New Proposal on Antibacterial Soaps

On Tuesday, December 17, 2013, FDA published a proposed amendment to the tentative final monograph for topical antiseptic/antimicrobial products (http://tinyurl.com/qbatlul). The proposed rule addresses the formulation of “consumer antiseptic products intended for use with water” or in laymen’s terms, antibacterial hand and body washes.

Products intended to kill bacteria and other microbes are regulated as drugs by FDA.  Such products sold over the counter (without a prescription) must conform to FDA monographs that detail the ingredients, concentrations and labeling that is to be used on over the counter drug products of a given class.  The process by which a monograph becomes final involves a great deal of data review; proposed rules; public comments and resolution of those comments with FDA’s mission to protect public health.  In the case of topical antimicrobial products the process stalled in 1994 with publication of a so-called “tentative final monograph” (TFM) that questioned the safety and efficacy of a number of common active ingredients in those products.

In April of 2011 we wrote about (http://tinyurl.com/pexls8k) certain regulatory actions FDA took based on the tentative final monograph and noted that a lawsuit had been filed in 2010 that sought to force FDA to finalize the monograph.  The lawsuit was filed by the National Resources Defense Council and less than one month ago FDA entered into a consent decree to finalize the monograph in a timely manner. Tuesday’s proposed rule is a result of this consent decree.

The rule proposes that additional safety data is necessary to support the use of consumer antiseptic wash active ingredients and that the active ingredients must also have data demonstrating a clinical benefit over nonantibacterial soap and water.  The proposed rule states in part,

“Several important scientific developments that affect the safety evaluation of these ingredients have occurred since FDA’s 1994 evaluation of the safety of consumer antiseptic active ingredients under the OTC Drug Review. New data suggest that the systemic exposure to these active ingredients is higher than previously thought, and new information about the potential risks from systemic absorption and long-term exposure have become available. New safety information also suggests that widespread antiseptic use can have an impact on the development of bacterial resistance.”

The document also discusses some of the underlying concerns for these types of products:

“Since the 1994 TFM was published, new data have become available indicating that systemic exposure to topical antiseptic active ingredients may be more than previously thought. Systemic exposure refers to the presence of antiseptic active ingredients inside and throughout the body. For example, triclosan is an antiseptic active ingredient commonly found in consumer antiseptic hand and body wash products. It is absorbed through the skin and has been found in both human breast milk and urine. Further, triclosan has been found at relatively consistent levels in urine samples collected from a representative sample of the U.S. population since sampling began in 2003. We believe that the consequences of this systemic exposure need to be assessed.”

The document goes on to discuss the data gaps for several of the active ingredients; gaps that must be filled in order for the products to remain on the market in the future. Over 20 ingredients that require additional safety and efficacy data are listed.  Some commonly used ingredients included on the list are Benzalkonium chloride, Benzethonium chloride, Triclosan, Triclocarban, Hexylresorcinol, Povidone-iodine Fluorosalan, Hexachlorophene, Methylbenzethonium chloride and Phenol.

So how long does industry have to submit safety and effectiveness data? As outlined in Hyman, Phelps and McNamara’s Law Blog of November 28, 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/owp928g), the consent decree detailed a timeline that stipulates that the final monograph must be published by September 15, 2016. In the proposed rule FDA has stated that the effective date for compliance with what would be the new monograph would be one year after publication of the final rule, which means September 15, 2017 if the timeline is met.

FDA’s proposal will be costly to industry and many in the public will be sorry to see changes to highly favored products.  It will be interesting to see which ingredients pass muster.  In the meantime, Americans can reduce their exposure to the ingredients of concern by following the Center for Disease Controls instructions for hand washing with nonantimicrobial soap.

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