In a notice published in the Federal Register on May 7, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced its intent to incentivize manufacturers to voluntarily update their prescription drug and biologics labels by using a government contractor.

FDA’s announcement stems from a January 2006 final rule in which FDA established revised content and format requirements for prescription drugs and biologics (the “Physician Labeling Rule” or “PLR”). The PLR required drugs and biologics approved after June 30, 2001 to adopt the new labels. A detailed implementation schedule under the PLR, which only resulted in only 15% of all drug and biologics being labeled in the PLR format, expired in November 2013. Therefore, moving forward, the only products which will be labeled in the PLR format will be new drugs and biologics and drugs that are voluntarily updated. To address this lack of labeling conversion, on February 6, 2013, FDA proposed the Prescription Drug Labeling Improvement and Enhancement Initiative. As part of the initiative, and as explained in detail in FDA’s notice, FDA plans to use a government contractor to provide PLR conversion resources and services, including preparation of draft PLR format labeling, in hopes of facilitating voluntary conversion.

The number of drugs and biologics affected by FDA’s initiative is staggering. FDA estimates that 375 manufacturers will be contacted over a 5 year period regarding 750 products. FDA will select the products for labeling conversion based on criteria that would maximize the benefit to public health, including volume of prescriptions, clinical relevance, and risk-based  considerations. Beyond the 750 products selected for PLR conversion, FDA further estimates that over 1,800 generic products will require labeling updates to reflect changes made to the corresponding brand-name products.

FDA is seeking public comment on its collection of information related to the initiative. Comments should be submitted in writing, or electronically at www.regulations.gov, on or before July 7, 2014.