Life Science Compliance Update

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February 28, 2017

Trump Executive Order Targets Regulations

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On one of his first few days on the job, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would require all government agencies to eliminate two regulations for every one new regulation instituted.

The order was characterized by the Administration as a plan to help benefit small businesses. However, it is likely to have an impact on the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it applies to every agency (other than those related to military or national security), or any other agencies exempted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

How this plan will work for an agency like the FDA is hard to comprehend: most of the regulations are intertwined with one another. As the EO is written, if the agency needed to put in place a new regulation, it would then have to presumably cut out two other, unrelated regulations that are linked to public health.

Another problem is that, according to the text of the EO, the directions apply to FDA guidance documents as well. This will be a large problem for pharmaceutical and medical device companies that rely on such guidances to understand FDA’s interpretations of the law. The EO defines the term ‘regulation’ or ‘rule’ to mean “an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or to describe the procedure or practice requirements of an agency.

The way this EO is implemented across the federal government is going to come largely from the OMB director, who will provide the heads of agencies with guidance addressing, among other things, “processes for standardizing the measurement and estimation of regulatory costs; standards for determining what qualifies as new and offsetting regulations; standards for determining the costs of existing regulations that are considered for elimination; processes for accounting for costs in different fiscal years; methods to oversee the issuance of rules with costs offset by savings at different times or different agencies; and emergencies and other circumstances that might justify individual waivers of the requirements.” 

Prior to releasing this EO, President Trump said, “This will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen. There will be regulation. There will be control. But it will be normalized control where you can open your business and expand your business easily.”

"If you have a regulation you want, No. 1, we're not going to approve it because it's already been approved, probably, in 17 different forms," Trump said from the White House. "But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation."

Although many of Trump's other executive orders have been met with criticism, this latest policy is not unfounded. Back in 2010, the United Kingdom adopted a similar policy, though its implementation did not apply to taxes, certain European Union legislation, non-business regulations and "regulation for civil emergencies," according to the U.K. government.

OMB Issues Guidance

On February 2, 2017, the OMB did issue guidance to the Agencies, highlighting what to expect and how to handle this executive order. The Q&A offers some clarity and boundaries for the EO signed last Monday, noting: “The EO’s requirements for Fiscal Year 2017 apply only to those significant regulatory actions, as defined in Section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866, an agency issues between noon on January 20 and September 30, 2017.”

But the OMB guidance does offer some wiggle room for FDA in terms of issuing draft or final guidance (2017 guidance plans for FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research are here) noting that “significant guidance or interpretive documents will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.”

As far as what existing regulations if repealed would be considered part of the “two out” part of the EO, OMB notes, “Any existing regulatory action that imposes costs and the repeal or revision of which will produce verifiable savings may qualify.”

The guidance also offers FDA, which is an agency that deals with public health and safety, some ways to waive the “two out, one in” requirements of the EO. “Emergencies addressing critical health, safety, or financial matters, or for some other compelling reason, may qualify for a waiver from some or all of the requirements of Section 2,” the guidance notes.

But if a new regulation is implementing a new law from Congress (for instance, with FDA’s pending implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act), OMB clarifies that agencies should still “identify additional regulatory actions to be repealed in order to offset the cost of the new significant regulatory action, even if such action is required by law.”

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