Regulatory Developments

FDA Guidance Addresses FDA and EPA Jurisdiction over Mosquito-Related Products

October 5, 2017

On October 4, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the availability of final guidance that helps to clarify FDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction over the regulation of mosquito-related products intended to function as pesticides, including those produced through the use of biotechnology.  The notice was published in the Federal Register on October 5, 2017.  82 Fed. Reg. 46500.  Guidance for Industry #236, “Clarification of FDA and EPA Jurisdiction Over Mosquito-Related Products” (Guidance), provides information for industry and other stakeholders regarding the regulatory oversight of articles, including substances, for use in or on mosquitoes (mosquito-related products).  FDA states that it is providing the Guidance to clarify circumstances under which such products are regulated by FDA as new animal drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and other circumstances under which such products are regulated by EPA as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Scope of Guidance

FDA notes that the Guidance is important in light of the public health urgency of countering the spread of mosquito-borne disease such as that caused by the Zika virus.  While novel mosquito control technologies have gained greater attention, there has been confusion regarding FDA and EPA jurisdiction over such products.  FDA, working collaboratively with EPA, is providing the Guidance to clarify the regulatory oversight of mosquito-related products.  This includes, but is not limited to, those produced through biotechnology.

FDA and EPA Jurisdiction over Mosquito-Related Products

In the Guidance, FDA clarifies that the phrase “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” in the FFDCA’s drug definition does not include articles intended to function as pesticides by preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating mosquitoes for population control purposes.  FDA states that it believes that this interpretation is consistent with Congressional intent and provides a rational approach for dividing responsibilities between FDA and EPA in regulating mosquito-related products. 
 
The Guidance includes the following examples of new animal drugs regulated by FDA:

  • Products intended to reduce the virus/pathogen load within a mosquito, including reduction in virus/pathogen replication and spread within the mosquito and/or reduction in virus/pathogen transmissibility from mosquitoes to humans; and
  • Products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals. 

Examples of pesticide products regulated by EPA are “[p]roducts intended to reduce the population of mosquitoes (for example, by killing them at some point in their life cycle, or by interfering with their reproduction or development).”

Guidance for Sponsors/Manufacturers of Products Intended for use on Mosquitoes

In the Guidance, FDA encourages sponsors of mosquito-related products, other than those that are “intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate mosquitoes by controlling a mosquito population,” to contact FDA early in the development process.  FDA states that if a developer has a jurisdictional question, such as which agency or agencies would have oversight of a mosquito-related product that is expressly intended for both mosquito population control and human disease suppression, the developer may contact either or both agencies via the contacts listed.  FDA and EPA will consult with each other on the jurisdictional question, “as is already common practice.”  The agencies may suggest a joint meeting among EPA, FDA, and the sponsor to discuss appropriate pathways to market.

Commentary

The guidance notes that FDA, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have committed to clarifying how the federal government intends to regulate genetically engineered insects as described in the September 2016 National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.  More information on the National Strategy is available in our September 21, 2016, memorandum, “White House Releases Proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework and National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.”
 
The Guidance is a welcome addition to the growing body of work generated by federal agencies intended to assist stakeholders in sorting out the challenging jurisdictional issues that often arise in the context of procuring federal agency approval of products of biotechnology and synthetic biology.  The legal and procedural issues that Oxitec, Ltd. (Oxitec) experienced in obtaining approval for a field trial of its genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito designed to prevent reproduction is a perfect example of this jurisdictional quagmire, and undoubtedly the reason the new guidance was prepared.  As we discussed in our 2015 report The DNA of the U.S. Regulatory System: Are we Getting it Right For Synthetic Biology?, an argument could be made that a technology designed to control a pest should be regulated under FIFRA.  Yet, others have speculated that the Oxitec product is primarily intended to prevent or mitigate a human disease and thus should be regulated as a human drug rather than an animal drug.  Because the modified mosquito was designed to limit the viability of offspring, FDA initially reviewed the mosquito as an animal drug for a minor species.
 
The new FDA guidance states that products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals are regulated as new animal drugs subject to FDA jurisdiction, but products intended to control mosquito populations would be regulated by EPA as pesticides.  That FDA and EPA are attempting to clarify their respective jurisdictions is appreciated.  Potential commenters may wish to consider whether the guidance offers sufficient clarity for product development planning purposes.  If “products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals” are under FDA jurisdiction, the status of mosquito repellents currently registered by EPA that make claims about repelling mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, the West Nile virus, or other viruses is unclear.  Additionally, it would seem that the Oxitec mosquito is intended to reduce the mosquito population, among other goals.  The Guidance is a good start, but further clarification likely will be needed to support emerging technologies.
 


 
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