June 3, 2014. The second, by Andrew Pollock, New System for Treating Cancer Seen as Hopeful, appeared on the same page of The New York Times on the same day. Sorkin’s provocatively titled article focused on Valeant Pharmaceutical International’s takeover bid for Allergan and on Valeant’s strategy, which Sorkin characterized as buying pharmaceutical companies with revenues produced by active and successful pharmaceutical research programs and then increasing profits by cutting back on R&D. Sorkin’s article, as the title indicated, posited a tension between focusing on rewarding investors with increased profits and investing in the development of new and innovative therapies. My purpose in highlighting Sorkin’s article alongside Pollock’s is not to take issue with Sorkin’s analysis of Valeant’s business strategy, but to respond to the article’s title question.  Continue reading

Journal of Law & Biosciences publishes HLS student work

JLB coverThe Journal of Law and the Biosciences, the new open-access journal launched this year by the Petrie-Flom Center and Harvard Law School in partnership with Duke University and Stanford University, has published several articles in recent weeks by Harvard Law School students:

Check out these articles, and learn more about the Journal of Law and the Biosciences!

A Drug Epidemic’s Silver Lining

By Katherine L. Record

Can there be a silver lining to a drug epidemic that is so extreme it is deemed a public health emergency? As prescription opioid (painkiller) addictions drive individuals to heroin, there just might be.

Heroin use has surged recently – seizures of supply increased by nearly 70% over the last few years in New York (the epicenter for imports into the United States). In Boston, overdoses increased by nearly 80% between 2010 and 2012. This has followed a rising trend in prescription opioid addictions – 4 out of 5 users are addicted to prescription painkillers when they first try heroin. Turning to the street opioid is often a move of desperation; prescription opioids are now harder to abuse, more expensive, and harder to obtain than heroin. In other words, heroin provides a cheaper, easier to score, and stronger high.

This surge in use is changing the face of heroin; the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s director recently described the drug as a former “inner city problem” that has become classless, affecting “all populations and all ages.” To be blunt, white people – many with high paying jobs and fancy apartments – are now doing 8 to 10 bags a day.

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SCOTUS Embraces Regulatory Synergy in POM Wonderful

By Diana R.H. Winters

While today’s unanimous (sans Justice Breyer, who recused himself) decision by the Supreme Court in POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co. was certainly not a surprise, especially after the clear tenor of the oral argument, the case may have some implications for FDA law going forward. In this case, POM Wonderful sued Coca-Cola under the Lanham Act, alleging that the label on Coca-Cola’s pomegranate blueberry juice was false and misleading, and that this deception caused it to lose sales. Coca-Cola argued that because its label complied with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, POM’s Lanham Act claim should be precluded. The district court and the Ninth Circuit agreed. Continue reading

DUE 6/3: Call for Abstracts: Emerging Issues and New Frontiers for FDA Regulation

            PFC_Logo_300x300                    FDLI_Logo_380

The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Food and Drug Law Institute are pleased to announce an upcoming collaborative academic symposium:

Emerging Issues and New Frontiers for FDA Regulation

Monday, October 20, 2014 

Washington, DC

We are currently seeking abstracts for academic presentations/papers on the following topics:  Continue reading

Art Caplan on ‘Right to Try’ Law: More Cruel Than Compassionate

Art Caplan has a new opinion piece up at NBC News on Colorado’s new “right to try” law, which “expands access to experimental medications, making it legal for the terminally ill to seek access to drugs that have not yet received FDA approval.” From the article:

Colorado has become the first state to enact a so-called “right to try” law that expands access to experimental medications, making it legal for the terminally ill to seek access to drugs that have not yet received FDA approval. Many others are considering doing the same thing.

Politicians know a surefire winning issue when they see one. Sounds like a great idea? The truth is, such laws are utterly inadequate for helping the dying and the desperate. They would better be described as “right to beg” laws — a right which, sadly, the terminally ill already have and already use in social media campaigns.

Read the full article.

