Life Sciences Perspectives
October 20, 2021

Field Alert Reporting: Supplier Contracting Implications for Drug Developers

For emerging companies establishing their first supply chains, ensuring notification requirements in supply agreements for when commercial-stage manufacturing issues arise may not be top of mind. However, it is important for drug developers whose contracts enable continuation of a supply arrangement into the commercial-stage to be familiar with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) field alert reporting (FAR) requirements for new drug application (NDA) and abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) holders to ensure adequate communication between developers and their suppliers.

By way of background, the FAR regulations at 21 C.F.R. §§ 314.81(b)(1) and 314.98(b) require NDA and ANDA holders to notify their FDA field office (using an Form FDA 3331a) within three business days of “receipt” of: (1) information concerning any incident that causes a distributed drug product or its labeling to be mistaken for, or applied to, another article; or (2) information concerning any bacteriological contamination, or any significant chemical, physical, or other change or deterioration in the distributed drug product, or any failure of one or more distributed batches of the drug product to meet the specification established for it in its approved application. In brief, timely notification by suppliers really does matter here and should not extend past one business day if at all possible.

This past summer, the FDA issued final guidance clarifying reporting timelines and the facts and circumstances that trigger submission of FARs. Amongst other things, the FDA clarified that the FAR requirements apply to all products marketed under an NDA or ANDA, including positron emission tomography drugs, designated medical gases, and combination products containing a drug constituent part. However, products that are only marketed abroad pursuant to a foreign approval with non-U.S. labeling are not subject to FDA’s FAR requirements. FDA also clarified that report-triggering events are not limited to active ingredient issues but can also include issues related to inactive ingredients, processing aids, and packaging.

Additional key takeaways include:

  • FARs are required even when a problem is identified and corrected within the three business day reporting window.
  • FARs are required even when a problem is identified beyond the three business day reporting window; however, a Form FDA 483 finding can result from the failure to submit timely FARs.
  • Day “0” for calculation of the three business day reporting window is the day information triggering the report was received, even if received by a third-party contractor or supplier.
  • Follow-up or final FARs are recommended but not required if significant new information is received.
  • Separate initial FARs are required for a problem impacting drug products covered by multiple applications, but if conducting a single investigation into the issue after submitting the initial FARs, any follow-up can be provided in a single follow-up or final FAR.
  • Investigations into issues identified with undistributed products should consider whether those issues may exist in distributed products, triggering a FAR.
  • Possible changes or deterioration in distributed products triggering FARs include contamination by bacteria, yeast, mold, virus or other microorganisms.
  • Issues leading to recalls do not release an NDA or ANDA holder from FAR reporting responsibility.

Overall, FDA’s FAR requirements necessitate prompt or immediate notification of any information discovered by suppliers that could trigger a FAR for NDA and ANDA holders. For supplier agreement negotiations, requiring prompt or immediate notification of issues in clinical-stage agreements positions a developer well to require the same in the commercial stage when FAR requirements apply. Additionally, in the commercial stage, FARs can prompt unannounced FDA for cause inspections and can also lead to expensive product recalls, so early notification, investigation, and remediation of issues warranting a FAR submission can help minimize potential liability and resource expenditure to remedy any issues that arise.

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