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Regulating Nanomedicine – Can the FDA Handle It?

[ Vol. 8 , Issue. 3 ]


Raj Bawa   Pages 227 - 234 ( 8 )


There is enormous excitement and expectation surrounding the multidisciplinary field of nanomedicine – the application of nanotechnology to healthcare – which is already influencing the pharmaceutical industry. This is especially true in the design, formulation and delivery of therapeutics. Currently, nanomedicine is poised at a critical stage. However, regulatory guidance in this area is generally lacking and critically needed to provide clarity and legal certainty to manufacturers, policymakers, healthcare providers as well as the public. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of nanoproducts on the market for human use but little is known of their health risks, safety data and toxicity profiles. Less is known of nanoproducts that are released into the environment and that come in contact with humans. These nanoproducts, whether they are a drug, device, biologic or combination of any of these, are creating challenges for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as regulators struggle to accumulate data and formulate testing criteria to ensure development of safe and efficacious nanoproducts (products incorporating nanoscale technologies). Evidence continues to mount that many nanoproducts inherently possess novel size-based properties and toxicity profiles. Yet, this scientific fact has been generally ignored by the FDA and the agency continues to adopt a precautionary approach to the issue in hopes of countering future potential negative public opinion. As a result, the FDA has simply maintained the status quo with regard to its regulatory policies pertaining to nanomedicine. Therefore, there are no specific laws or mechanisms in place for oversight of nanomedicine and the FDA continues to treat nanoproducts as substantially equivalent (“bioequivalent”) to their bulk counterparts. So, for now, nanoproducts submitted for FDA review will continue to be subjected to an uncertain regulatory pathway. Such regulatory uncertainty could negatively impact venture funding, stifle nanomedicine research and development (R) and erode public acceptance of nanoproducts. The end-result of this could be a delay or loss of commercialized nanoproducts. Whether the FDA eventually creates new regulations, tweaks existing ones or establishes a new regulatory center to handle nanoproducts, for the time being it should at least look at nanoproducts on a case-by-case basis. The FDA should not attempt regulation of nanomedicine by applying existing statutes alone, especially where scientific evidence suggests otherwise. Incorporating nanomedicine regulation into the current regulatory scheme is a poor idea. Regulation of nanomedicine must balance innovation and R with the principle of ensuring maximum public health protection and safety.


Nanomedicine, nanotechnology, Food and Drug Administration, FDA, regulation, nanoparticles, nanotherapeutics, nanoproduct, bioequivalence, National Nanotechnology Initiative, nanoscale technologies, combination products, patents, Patent and Trademark Office, PTO, National Institutes of Health, NIH, safety, efficacy, commercialization


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