TUESDAY, 5/20 conference: “Biostatistics & FDA Regulation: The Convergence of Science & Law”

Biostatistics and FDA Regulation: The Convergence of Science and Law

Tuesday, May 20, 2014, 8:00am – 5:00pm

Wasserstein Hall, Milstein West AB, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Symposium Presented by the Drug Information Association (DIA), the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI), and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics and Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center.

Biostatistics is the application of statistics — the study of the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data — to a wide range of topics in life sciences.  Biostatistics informs the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory decision-making processes for premarket review of investigational drugs and devices and post-market surveillance of medical products, including decisions to require safety labeling changes and withdraw approval.   Recent developments, such as Congress’s creation of a new federal infrastructure for the dissemination of comparative effectiveness information, point to the need for a fresh look at the way in which biostatistical principles inform federal health care policy, particularly at the FDA.  This one-day symposium will give attendees the foundational knowledge they need to understand how biostatistics applies in FDA regulation, and will also address closely related issues residing at the intersection of statistical analysis and life sciences litigation. The full conference agenda is available on the website.

Registration is required in order to attend this event. Please register here.

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“Sanitizing” Lethal Injection

Nadia N. Sawicki

Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett has brought increased attention to an issue that I have been concerned with for years – the increased “medicalization” of legally sanctioned executions, and, in particular, the role that medical professionals and the scientific community play in this process.

Until the 20th century, most executions were conducted publicly – execution was a communal ritual that served as a means of catharsis. But the American execution process has, over time, become less visible, and, as a consequence, subject to less public oversight. I believe that the movement of the capital punishment process “behind the curtain,” both literally and figuratively, should trouble death penalty opponents and supporters alike.

The standard lethal injection protocol used throughout the United States was developed in 1976 by Dr. Jay Chapman, Oklahoma’s state medical examiner, and Dr. Stanley Deutsch, chair of the Oklahoma Medical School anesthesiology department. Without testing or research, they settled on a three-drug protocol for executing prisoners – sodium thiopental, a short-acting barbiturate; pancuronium bromide, a paralytic; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Until recently, this was the combination used in every state.

Things began to change when Hospira, the U.S. pharmaceutical company that manufactured sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug in 2011. Since then, European manufacturers of sodium thiopental and pentobarbital have limited the production of these drugs, and the European Commission has restricted their export to the U.S. for execution purposes. And just last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Cook v. FDA that the FDA lacks authority to permit importation of these drugs, which, when used for lethal injection, are considered “misbranded” under the FDCA. As a result, many states, including Oklahoma, have had to resort to other alternatives.

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Call for Abstracts: Emerging Issues and New Frontiers for FDA Regulation

PFC_Logo_300x300FDLI_logo_pink

 

 

 

The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Food and Drug Law Institute are pleased to announce an upcoming collaborative academic symposium:

Emerging Issues and New Frontiers for FDA Regulation

Monday, October 20, 2014 

Washington, DC

We are currently seeking abstracts for academic presentations/papers on the following topics:

  • Stem cell therapies
  • Nanotechnologies
  • Genetic (and biomarker) tests
  • Gene therapies
  • Personalized medicine
  • Comparative efficacy research
  • Drug resistant pathogens
  • Globalized markets
  • Tobacco
  • GMO
  • Bioterrorism countermeasures
  • Mobile health technologies
  • Health IT
  • Drug shortages
  • Other related topics

Abstracts should be no longer than 1 page, and should be emailed to Davina Rosen Marano at dsr@fdli.org by Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Questions should also be directed to Davina Rosen Marano.

We will notify selected participants by the end of June.  Selected participants will present at the symposium, and will be expected to submit a completed article by December 15, 2014 (after the event) to be considered for publication in a 2015 issue of FDLI’s Food and Drug Law Journal (FDLJ).  Publication decisions will be made based on usual FDLJ standards.

5/20 conference: “Biostatistics & FDA Regulation: The Convergence of Science & Law”

Biostatistics and FDA Regulation: The Convergence of Science and Law

Tuesday, May 20, 2014, 8:00am – 5:00pm

Wasserstein Hall, Milstein West AB, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Symposium Presented by the Drug Information Association (DIA), the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI), and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics and Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center.

