By Ellyn McMullin

In his recent speech to Congress, President Obama stated “…I agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it. That’s why I ordered a review of all government regulations.”  The review and potential elimination of federal regulations would have significant impact on the Health and Life Science Industry.

In response to the President’s order, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently published their “Plan for Retrospective Review of Existing Rules” aimed at improving regulation and regulatory review. The HHS regulatory review plan focuses on the elimination of rules that are no longer justified or necessary and considers strengthening, complementing or modernizing rules where necessary and appropriate.

This article reviews Food and Drug Administration (FDA) & Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) regulations affected by HHS’s retrospective regulatory review and their effect on the Health and Life Science Industry.

CMS has been proactive in reviewing obsolete, unnecessary or burdensome requirements. The agency has recently identified opportunities to improve patient care and outcomes by removing these impediments. In May 2011 CMS issued a final rule permitting hospitals to use telemedicine to obtain services from a practitioner credentialed at a distant hospital. This change improves the ability of rural and critical access hospitals to provide a broader spectrum of care and services to their patients while reducing provider burden. According to the retrospective plan, CMS intends to publish additional rules in the near future to alleviate other identified bottlenecks.

On a related move, in April 2011 the FDA issued a final rule regarding the regulation of telemedicine equipment. The Medical Device Data System (MDDS) Rule classified most Healthcare IT infrastructure, including telemedicine devices, as Class I medical devices. MDDS requires manufacturers of such devices to meet certain regulatory requirements including Registration & Listing, compliance with Quality System regulation and Adverse Event reporting.  Since the MDDS rule went into effect, manufacturers of telemedicine systems including AMD Global Telemedicine, CISCO and Polycom have registered with the FDA as medical device manufacturers. Tying the two initiatives together means that CMS approved hospitals can use telemedicine but the hospitals must ensure that telemedicine devices comply with FDA rules.

Another area of review in recognition of changing technologies is FDA’s bar code rule. A request for comment was made August 11, 2011 to initiate the review of this rule and help the FDA evaluate alternative technologies. It will be interesting to see if the bar code rule will be replaced with ePedigree and RFID requirements.

As part of the regulatory review process, FDA plans to Increase the Use of Electronic Reports and Submissions. FDA is embarking on a major campaign to revise its regulations to increase use of electronic information in the way it conducts business. To support this effort, FDA requested $400 M in 2010 to transform operational and regulatory processes to increase use of electronic systems and information. This would not only speed processing of NDA’s and clinical study data among others, but also would be more in line with how businesses process information using eMDR and similar programs. On its immediate agenda are regulatory revisions to permit electronic submission of clinical study data for drug trials, post-market reporting for drugs and biological products, and registration and listing of drugs and medical devices. FDA is also looking to require electronic package inserts for human drug and biological products.

In another initiative, FDA is reviewing its current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) regulations for drugs. These revisions would accommodate advances in technology and control of components. Taken together, FDA anticipates that the revisions would provide greater assurances of safety and quality and address some of the challenges presented by the globalization of the pharmaceutical industry.  FDA recognizes that changes to cGMP regulations do not generally reduce costs, though there is a presumption of unquantifiable public health benefits from improvements to good manufacturing practices. Examples of such benefits include supply chain security for drugs and establishment of preventive controls, which improve product safety and reduce the harms associated with poorly manufactured or produced products.

The implementation of HHS’s retrospective regulatory review appears to provide a needed push to streamline regulations and reduce obstacles while still ensuring the safety and welfare of patients. It is a move in the right direction.