In June 2014, Federal Health Minister, Rona Ambrose, announced her intention to create a new set of regulations for OTC products. Now the Minister has released the framework for moving OTCs and disinfectants out of the regulations covering prescription drugs where these products currently reside.
The proposals are wide-ranging and designed to give the government more flexible tools to manage the licensing of products intended for self-care. New tools have been undergoing pilot testing and the results were positive to the extent that the new rules will allow the implementation of some key market access approaches. This would include the adoption of monographs, which could be used to grant a product licence when a manufacturer attests to those standards. The monographs would be incorporated into regulations by reference, making then easier to adapt to changes as needed.
There will be five pathways to market authorisation. Including the compendial approach described above, there will be a stream for non-compendial submissions (ingredients that are not found in the monographs), administrative changes (e.g. manufacturer’s name change), prescription drug status switch (removal of an ingredient from the prescription drug list) and innovative non-prescription drug filings (e.g. novel ingredients and perhaps some types of switches).
The proposals also make reference to incentives for innovation and data protection but fail to provide much detail on what this would look like. However, it does appear that there is an intention to encourage switch through some form of market incentive.
Some things won’t change much. The good manufacturing practice rules will stay largely as they are. This will facilitate the use of mutual recognition agreements for import and export that have been developed over the past several years. Evidence for safety, quality and efficacy will remain and the evaluation process will be driven by a relative risk assessment and mitigation approach.
Some aspects of the proposal may have broader implications. For example, there is a suggestion to remove the prohibition on sampling for OTCs and allow sampling under prescription conditions. Since natural health products regulations are not in the scope of this project, the sampling prohibition would continue to apply to natural health products. While natural health products companies do sample and this prohibition isn’t generally enforced by Health Canada’s Inspectorate, there could be some noise about a level playing field on this matter.
There are numerous Easter eggs in these proposals and they will become more apparent as the consultations evolve.