FDA Warning Letters – an understanding

As the primary regulator of the biological, healthcare, life sciences and other related industries; the FDA has power and authority over how its work is carried out. FDA Warning Letters are among the primary mediums through which it enforces its authority.

The FDA issues a Warning Letter to a company when it determines, following its inspection of a facility from an industry that it regulates, that the facility is violating some or other terms of the provisions of the FDA Act. The FDA Act is a legislation that gives the FDA the authority to carry out its inspections.

fdaWarningLettersThe issuance of an FDA Warning Letter is an indication that the facility is practicing some degree of nonconformity. A Warning Letter is among the FDA’s strongest tools of ensuring voluntary compliance from organizations with the provisions of the FDA Act.

The FDA publishes on its website any deviances of regulatory significance that it discovers from a facility during its investigations. In its viewpoint, a deviation of regulatory significance is one that leads to enforcement actions if the facility fails to carry out corrective action of whatever violations the FDA has documented.

Types of Warning Letters from the FDATo enable the public and concerned parties to view the Warning Letters it issues from time to time; the FDA has classified these on its website in the following manner:

fdaWarningLettersA General Warning Letter is one that is issued to a company in whose activities the FDA notes significant variations from the principles laid out in the FDA Act. The Warning Letter carries a description of the variation or violation that the manufacturer has been practicing, along with a description of what actions needs to be taken to correct it.

Tobacco Retailer Warning Letters are those that are issued to manufacturers of products made out tobacco, such as cigarettes, smokeless cigarettes and related ones, who are found to be violating the provisions of the FDA’s Tobacco Control Act and with provisions of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1140 (21 C.F.R. Part 1140).

Drug Marketing and Advertising Warning Letters (and Untitled Letters to Pharmaceutical Companies) are those Warning Letters that the FDA website sorts out by month and consist only of Division of Drug Marketing and Communications and Drug Warning Letters. This kind of Warning Letter is issued to sellers of prescription drugs online when they are found to violate terms set out by the FDA.

Warning Letter closeout program
fdaWarningLettersWhen the FDA issues a Warning Letter to a facility that comes under the various classifications; it follows up with it from time to time to ensure that the suggestions it advises are carried out. When the facility has carried out the necessary corrective actions; the FDA issues the Warning Letter Closeout, which closes the matter associated with the Warning Letter until the next FDA inspection.

Methods of issuing Warning LettersIt is only when it discovers violations that the FDA issues Warning Letters. It is through inspections that it discovers violations, from which Warning Letters follow. However, the FDA can also issue Warning Letters to facilities about which its receives complaints of wrongdoing from state personnel.

An FDA Warning Letter is not an enforcement action
fdaWarningLettersIn the perspective of the FDA; a Warning Letter is of an informal and advisory nature. An FDA Warning Letter is a description of the violation observed at a facility; but this in itself does not make the FDA take enforcement action. Rather, through a Warning Letter, the FDA advices the organization on what steps it has to take in order to rectify and correct the reasons for which the Warning Letter was issued. An FDA Warning Letter offers the organization enough opportunity to take corrective action that is of a voluntary and appropriate.

 

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Quality Assurance Auditing for FDA-regulated industries

Quality Assurance Auditing for FDA-regulated industries5

An effective audit constitutes the heart of an effective Quality System. The FDA and other regulatory agencies have emphasized this principle time and again. The purpose of an audit program is to ensure proper and thorough compliance with the guidelines set out by the regulatory agencies. A Quality Assurance audit should also ensure that the activities the company that is being audited is carrying out are within the legal guidelines and frameworks laid out by the respective regulatory authorities.

Two types of audits

Quality Assurance Auditing for FDA-regulated industries3

An organization that is in an FDA-regulated industry is required to carry out internal and external audits. The purpose of this dual type of audit is that one complements the other and the two together reinforce the audits. As the two terms indicate, an internal audit may be thought of as being a tool for self-examination. It is an audit that the organization’s own employees carry out to scrutinize the usefulness of the systems. An external audit, on the other hand, is one that is performed by an independent person who has the qualification and purpose for this kind of work. The purpose of both these types of audits is the same.

Audits based on process

Quality Assurance Auditing for FDA-regulated industries1

The core principle on which audits for the FDA-regulated industries are carried out as part of a Quality System is that since testing alone is not sufficient to ensure quality; quality should be inbuilt into the product. This approach, called the process based to auditing; has to, naturally, be based on an in-depth understanding of the entire set of processes that go into a Quality System before the commencement of the audit. A complete understanding of the processes relating to the business, control and production on the part of the auditors should be the basis to the process-based audit. Auditors then go about defining the criteria for the audit and the scope of the purpose they expect it to serve.

So, what to audit?

Quality Assurance Auditing for FDA-regulated industries

Since Quality Assurance auditing is generic to any FDA-regulated industry; a definition of what has to be audited is quite expansive. Based on the kind of the business, these are the important areas in which audit is carried out:

  • Product
  • Process
  • Quality System
  • Regulatory
  • Supplier
  • System
  • Management

The four phases of auditing

Four self-explanatory phases go into an auditing process:

  • The preparation stage
  • The performance stage
  • The Reporting stage
  • The follow-up and closure stage

Auditing of management systems

The ISO 19011

The ISO 19011

The ISO introduced the ISO 19011 management systems audit. The ISO makes it mandatory for companies to also audit the management systems along with Quality Systems. This is done to ensure completeness of the audit.

Passed in 2011, the ISO 19011 is the guiding principle for auditing a company’s management systems and the ISO standard for auditing a company’s management systems.

Full understanding of all elements of audits

A detailed explanation of the ISO 19011 and all other aspects of an ISO audit will be given at a two-day seminar that is being organized by GlobalCompliancePanel, a leading provider of professional trainings for the areas of regulatory compliance.

At this seminar, David Dills, Global Regulatory Affairs & Compliance Consultant who provides regulatory affairs and compliance consultative services for early-stage and established Class I/II/III device, IVD, biopharmaceutical, cosmetics and nutraceutical manufacturers on the global landscape, and has an accomplished record with more than 27 years of experience in the areas of Regulatory Affairs, Compliance and Quality Systems; will be the Director.

Please log on to Quality Assurance Auditing for FDA-regulated industries to enroll for this seminar. This webinar has been pre-approved by RAPS as eligible for up to 12 credits towards a participant’s RAC recertification upon full completion.

Benefits of participation at this seminar

Participants who attend this seminar will benefit in a myriad of ways. David will offer the following at this seminar:

  • Clear Understanding of Auditing Fundamentals
  • Understand Audit Preparation and Planning
  • Learn best techniques for Audit Performance
  • Learn best practices for Audit Reporting
  • How to address Audit Follow-up and Closure efficiently and effectively
  • Understand the requirements and expectations for being an effective auditor
  • How to develop into an even better auditor
  • How to structure, plan and manage your audits
  • How to develop your technical and non-technical skills
  • How to perform your best audit ever.

He will cover the following areas at this seminar: