Office of Prescription Drug Promotion Announces New Process for Core Launch Review

November 27, 2020By McKenzie E. Cato & Dara Katcher Levy

On November 20, 2020, the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) hosted a webinar to announce a new process for review of “core launch” promotional materials.  Specifically, OPDP has added a five business day screening period to the beginning of core launch review to ensure that the submission meets the criteria for “core launch” as outlined in OPDP’s 2019 guidance document, Providing Regulatory Submissions in Electronic and Non-Electronic Format – Promotional Labeling and Advertising Materials for Human Prescription Drugs (OPDP Electronic Submissions Guidance).  OPDP also clarified what it considers to be core launch materials, for purposes of estimated review timing.

As background, firms have a voluntary option to submit promotional materials to OPDP for review prior to dissemination.  “Launch” materials are those draft promotional materials that firms intend to disseminate in the first 120 days that a new product indication, delivery system, formulation, dosage form, dosing regimen, strength, or route of administration is marketed to the public.  “Core launch” materials are the following key launch materials, as outlined in the OPDP Electronic Submissions Guidance:

  • One comprehensive promotional labeling piece directed towards professionals (e.g., sales aid, detail aid), which is 12 or fewer pages;
  • One advertisement directed toward professionals (e.g., journal advertisement), which is 4 or fewer pages not including prescribing information or brief summary;
  • One comprehensive direct-to-consumer (DTC) labeling piece (e.g., patient brochure), which is 12 or fewer pages;
  • One DTC advertisement (e.g., magazine ad), which is 4 or fewer pages not including brief summary; and
  • A professional and/or DTC product website (12 printed legible pages each) or electronic sales aid if derivative of a comprehensive labeling piece that is also submitted for voluntary advisory comment.

OPDP has a goal of reviewing all core launch materials within 45 calendar days, and it tracks its performance in meeting this goal (see OPDP Metrics webpage).

During the November 20 webinar, OPDP explained that some recent core launch submissions have presented challenges for both OPDP and firms, prompting OPDP to make improvements to its process to help streamline review and ensure that OPDP can meet the 45-day turnaround time.  OPDP noted that there have been instances of lengthy comment letters from OPDP in sub-optimal timeframes for firms, core launch submissions with highly nuanced claims and presentations, and submissions with hundreds of pages of references requiring extensive review.

The purpose of the new five business day screening process is to ensure that the submission meets criteria for “core launch,” in that it is limited to the items listed in the OPDP Electronic Submissions Guidance and that the claims and presentations are based solely on information contained in the Prescribing Information, information from the pivotal trials, or publications directly related to those trials.  The screening process is also intended to ensure that the submission is administratively complete.  For example, firms must submit both clean and annotated versions of the draft promotional materials, and the annotated versions must be cross-referenced to annotated versions of the FDA-approved prescribing information.  FDA intends to notify firms via teleconference if the submission is not a core launch submission, exceeds the page limits, or otherwise does not satisfy the criteria for core launch review.  If no issues are identified, the firm will not be contacted, and FDA will proceed to the 45-day core launch review process.

The new process will help better frame expectations for industry as well as OPDP.  OPDP stated that it expects materials to “be a true representation of the core introductory messaging for the product” and not material that includes all potential claims the firm wants to make.  This is consistent with OPDP’s historical approach of reviewing pieces in totality to better understand format, context, and prominence of presentations.  Of particular interest, OPDP clarified that core launch materials may contain claims and presentations that are consistent with the drug’s prescribing information, per its CFL Guidance so long as those claims otherwise meet the criteria of a “core launch” claim (e.g., relates to the prescribing information or to pivotal trials).  While firms may provide a CFL analysis to support the presentation, one is not required and the example displayed during the webinar and as part of OPDP’s updated Frequently Asked Questions webpage is unhelpful in providing meaningful guidance to firms on information that supports the CFL analysis.  The example of a CFL analysis simply re-states the three-factor test articulated in the CFL Guidance, without specific analyses that would support the claim.

Despite the modified process, OPDP also emphasized that there are still circumstances when firms should expect a turnaround time longer than 45 days.  OPDP explained that if the submission of launch materials includes materials with claims that are not derived completely and directly from the prescribing information (e.g., it includes claims supported by clinical literature), OPDP may need to consult with other experts within FDA.  Any time necessary for consultation outside of OPDP is not counted within the 45-day clock and reviews that include consults may not be completed within 45 days.

The new core launch review process will go into effect starting January 1, 2021.