The Bioresearch Monitoring (BIMO) Program, operated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), conducts on-site inspections and data audits in order to effectively monitor the compliance of all FDA-regulated research.
As a follow up to our June 2022 post, we highlight the most common violations identified in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, in addition to those observed thus far in FY 2023. BIMO conducted 766 inspections in FY 2022. The majority of these inspections (approximately 79%) were of drug, biologic, or medical device study clinical investigators, institutional review boards (IRBs), sponsors, clinical research organizations (CROs), and sponsor-investigators. Some of the most common inspection outcomes are highlighted below. Our methodology included a search of FDA’s Warning Letter database for FY 2022 and 2023, to date, for letters issued by BIMO and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health to IRBs, CROs, clinical investigators, sponsors, and sponsor-investigators.
BIMO conducted 504 inspections of clinical investigators (468 of which were assigned to FDA’s drug, biologic, and device Centers), making up over half of BIMO’s inspections conducted in FY 2022. Inspections of IRBs, sponsors, CROs, and sponsor-investigators assigned to FDA’s drug, biologic, and device Centers comprised another 138 inspections in FY 2022. Of the 504 clinical investigator inspections, only 9 resulted in a classification of “Official Action Indicated” (OAI) and 87 resulted in a classification of “Voluntary Action Indicated” (VAI). The most common inspection observations included: (1) failure to comply with Form FDA 1572 requirements and protocol compliance; (2) failure to follow the investigational plan and protocol deviations; (3) inadequate and/or inaccurate case history records and inadequate study records; (4) inadequate accountability and/or control of the investigational product; (5) safety reporting and failure to report and/or record adverse events; and (6) inadequate subject protection and informed consent issues.
Of the Warning Letters that were issued in FY 2022 to clinical investigators, the most common observations were:
- Failure to ensure that a clinical investigation was conducted according to its investigational plan. This finding in various Warning Letters included failure to properly consent participants, failure to properly randomize participants, and/or failure to properly screen potential participants to ensure they met a protocol’s inclusion and exclusion criteria prior to enrollment in an investigational plan. For example, in one Warning Letter, an investigator did not ensure that subjects randomized to a specific intervention group received the assigned investigational drug for that intervention group and did not adhere to the blinding protocol.
- Failure to submit an IND application for the conduct of a clinical investigation with an investigational new drug. For example (and similar to trends observed in FY 2021), the FDA noted that one clinical investigator failed to submit an IND for the use of a product that was determined by the FDA to be a drug. The study design demonstrated that the investigational product was intended to cure, mitigate, and/or treat a disease or condition and therefore, an IND application should have been submitted to the FDA prior to commencing any research activities. Another Warning Letter included a finding that a protocol comprised of a combination product (a drug and device component) required an IND application.
BIMO conducted 81 inspections of sponsors and CROs in FY 2022 (all but one were assigned to FDA’s drug, biologic, and device Centers). Of these, 0 resulted in a finding of OAI, though 15 were classified as VAI. The most common inspection observations included: (1) failure to ensure proper monitoring of the study and ensure the study is conducted in accordance with the protocol and/or investigational plan; (2) failure to meet the abbreviated requirements for investigational device exemptions (IDEs); (3) failure to maintain and/or retain adequate records in accordance with 21 CFR 312.57; (4) accountability for the investigational product; (5) failure to comply with Form FDA 1572 requirements; (6) financial disclosures; (7) failure to submit an Investigational New Drug (IND) application and IND safety reports; and (8) failure to submit current list of all participating investigators to FDA at the six-month interval after FDA approval of the study.
FY 2023 Trends (to date):
In 2023, we have already observed six Form FDA 483 Warning Letters issued to clinical investigators and IRBs, three involving the failure to submit an IND for the conduct of a clinical investigation with an investigational new drug, two involving failure to follow the clinical investigation according to its investigational plan, and one involving overall lack of IRB oversight and IRB compliance. For example, in a 2023 Warning Letter issued to an IRB, the FDA noted that the IRB: (a) failed to review proposed research at convened meetings at which a majority of IRB members were present; (b) failed to maintain adequate documentation of IRB activities, including keeping an active list of active IRB members; and (c) failed to ensure that information provided to study subjects as part of the informed consent process was done in accordance with applicable FDA regulations. Although sponsors may often make the decision to utilize a central IRB to oversee the conduct of a clinical investigation, some participating sites may be required to utilize their own local IRB, and it is important to remember that any IRB which does not adhere to FDA’s requirements can introduce a compliance risk for studies it is engaged to oversee.
Sponsors, clinical investigators, CROs, and IRBs should review the FDA’s BIMO Compliance Program Guidance Manuals regularly to ensure that they understand their responsibilities when carrying out clinical research involving human subjects. Sponsors, clinical investigators, CROs, and IRBs should ensure inspection readiness at all times while bioresearch is ongoing and following completion of bioresearch that may support marketing applications submitted to the FDA. Ensuring diligence in the research site selection process, careful monitoring during clinical trials, and corrective actions when deviations occur can help manage the risk of inspection findings of noncompliance or Warning Letters issued by the FDA. The Goodwin Life Sciences Regulatory & Compliance team provides regulatory counseling on FDA’s Good Clinical Practice requirements and the resolution of BIMO inspection findings and Warning Letters when they occur.
Contact our team to learn more.