Category Archives: DSCSA

FDA Provides Guidance on DSCSA Exemptions for Covid-19 PHE

FDA explains EUAs under a PHE

Last week the FDA posted new guidance called “Exemption and Exclusion from Certain Requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” that directly addresses everything I talked about in my last essay, “DSCSA Exemption For Public Health Emergencies” and more.  This new guidance was “fast-tracked” and went direct to “final” status, skipping the “draft” stage used for most guidances.  The FDA determined that the “…prior public participation for this guidance is not feasible or appropriate.”  Things are moving fast at the FDA regarding Covid-19 so if you’re reading this essay more than a week or two after it is published, I suggest you search the FDA website to confirm that its contents are still fully valid.  Make sure you check the links below for more info.

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DSCSA Exemption For Public Health Emergencies

On March 10, 2020, Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services of the US government, declared a public health emergency (PHE) under Section 319F of the Public Health Service Act “…to provide liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.”  This action immediately opened an exemption embedded in the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) for the “covered persons” performing the “covered countermeasures” aimed at the specific “threat” in the covered “geographic area”, for the identified “population” for the “effective time period” specifically identified in the declaration. 

This is only the second public health emergency with nationwide scale announced in at least the last 20 years.  The first was for the opioid crisis.  The intent of these declarations is to lower the liability exposure to companies helping to create, distribute and administer countermeasures aimed at ending the emergency.  Let’s take a closer look at the effect of the Covid-19 PHE on the DSCSA and companies in the US pharma supply chain.

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How The DSCSA Is Designed To Work

There are quite a few people people in the industry who misunderstand how the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was designed to protect the supply chain. The most common misunderstanding is that it is a full “track and trace” system where drugs are verified at each step. In fact, the DSCSA is mainly just a breadcrumb system that forces companies in the supply chain to retain standardized documentation of supply chain events, “just in case”. Very few drug packages will ever get “verified” at any point in their existence in the supply chain. And that’s by design.

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DSCSA: Industry Moves Forward

Some members of the US pharmaceutical supply chain are not waiting for the FDA to make the next move (see “DSCSA: Will 2020 Be FDA’s Year To Leap Forward?”).  Instead, they are proactively organizing and setting the standards that will most likely be used to meet the requirements of the Enhanced Drug Distribution Security (EDDS) phase of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), which goes into effect on November 27, 2023.  Forward motion has been made over the last month on two fronts:  The DSCSA governance organization and the Verification Router Service (VRS).

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DSCSA: Will 2020 Be FDA’s Year To Leap Forward?

When it comes to the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), the FDA seems to alternate between hibernating, and leaping forward.  2017 through mid-2018 was a leap forward period with the publication of 8 draft or final guidance documents and 3 public meetings.  Then in 2019, hibernation.  Yes, FDA’s list of DSCSA guidance and policy documents has two entries for 2019 so far, but one is simply a notice reopening the comment period on the DSCSA Pilots request for information that was originally opened in 2016 and 2017.  The other is the compliance policy that provides one year of enforcement discretion for the 2019 wholesaler saleable returns requirement (see “No Surprise: DSCSA Verification Delay”).  Neither were very taxing on the FDA to prepare.  What should the FDA do next?  What should they be doing right now?

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2019 GS1 US Barcode Assessment, Extrapolated

Last week GS1 US published their “2019 Update:  Barcode Readability for DSCSA 2023 Interoperability” in conjunction with the Big 3 wholesale distributors, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health.  You’ve probably already seen it, but probably not like this. Keep reading.

This year there was a significant jump in the percentage of drug products containing the 2D barcode mandated by the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).  The problem is, for the last three years they have published their data four to five months after they collected the data (see also “Wholesalers Find Troubling Results In DSCSA Barcode Assessment“).  What everyone really wants to know is, what percentage of drugs would have been marked with the 2D barcode in November of 2018 and today, not back in June of those years.  And with three years’ worth of data, you can make a reasonable extrapolation of the data for the November dates, if you just apply a little spreadsheet and graphics skills.  Let’s try it.

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Next Week’s HDA Traceability Seminar

Every year I look forward to the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) Traceability Seminar.  It’s the one event in the US that is attended by everyone connected with pharma serialization and traceability, including those from manufacturers, 3PLs, repackagers, wholesale distributors, dispensers and solution providers.  In that one time and place I can get answers to burning questions about what is going on in the industry and a sense for what people are thinking about a wide range of issues that appear here in RxTrace.  The sessions are helpful, but the real goldmine are the hallway conversations.  Of course, I’ve written about this before (see “2014 Fall Conference Season Preview” and “Terminology: Track and Trace, and Pedigree”).

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