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7 Steps to Respond to an FDA 483 Inspection Observation

7 steps fda 483 blog 7 Steps to Respond to an FDA 483 Inspection ObservationResponding in 15 days is one of 7 steps on how to respond to an FDA 483 inspection observation. Blog also includes advice from a former FDA investigator. 

When an FDA investigator has an inspection observation, the investigator issues an FDA 483. This is the FDA’s form number. If your company receives an FDA 483, how you respond to the FDA 483 is crucial to avoiding a Warning Letter. In the words of Leo Lagrotte, a former FDA investigator I work with, “Many, many times I have seen an [Official Action Indicated (OAI)] classified inspection that had been recommended for a Warning Letter by the compliance branch be set aside based upon the response of the firm.”

The best way for your company to respond to an FDA 483 is by writing a cover letter, and then every observation needs to be addressed in the response as a separate CAPA–unless the root cause is identical for two observations. Make sure that your response includes the following seven steps below:

  1. respond within 15 business days (earlier is better)
  2. use your CAPA form and a cover letter–instead of a memo
  3. document the investigation that was conducted with a concisely stated root cause
  4. identify containment measures and corrections to address each specific observation by the FDA inspector
  5. identify corrective actions planned and the date(s) you expect to complete implementation
  6. Include documentation of containment, corrections and corrective actions that are completed at the time you submit the response
  7. follow-up with a memo confirming that all the corrective actions are complete and include all related documentation–including training for any new procedures or any new corrective actions that warranted training

Respond to the FDA 483 violation(s) in less than 15 business days

The FDA has always involuntarily required a medical device firm, or any firm under FDA jurisdiction that received an FDA 483, to respond in writing to the FDA 483 to the District Office within 15 business days. As of two years ago, (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2009-08-11/pdf/E9-19107.pdf) it became mandatory that a response from any FDA 483 must be received by the Agency within 15 business days, or an automatic Warning Letter is issued. You need to respond aggressively to FDA 483s with corrective actions, and submit your response early.

Use your CAPA forms instead of a memo

I have asked several former FDA investigators whether they would prefer to see firms submit responses in memo format, or by using their CAPA forms and a cover letter. Some told me that they prefer to see firms use their CAPA forms, while others don’t seem to have a preference. Nobody from the FDA has ever indicated a preference for a memo. I see no point in doubling your work and risking transcription errors. If you have an electronic system that does not have an output format that is easy-to-follow, go ahead and copy-and-paste the information from your electronic database to your memo. If the CAPA system output is easy to follow, just use a cover letter and copies of the forms.

Document the investigation and root cause

This is definitely my pet-peeve, but a one-sentence “root cause” is not enough for an FDA 483 response. Regardless of whether I am doing a mock-FDA inspection, an internal audit or a supplier audit–I expect you to document how you determined the root cause (http://robertpackard.wpengine.com/five-tools-for-conducting-root-cause-analysis/). If it’s trivial and obvious, then it must have been something important, or I would not have written a nonconformity. Therefore, you should be looking beyond the immediate scope of the FDA 483 to ensure that a similar problem cannot occur elsewhere. In the language of the FDA, this is a preventive action, because you are preventing occurrence with another process or product. Most ISO certification auditors are purists and they won’t accept this as a preventive action. You will have to show the purists something special–maybe from your data analysis.

Don’t forget containment and correction

For every 483 observation, including the subparts, you need to identify if immediate containment is necessary and how you can correct the problem. Whenever possible, you should attempt to implement the containment and corrections during your FDA inspection. In fact, it would be fantastic to give the FDA inspector a copy of the new CAPA you initiated during the audit. The new CAPA would identify containment and corrections that have been, or will be implemented–including any nonconformity(s) you initiated to quarantine product. You may still get an FDA 483 inspection observation, but you are likely to convert a possible Official Action Indicated (OAI) into a Voluntary Action Indicated (VAI). You can also modify the CAPA wording later to include a cross-reference to the FDA 483 and quote the exact wording the inspector uses.

Explain the corrective action plans and timelines

Clarity, brevity and realistic plans are critical in this section of your response. I prefer a table that looks like the example shown below.

7 steps 483 chart 7 Steps to Respond to an FDA 483 Inspection Observation

Show the FDA you have already taken action

Whenever possible, you want to show the FDA that you are taking action without delay. If you revised the SOP for MDRs and scheduled a group training for July 15, then you should provide the FDA a copy of the revised procedure and a copy of the agenda for your planned training session. The only caution is to only commit to actions you are certain you will implement. You can always do more, but it will be much harder to explain why you did not implement an action you submitted in your FDA 483 response.

Follow-up before the FDA does

The FDA’s compliance office will be looking for a response when an FDA 483 is issued, and they will review your response. The investigator will get a copy of the FDA 483 response and the investigator will comment on the response. The compliance office and the investigator enter their comments into a CDRH database, but the comments are only general, as to whether the response is adequate or inadequate and will require additional review.

If you do not hear back from the FDA, do not assume that the compliance office or the investigator were satisfied. You should also follow-up several months later (earlier if possible) with a letter that includes evidence of the completed corrective actions, and your verification of effectiveness. If the verification is compelling and received in less than six months of the inspection, you may convince the compliance office to hold off a planned Warning Letter.

If you are interested in root cause analysis and improving your CAPA process, please click on this link for another webinar recording: http://robertpackard.wpengine.com/5-ways-improve-capa-process/. A webinar recording titled “7 Steps to Respond to an FDA 483” is now available at the following link: http://robertpackard.wpengine.com/7-steps-respond-fda-483-inspection-observation-webinar/.

