Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations

Hieber's Pharmacy 12/5/17

 

  

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Division of Pharmaceutical Quality Operations I
10 Waterview Blvd, 3rd FL
Parsippany, NJ 07054
Telephone: (973) 331-4900
FAX: (973) 331-4969 

 
 

 

CERTIFIED MAIL
RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED
 
 
WARNING LETTER
CMS # 542220
 
 
December 5, 2017
 
 
Mr. Joseph G. Bettinger
Owner
Hieber’s Pharmacy, Inc. 
3500 5th Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3337
 
Dear Mr. Bettinger:
 
From January 23, 2017, to February 17, 2017, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators inspected your facility, Hieber’s Pharmacy, Inc., located at 3500 5th Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3337. During the inspection, the investigators noted that drug products you produced failed to meet the conditions of section 503A of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) [21 U.S.C. § 353a] for exemption from certain provisions of the FDCA. In addition, the investigators noted serious deficiencies in your practices for producing sterile drug products, which put patients at risk.  
 
FDA issued a Form FDA 483 to your firm on February 17, 2017. FDA acknowledges receipt of your facility’s response, dated April 30, 2017. Based on this inspection, it appears that you produced drug products that violate the FDCA.
 
A.    Compounded Drug Products Under the FDCA
 
Section 503A of the FDCA describes the conditions under which human drug products compounded by a licensed pharmacist in a State licensed pharmacy or a Federal facility, or a licensed physician, qualify for exemptions from three sections of the FDCA: compliance with current good manufacturing practices (CGMP) (section 501(a)(2)(B)); labeling with adequate directions for use (section 502(f)(1)); and FDA approval prior to marketing (section 505) [21 U.S.C. §§ 351(a)(2)(B), 352(f)(1) and 355].[1] Receipt of valid prescriptions for individually-identified patients is one of the conditions for the exemptions under section 503A. 
 
In addition, for a compounded drug product to qualify for the exemptions under section 503A, bulk drug substances used to compound it must: (I) comply with the standards of an applicable United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or National Formulary (NF) monograph, if a monograph exists, and the USP chapter on pharmacy compounding; (II) if such a monograph does not exist, be components of drugs approved by the Secretary; or (III) if such a monograph does not exist and the drug substance is not a component of a drug approved by the Secretary, appear on a list developed by the Secretary through regulation (“503A bulks list”) (section 503A(b)(1)(A)(i) of the FDCA).
 
B.    Failure to Meet the Conditions of Section 503A
 
During the inspection, the FDA investigators noted that drug products produced by your firm failed to meet the conditions of section 503A. For example, the investigators noted your firm compounded a drug product using melatonin. Drug products compounded using melatonin are not eligible for the exemptions provided by section 503A(a), because melatonin is not the subject of an applicable USP or NF monograph, is not a component of an FDA-approved human drug, and does not appear on the 503A bulks list.[2]
 
Therefore, you compounded drug products that do not meet the conditions of section 503A and are not eligible for the exemptions in that section from the FDA approval requirement of section 505 of the FDCA, the requirement under section 502(f)(1) of the FDCA that labeling bear adequate directions for use, and the requirement of compliance with CGMP under section 501(a)(2)(B) of the FDCA. In the remainder of this letter, we refer to your drug products that do not qualify for exemptions under section 503A as the “ineligible drug products.”
 
Specific violations are described below.
 
C.    Violations of the FDCA
 
Adulterated Drug Products
 
The FDA investigators noted that drug products intended or expected to be sterile were prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions, whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health, causing your drug products to be adulterated under section 501(a)(2)(A) of the FDCA. For example:
 
1.    Your firm’s sole entrance to the sterile compounding room (SCR), where aseptic production occurs, is through a small unclassified vestibule, which has carpeting on the floor. 
 
2.    The investigators observed an operator conducting handwashing and partial gowning in a small bathroom accessed through the carpeted vestibule, which contains a toilet, prior to proceeding to the SCR to perform aseptic processing. 
 
3.    The investigators noted that your firm turns off the HEPA filters in the ISO 5 glovebox as well as the surrounding SCR at the end of each production day and they remain off until pre-production cleaning on the next production day. However, prior to resuming aseptic operations after the shutdown, your firm does not use a sporicidal agent as part of your pre-production cleaning and disinfection.
 
4.    Your firm failed to use sterile wipes as part of your disinfection program for the ISO 5 glovebox and SCR. 
 
5.    The investigators observed an operator cleaning the inside of the ISO 5 area with exposed skin around their neck and face. 
 
6.    Your media fills were not performed under conditions to challenge whether your facility is capable of performing aseptic operations under the most challenging or stressful conditions. Therefore, your products may be produced in an environment that poses a significant contamination risk. 
 
Under section 301(a) of the FDCA [21 U.S.C. § 331(a)], the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any drug that is adulterated is a prohibited act. Further, it is a prohibited act under section 301(k) of the FDCA [21 U.S.C. § 331(k)] to do any act with respect to a drug, if such act is done while the drug is held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce and results in the drug being adulterated.
 
Misbranded Drug Products
 
The ineligible drug products you compounded are intended for conditions not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layman can use these products safely for their intended uses. Consequently, their labeling fails to bear adequate directions for their intended uses.[3] Accordingly, these ineligible drug products are misbranded under section 502(f)(1) of the FDCA. It is a prohibited act under section 301(k) of the FDCA to do any act with respect to a drug, if such act is done while the drug is held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce and results in the drug being misbranded.
 
D.    Corrective Actions
 
We have reviewed your firm’s response to the Form FDA 483. We cannot fully evaluate the adequacy of the following corrective actions described in your response because you did not include sufficient information or supporting documentation:
 
In your response, you committed to removing the carpeting in the vestibule and the toilet. However, your firm did not provide supporting documentation for our review.  
 
