The latest round of 483 notices of observation forms are out and most of the headlines are all about sterile compounding pharmacies in compliance hot water. The FDA is now specifically targeting sterile compounding pharmacies for compliance and surveillance inspections. The individual State Pharmacy Boards are less likely to shield local firms in the wake of New England Compounding Center. (NECC). FDA has expanded its unhindered self-appointed access to sterile compounding pharmacies. It does not appear that FDA is limiting its inspections to large hospital system operations. The agency also appears to be targeting smaller regional firms, too.
With well over a hundred pharmaceuticals on the shortage list , sterile compounding pharmacies are more critical then ever. The normal size sterile bags are turned into numerous admixtures for many different drugs, which in turn helps alleviate the shortage. For instance, when treating children you have to turn an adult sized sterile drug into a child size dosage for administration; one big bag turns into three small ones. Otherwise only a portion of the large bag would be used on one patient and then discarded. Some of the drugs on the shortage list can’t be manufactured by a compounding pharmacy, but these operations may be able to stretch out some critically short drugs until more supplies may be manufactured.
The citations issued by FDA have very similar tone and compliance issues.
For example, this Texas firm’s 483 from March 2013 is a laundry list of remediations. I don’t mean to single out this firm, because many other firms have similar citations. But this 483 shows that the main agency concerns include preventing microbial, pyrogen, and viral contaminations (maintaining aseptic environment). Operational configuration (enough hoods for amount of admixtures), employee aseptic technique (media fills), and product stability programs were all noted as deficient. Validations were also lacking for environmental monitoring and decontamination procedures. These are all basic cGMP requirements most pharma manufacturing companies spend much of their resources on. Sterile compounding pharmacies operate close to USP 797 standard but fall way short of FDA cGMP requirements for sterile drug manufacturing. The above listed 483 Web page is from this FDA weblink:
Ready or not the sterile drug compounding pharmacies will now get a crash course in drug manufacturing 101. FDA will continue to conduct surprise audits on medium and large sterile drug compounders and inspect them as they would a cGMP manufacturer. Why would FDA investigators treat a compounding pharmacy like a manufacturer? FDA does not currently have a sterile compounding pharmacy training course; instead, they have a sterile drug manufacturing training course. It is that simple and until there is a distinction or separate training class offered, we will see more of the same. FDA inspectors are trained to use the USP 797 guide but they still inspect the firm using the 7356.002 Compliance Program Guidance Manual (CPGM) for drug manufacturers.
Will this push to regulate sterile compounding pharmacies make the drug shortage better or worse? Will compounding sterile operators invest in the capitol it takes to make a validated aseptic facility with anterooms and appropriate gowning procedures?