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FDA Issues Final Rule on Changes to Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling Information

Reorganized sections provide more risk–benefit data

The FDA has published a final rule that sets standards for how information about using medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding is presented in the labeling of prescription drugs and biological products.

The final rule replaces the current product letter categories –– A, B, C, D, and X –– used to classify the risks of using prescription drugs during pregnancy with three detailed subsections that describe risks within the real-world context of caring for pregnant women who may need medications.

“Prescribing decisions during pregnancy and lactation are individualized and involve complex maternal, fetal, and infant risk–benefit considerations. The letter category system was overly simplistic and was misinterpreted as a grading system, which gave an over-simplified view of the product risk,” said Sandra Kweder, MD deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The new labeling rule provides explanations, based on available information, about the potential benefits and risks for the mother, the fetus, and the breastfeeding child.”

The final rule requires the use of three subsections in the labeling titled “Pregnancy,” “Lactation,” and “Females and Males of Reproductive Potential.” The FDA requires that these subsections include a summary of the risks of using a drug during pregnancy and breastfeeding, a discussion of the data supporting the summary, and relevant information to help health care providers make prescribing and counseling decisions.

  • The Pregnancy subsection will provide information relevant to the use of the drug in pregnant women, such as dosing and potential risks to the developing fetus, and will require information about whether there is a registry that collects and maintains data on how pregnant women are affected when they use the drug or biological product. Information in drug labeling about the existence of any pregnancy registries has been previously recommended but not required until now.
  • The Lactation subsection will provide information about using the drug while breastfeeding, such as the amount of drug in breast milk and potential effects on the breastfed child.
  • The Females and Males of Reproductive Potential subsection will include information about pregnancy testing, contraception, and infertility as it relates to the drug. This information has been included in labeling, but there was no consistent placement for it until now.

The “Pregnancy” and “Lactation” subsections will also include three subheadings: “risk summary,” “clinical considerations,” and “data.” These subheadings will provide more detailed information regarding, for example, human and animal data on the use of the drug, and specific adverse reactions of concern for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

More than 6 million pregnancies occur in the U.S. every year, and pregnant women take an average of three to five prescription drugs during pregnancy, according to the FDA. Women with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma or hypertension, may need to continue to use prescription drugs to treat those conditions during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Women may also need to take medications for new or acute conditions that may occur during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The new labeling format reorganizes information and is structured to help inform health care professionals’ prescribing decisions and the counseling of patients using prescription drugs, the FDA says.

The final rule is part of a broad effort by the agency, which began with the Physician Labeling Rule, to improve the content and format of prescription drug labeling.

The rule finalizes many of the provisions in the proposed rule that the FDA issued in May 2008, and will be in effect as of June 30, 2015. Once the final rule is in effect, newly approved drug and biological product applications will be required to use the new format immediately, whereas the new labeling content and format requirements for previously approved products subject to the Physician Labeling Rule will be phased in gradually.

The FDA is also issuing draft guidance for industry to help drug and biological product manufacturers comply with the new labeling content and format requirements.

Source: FDA; December 2, 2014.

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