Moreover, the following corrective actions appear inadequate to address the insanitary conditions noted:
 
1.    In your response, you state your continued use of non-sterile wipes within the aseptic processing area. In addition, your firm provided an updated cleaning and disinfectant procedure (SOP 1.41 Compounding Area Requirement (sterile)-Cleaning and Maintenance), which references the addition of PREmpt™ RTU as a disinfectant used for cleaning. However, PREmpt™ RTU does not appear to be a sterile disinfectant. The use of non-sterile wipes and non-sterile disinfectants increases the potential for contamination to be introduced into the aseptic processing areas and is an insanitary condition.  
 
2.    We remain concerned with your continued practice of turning off the HEPA filters in the ISO 5 glovebox and the surrounding “sterile compounding room” at the end of each production day. When the HEPA filters are turned off, the positive pressure cascade is lost and the ISO 5 work area may become compromised from the adjoining unclassified room. This is of concern as microbial spores may be introduced into the aseptic processing area and your current pre-production disinfection process will not be effective against microbial spores. Therefore, your firm has no assurance that the environmental conditions within the glovebox are appropriate for aseptic processing. 
 
3.    In your response, you did not commit to correcting the observation related to exposed skin within the ISO 5 area during cleaning. Exposed skin within the ISO 5 area is an insanitary condition and may lead to contamination of drug products intended to be sterile. 
 
4.    In your response, you noted that your media fills include more complex compounding procedures that reflect the most challenging scenarios. However, your media fills are not at or approaching the largest volume produced in production. For example, your media fill simulates the production of 100 mL, whereas, batch sizes in actual production can range up to 3,000 mL. 
 
For more information on compounding, please see FDA’s website, at https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/PharmacyCompounding/default.htm.
 
Please be aware that section 501(a)(2)(A) of the FDCA concerning insanitary conditions applies regardless of whether drug products you compound meet the conditions of section 503A, including the condition that bulk drug substances used to compound must: (I) comply with the standards of an applicable United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or National Formulary (NF) monograph, if a monograph exists, and the USP chapter on pharmacy compounding; (II) if such a monograph does not exist, be components of drugs approved by the Secretary; or (III) if such a monograph does not exist and the drug substance is not a component of a drug approved by the Secretary, appear on a list developed by the Secretary through regulation (“503A bulks list”) (section 503A(b)(1)(A)(i) of the FDCA).
 
Should you continue to compound and distribute drug products that do not meet the conditions of section 503A, the compounding and distribution of such drugs would be subject to the new drug approval requirement, the requirement to label drug products with adequate directions for use, and the drug CGMP regulations.  Before doing so, you must comply with the requirements of section 505 and 502(f)(1) and fully implement corrections that meet the minimum requirements of the CGMP regulations.
 
FDA strongly recommends that your management undertake a comprehensive assessment of operations, including facility design, procedures, personnel, processes, maintenance materials, and systems. In particular, this review should assess your aseptic processing operations. A third party consultant with relevant sterile drug processing expertise should assist you in conducting this comprehensive evaluation. 
 
E.     Conclusion
 
The violations cited in this letter are not intended to be an all-inclusive statement of violations at your facility. You are responsible for investigating and determining the causes of the violations identified above and for preventing their recurrence or the occurrence of other violations. It is your responsibility to ensure that your firm complies with all requirements of federal law, including FDA regulations.
 
You should take prompt action to correct the violations cited in this letter. Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in legal action without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction. 
 
Within fifteen (15) working days of receipt of this letter, please notify this office in writing of the specific steps that you have taken to correct violations. Please include an explanation of each step being taken to prevent the recurrence of violations, as well as copies of related documentation. If you do not believe that the products discussed above are in violation of the FDCA, include your reasoning and any supporting information for our consideration. If you cannot complete corrective action within 15 working days, state the reason for the delay and the time within which you will complete the correction.
 
Please send your electronic reply to Yvette.Johnson@fda.hhs.gov, or mail your reply to:
 
Yvette Johnson
Compliance Officer
Food and Drug Administration
200 Chestnut Street/ Room 900
Philadelphia, PA 19106
 
Please identify your response with reference number # 1000121499
 
 
Sincerely,
/S/ 
Diana Amador-Toro
Division Director/OPQ Division I
New Jersey District Office
 

[1] We remind you that there are conditions other than those discussed in this letter that must be satisfied to qualify for the exemptions in section 503A of the FDCA.
[2] On June 9, 2016, FDA issued a final guidance titled, Interim Policy on Compounding Using Bulk Drug Substances Under Section 503A of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. This guidance describes FDA’s interim regulatory policy for State-licensed pharmacies, Federal facilities, and licensed physicians that compound human drug products using bulk drug substances that do not otherwise meet the conditions of section 503A(b)(1)(A)(i) while the 503A bulks list is being developed. Specifically, the guidance sets out the conditions under which FDA does not intend to take action against a State-licensed pharmacy, Federal facility, or licensed physician for compounding a drug product using a bulk drug substance that is not the subject of an applicable USP or NF monograph or a component of an FDA-approved drug, until the substance is identified in a final rule as included or not included on the 503A bulks list.  These conditions include that the substance may be eligible for inclusion on the 503A bulks list, was nominated with adequate support for FDA to evaluate it, and has not been identified by FDA as a substance that appears to present significant safety risks pending further evaluation. Melatonin was nominated for inclusion on the 503A bulks list, but has been identified as a substance that was not nominated with adequate support for FDA to evaluate the substance.  For additional information, see the guidance at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM469120.pdf
[3] Your ineligible drug products are not exempted from the requirements of section 502(f)(1) of the FDCA by regulations issued by the FDA (see, e.g., 21 CFR 201.115).

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