To help prepare for public health emergencies, medical countermeasures (MCMs) may be stockpiled by governments and even by some private sector partners.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) oversees the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), which has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency (for example, a terrorist attack, flu outbreak, or earthquake) severe enough to cause local medical supplies to run out. Some state and local governments and private sector entities also stockpile MCMs to have ready access to them if an emergency were to occur.
A medical product is typically labeled by the manufacturer with an expiration date. This reflects the time period during which the product is expected to remain stable, or retain its identity, strength, quality, and purity, when it is properly stored according to its labeled storage conditions. Expiration dating can present challenges to MCM stockpilers because MCMs that have reached their labeled expiration date in most cases cannot be used. While this is important to ensure patient safety, it also means that the MCMs, some of which might still be stable, must be replaced regularly, which can be very costly.
In some cases, testing has shown that certain properly stored medical products can be used beyond their labeled expiration date if they retain their stability. Recognizing stakeholders’ MCM stockpiling challenges, FDA is engaged, when appropriate, in various expiration dating extension activities as described below.
On this page:
- Shelf Life Extension Program
- Emergency Use Authorities and Enforcement Discretion
- Expiration Dating Extension Updates
- Related Information
Shelf Life Extension Program
Stockpiling drugs, vaccines, and medical products is critical to ensure public health emergency preparedness for both the U.S. military and civilian populations. To avoid the need to replace entire stockpiles every few years at significant expense, and because it was recognized through testing that certain products remained stable beyond their labeled expiration dates when properly stored, the Shelf-Life Extension Program (SLEP) was established in 1986.
SLEP is the federal, fee-for-service program through which the labeled shelf life of certain federally stockpiled medical materiel (e.g., in the SNS) can be extended after select products undergo periodic stability testing conducted by FDA. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Through expiration dating extensions, SLEP helps to defer the replacement costs of certain products in critical federal stockpiles. Program participants are U.S. Federal agencies that sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Defense, and SLEP remains limited to federal stockpiles at this time.
Primarily FDA-approved prescription drug (not biological) products are nominated by program participants as SLEP candidates. Current testing focuses on military-significant or contingency use products, drugs that have limited commercial use (e.g., nerve agent antidotes), and drugs that are purchased in very large quantities, such as ciprofloxacin and doxycycline.
FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) Field Science Laboratories centrally manages the program, including interacting with DoD and coordinating laboratory work. The FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Division of Product Quality Research analyzes the data and makes decisions regarding shelf life extensions. The Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats (OCET) collaborates with FDA Centers and federal partners to facilitate access to MCMs. This includes working to ensure that MCM-related policy supports programs like SLEP.
Emergency Use Authorities and Enforcement Discretion
In addition to SLEP, there are other ways that, when appropriate, FDA can allow certain medical products to be used beyond their manufacturer-labeled expiration dates.
One way is through issuing an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) under section 564 of the FD&C Act since use of a product beyond its labeled expiry date is considered unapproved. However, before FDA can issue an EUA, a specific type of determination must be in place, the HHS Secretary must issue a declaration to justify the issuance of the EUA, the section 564 statutory criteria for issuing an EUA must be met, and FDA must determine that it is safe to use the product beyond its labeled expiration date. This authority is limited to medical products for CBRN emergencies.
Another way FDA can approach expiration dating challenges is through FDA’s expiration dating extension authority under section 564A(b) of the FD&C Act, which was established by PAHPRA in 2013. Before PAHPRA, the distribution, dispensing, or use of products with extended expiry, and any related labeling adjustments, were possible through an EUA or FDA enforcement discretion. PAHPRA provides FDA with the explicit authority to extend the expiration dating of eligible FDA-approved MCMs stockpiled for use in CBRN emergencies. In addition to the identification of specific lots, batches, or other units covered and the duration of the extension, FDA can require appropriate conditions related to any extensions under this authority, including appropriate storage, sampling, recordkeeping, periodic testing or retesting, product disposition, and labeling.
If appropriate, FDA can also choose to not take enforcement action with respect to products that are held or used beyond their labeled expiration date. However, when enforcement discretion is used for medical product dating extensions, MCMs are not covered under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act’s liability protections.
Expiration Dating Extension Updates
FDA acknowledges the stockpiling challenges of federal and SLTT stakeholders (for example, related to doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, Tamiflu, and certain auto-injector products) and remains committed to finding appropriate solutions to address such challenges. Following are several examples of how FDA has addressed expiry dating challenges following PAHPRA’s enactment and before PAHPRA:
- November 22, 2013 (with several subsequent updates) - FDA expiry extensions of auto-injector lots manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies
- September 15, 2015 - Expiry date extensions of certain lots of doxycycline hyclate 100mg capsules held in strategic stockpiles (PDF, 28 KB) - memo to state and local public health and first responder stakeholders - related: doxycycline and penicillin G procaine for inhalational anthrax (post-exposure)
Examples of how FDA addressed stakeholders’ expiry dating challenges before PAHPRA’s enactment include extensions related to antiviral drugs following the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza pandemic response and spot shortages of Tamiflu during the 2013 seasonal influenza response:
- June 22, 2010 - Following the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza response, FDA issued a letter to CDC leadership regarding the disposition of Tamiflu and Relenza lots. The letter noted that, based on FDA-approved supplemental New Drug Applications for Relenza inhalation powder and Tamiflu capsules that provided an expiration dating period of 7 years, it would be scientifically supportable for the expiry extension (i.e., for a maximum of 7 years) to apply to certain lots of Tamiflu and Relenza that have already been manufactured. FDA also recommended relabeling of such product prior to dispensing. More information
- January 17, 2013 - In addition to FDA’s June 2010 letter above, a CDC message to states in 2013 regarding spot shortages of Tamiflu for seasonal influenza noted that, “…[b]ased on FDA’s review of scientific data, FDA has concluded that, provided the products have been stored under labeled storage conditions, it is scientifically supportable for certain lots of Tamiflu capsules held in strategic stockpiles to be used for a maximum of ten  years beyond their date of manufacture…”
- SLEP presentation (PDF, 325 KB) from CDER Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Coordination (OCTEC) (December 2010)
Note: OCTEC is now Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Coordination Staff (CTECS)
- Drug stability and SLEP information from CDER Division of Product Quality Research Programs