February 2017

Dinner for Two? Federal Regulations Indicate a Newfound Love for the Pediatric Medical Device Market

Angela Fralish, MJLST Invited Blogger

In December 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act which includes Subtitle L “Priority Review for Breakthrough Devices” and Subtitle M “Medical Device Regulatory Process Improvement.” Subtitle L addresses efficiency in medical device development by allowing inventors to request an expedited review for inventions that target disease, and for which there is no alternative device is currently on the market. Subtitle M requires FDA staff to be trained in least burdensome concept reviews and allocates $500 million to speed up commercialization.

This Act presents growth opportunities for the pediatric medical device market which often lacks device development due to time and expense. Under the Cures Act, if the device targets a childhood disease and there is no alternative, this new regulation requires a priority review determination within 60 days from the FDA Secretary. Additionally, there are now $500 million supporting implementation of the priority review.

Currently, pediatric devices can take up to 10 years and $94 million to develop. Market incentives often drive device innovation and the market for children is small. Consequently, most developments are not initiated for profit, but for personal interest in children’s health.

For example, despite using an expedited review process under a humanitarian device exemption, an implantable rib to prevent thoracic collapse took 13 years just to get FDA approval to begin the commercialization process. The pediatric medical device market is viewed by some as a crisis and the 21st Century Cures Act has the potential to improve kids’ health.

For lawyers, scientists and engineers, an increase in device development leads to an increase in demand for regulatory, design, reimbursement and scientific technology experts. Lawyers can make a major difference in getting devices from bench-to-bedside. On the other side of the fence is demand for the same to protect consumers from manufacturers taking advantage of the Cures Act. In fact, some tort lawyers directly oppose the Cures Act for fear of watered-down processes for safety in devices.

However, regardless of one’s stance on the issue, it’s a good time to show some legal love to the kiddos in need of growth in the pediatric medical device market.


Split Ends: WEN Hair Care & The FDA’s Regulation of Cosmetics

MJLST Guest Blogger, Tommy Tobin

[Editor’s Note: The LawSci Forum is pleased to announce a new series on current issues in FDA law. This post is #1 in the series, with more in the coming weeks.]

We have all been tempted by late-night television infomercials and their promises. If the product works, our lives become more convenient; if it doesn’t, we’re only out a few dollars and the product will gather dust. For thousands across America, one product that promised a hair-care revolution left them scratching, itching, and balding.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating over 20,000 incidents of adverse events resulting from WEN by Chaz Dean. Los Angeles-based stylist Chaz Dean is the face of the WEN brand, endorsed by Brooke Shields, Alyssa Milano, and other celebrities. Sold on QVC, infomercials, and elsewhere, WEN is unlike most shampoos. It is marketed as a “revolutionary way to cleanse and hydrate the hair” without water.

There’s another way that WEN is unlike most shampoos: using WEN all too often results in large clumps of hair falling off one’s head. The FDA has received complaints of baldness in addition to hair loss, itching, and rashes after consumers tried WEN products. In July 2016, the FDA issued a Safety Alert to warn the public about potential results of using this hair care product. In that warning, the FDA noted that this was the largest number of reports ever received for a hair cleansing product.

Unsurprisingly, litigation has ensued. One California case has resulted in a preliminary class action settlement of over $26 million. Filed in the Central District of California, the suit alleges that the plaintiffs, and their similarly-situated class members, suffered hair loss and scalp irritation, among other injuries. One class representative allegedly lost one-third of her hair after she used WEN’s Sweet Almond Milk kit. In addition, plaintiffs claimed that the WEN was falsely advertised as safe and failed to warn users of potential harm.

Under the terms of the preliminary settlement, notice will be given to 6 million class members, defined as any American purchaser of WEN hair care products between November 2007 and August 1, 2016. A warning will be added to the product’s packaging telling users to seek immediate medical attention for adverse reactions. While many claimants in the class can submit claims for a $25 payment, those with more extensive damages can submit claims for additional recovery. For example, those that have lost more than 50% of their hair with minimal “hair regrowth” could recover as much as $20,000.

But, wait there’s more! The nature of the allegations against WEN have led many consumers, lawmakers, and even the New York Times to ask whether the FDA should have the authority to recall dangerous cosmetics from the market. Currently, the FDA is not authorized to order recalls of cosmetic products. Instead, such recalls are voluntary efforts by manufacturers or distributors.

A cursory inspection of the FDA’s name reveals that “cosmetics” is nowhere to be found in the title of the Food & Drug Administration. While the FDA notes that cosmetic companies and marketers “have the legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products,” the WEN case provides an opportunity to reflect on the FDA’s regulatory authority over cosmetic products.  For example, the FDA may order warning statements on cosmetics that present health hazards and work with manufacturers on voluntary recalls. Time will tell whether WEN prompts further action to regulate cosmetic products.