Biostatistics is the application of statistics — the study of the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data — to a wide range of topics in life sciences.  Biostatistics informs the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory decision-making processes for premarket review of investigational drugs and devices and post-market surveillance of medical products, including decisions to require safety labeling changes and withdraw approval.   Recent developments, such as Congress’s creation of a new federal infrastructure for the dissemination of comparative effectiveness information, point to the need for a fresh look at the way in which biostatistical principles inform federal health care policy, particularly at the FDA.  This one-day symposium will give attendees the foundational knowledge they need to understand how biostatistics applies in FDA regulation, and will also address closely related issues residing at the intersection of statistical analysis and life sciences litigation. The full conference agenda is available on the website.

Registration is required in order to attend this event. Please register here.

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Review of the FDA Progress on Phasing out Certain Antibiotics: Promise and Problems

Faced with increasing concerns about the misuse and overuse of antibiotics for food animals’ growth enhancement, which has caused serious antimicrobial resistance, FDA finally took actions on December, 2013 by issuing guidelines that ask drug makers to remove the labeling of antibiotics for growth effects on a “voluntary” basis. FDA officials believe the voluntary participation “is the fastest, most efficient way to make these change.”

As the restriction of antibiotics only applies to growth promotion and disease preventive uses are still permitted, critics argued that the new policy will create a loophole and no guarantee for the decrease of antibiotics’ usage by farmers. Further, without giving FDA an authority to require drug companies to release sales data of antibiotics, some said it remains illusory to monitor and verify the actual usage of the drugs.

According to the FDA’s strategy plan, pharmaceutical companies may respond their intention of voluntary compliance within three months after the notice. On March, 2014, FDA announced that 25 of the 26 drug makers affected have agreed to follow the voluntary withdrawal. In effect, food animal producers can only use the companies’ drugs sold in the market for therapy purpose. Indeed, the predominant support by industry signals an encouraging and good starting point for implementing the FDA policy. Nevertheless, it leaves some legal questions unsolved, which may trigger further disputes in the future.

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Announcing 2014-2016 Petrie-Flom Academic Fellow Rachel Sachs

We are pleased to announce that Rachel Sachs will be joining the Petrie-Flom Center later this summer as an Academic Fellow for the 2014-2016 fellowship term. In 2013, Rachel earned her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was the Articles Chair of the Harvard Law Review and a student fellow with both the Petrie-Flom Center and the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business. Rachel has also earned a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, during which she interned at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She also holds an A.B. in Bioethics from Princeton University. After law school Rachel clerked for the Honorable Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Rachel’s primary research interests lie at the intersection of patent law and public health, with a particular focus on problems of innovation and access and the ways in which law helps or hinders these problems. Her past scholarship has examined the interactions between patent law and FDA regulation in the area of diagnostic tests, and explored the mechanisms behind the passage of patent-related legislation. Her current scholarship applies this focus on innovation and access to the intersection of patent law and drug reimbursement policies.
You can learn more about Rachel on our website.
Welcome Rachel!

FOR HARVARD STUDENTS: TOMORROW: Dallas Buyers Club: Free Film Screening and Discussion

Image by christian razukas from Wikimedia Commons.

Dallas Buyers Club: Free Film Screening and Panel Discussion

April 16, 2014 6:00 PM
Wasserstein Hall 1010, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Students from across Harvard are invited to view a free screening of the Academy-award winning film Dallas Buyers Club and participate in a panel discussion about issues addressed in the film related to access to health care for the HIV community.  The panel discussion will address the following issues: the history of access to care and treatment for HIV; ongoing issues with fair pricing of HIV medications; the role of the FDA in access to experimental medicines; and the portrayal of HIV and LGBTQI individuals in the media as it impacts access to individual and public health resources. Panelists include:

  • Robert Greenwald, Director, Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation; Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Christopher T. Robertson, Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Affiliate, Petrie-Flom Center
  • Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director, BAGLY: Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth

This event is open to students from all Harvard schools.  No pre-registration is required.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation; the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics; and Lambda at Harvard Law School.