Yesterday, Manhattan District Judge Paul Engelmayer asked some very probing – and some very naive questions regarding Amarin’s request for a preliminary injunction allowing it to tell doctors about the unapproved use of its Vascepa (icosapent) fish oil pill.
Judge Engelmayer engaged Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Ellen London, why a truthful, non-misleading statement by itself could be considered “actus reus” – the wrongful act of a crime – to support misbranding. London asserted that statements serve as evidence of intended use and require other elements to be prosecuted as misbranding. Good answer – but not good enough for Judge Engelmayer.
The judge kept asking why the FDA allows a heart disease claim for dietary supplements with EPA but does not permit it for Vascepa. His Honor needs a primer on DSHEA – and the FDA had better be prepared to offer it, otherwise this misunderstanding will persist – to the detriment of the agency’s case.
The Judge also questioned London about when the agency would be issuing further guidance on off-label communication, asking if it would be in 2015 or afterwards, or before Labor Day. Ms. London said she has “no idea” when the agency would act or if more speech will be permitted when it does. That looks like a signal that the court wants to grant the agency chevron deference – but not minus a written guidance.
According to Judge Engelmayer, there were “terrific arguments on both sides,” And closed the hearing without making a decision.
Note to FDA, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” (Friedrich Engels)