Posted in: FDA

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How to Utilize CAPA Training To Avoid FDA 483 Citations

By Guest Blogger – Susan Christie

%name How to Utilize CAPA Training To Avoid FDA 483 Citations

The author discusses how formal CAPA training can help solve the four most common CAPA deficiencies, and help avoid FDA 483 citations.

Corrective And Preventive Action (CAPA) is considered to be one of the most critical processes in a Quality Management System (QMS). CAPAs prevent nonconformities from recurring, as well as identify potential problems that have may occur within the QMS.

Both the CFR (820.100) and the ISO 13485 Standard (8.5.2 and 8.5.3, respectively) include similar requirements for establishing and maintaining a compliant CAPA process. The concept seems pretty straightforward, right?

Then why do so many companies struggle with this process, and go into panic mode during FDA inspections and Notified Body audits?

CAPA process deficiencies have long been the number one Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) violation cited in FDA Warning Letters. Therefore, providing trained experts to teach the CAPA process is well worth the investment to provide your employees with the expertise needed to implement a sustainable, effective and compliant process. Support from top management is a must for success.

7 Reasons Why There is LIttle Support for the CAPA Process
  1. Managers view CAPA as a necessary evil and apply minimum effort and resources to complete the required paperwork.
  2. All complaints, audit findings, shop floor nonconformities, etc., go straight into the CAPA system, resulting in what is known as “Death by CAPA.” There are hundreds of CAPAs to be dealt with, but the CAPAs languish and quickly become a mountain of overdue records.
  3. The lack of ability to conduct effective root cause analysis results in, at best, a band-aid solution, and recurrence of the same issues time and again.
  4. There is no risk-based or prioritization process that provides a triage for determining when a CAPA is appropriate, and how to classify its criticality.
  5. CAPA forms are either too restrictive, such as using “yes/no” questions, thereby stemming the creative flow of process thinking or, too open-ended, leaving the CAPA owner with little guidance for getting to the true root cause.
  6. Trending and metrics that would highlight quality issues before they become complaints are lacking, so most CAPAs are last-minute reactions to a crisis, instead of proactive improvement projects.
  7. Senior management has not allocated sufficient time and resources to CAPA owners in order to develop expertise, and clearly do not understand the nuances of FDA compliance, the ISO Standard, and responsibilities of CAPA ownership.
Consequences of an Ineffective CAPA System: FDA 483 Citations Are Possible

FDA 483 observations, Warning Letters and loss of your ISO 13485 certification are possible consequences of failing to manage your CAPA process. Imagine explaining to your customers why you lost your certification, and why they should keep you as a trusted supplier. That is not a conversation you want to have.

A weak CAPA process allows nonconformities to recur, results in manufacturing downtime, requires rework, and ends with scrapping product or lost customers. The consequences of a weak CAPA process negatively impact your company’s financial strategy and goals.

In order to prevent an increase in the cost of poor quality, your business cannot remain static. You need to improve and adopt best practices. Your CAPA process is a systematic way to make those improvements happen.

Characteristics of an Effective CAPA system?
  • Easy to follow procedure
  • Defined CAPA inputs
  • Risk assessment and prioritization
  • Root-cause investigation tools
  • A well-defined action plan
  • Metrics to track progress
  • Communication of information and status
  • Effectiveness checks
  • Management support and escalation
What to Expect from Formal CAPA Training

Death by Powerpoint is not training (http://bit.ly/DeathbyPPT). Effective CAPA training requires hands-on participation in working through root-cause analysis with an expert. One of the best training tools are case studies based upon recent 483 observations. A CAPA training course should teach you how to:

  1. Accurately identify the cause of problems
  2. Prioritize your corrective and preventive actions using a risk-based approach
  3. Implement an appropriate corrective and/or preventive action, and
  4.  Verify effectiveness of your actions

CAPA training should teach you how to reduce the length and number of investigations. Training will also help you master current problem-solving methodologies to identify true root causes, utilizing facts, instead of guesswork or opinion. The proper identification of the true root cause of a problem is critical, because otherwise your CAPA plan will fail to fix real problems.

Not all formal training needs to be in-person. Face-to-face training can be supplemented with more cost-effective training of concepts using webinars and recorded presentations. Interactive training is needed to supplement this training, so that students can practice what they learn.

How Training Solves Common CAPA Deficiencies

The four most common CAPA deficiencies are:

  1. Inadequate procedures
  2. Incomplete investigations
  3. Overdue actions, and
  4. Failure to perform an effectiveness check

Each of these deficiencies are addressed directly by CAPA training. Formal CAPA training reviews each of the requirements for your CAPA process, and trainers will often share samples of CAPA procedures and CAPA forms that they wrote and found to be effective. Learning multiple root cause investigation techniques, and practicing them using the case study technique, ensure that CAPAs are thoroughly investigated, rather than identifying superficial symptoms.

CAPA metrics are introduced during training to ensure that the CAPA process owner knows best practices for monitoring and analyzing the process. Finally, CAPA training includes specific examples of what is, and what is not, a proper technique for performing an effectiveness check.

Results After Formal CAPA Training

The best reason for making formal CAPA training available to the people responsible for CAPAs are the results you will experience after the training. For example:

  1. Elimination of hundreds of overdue CAPAs
  2. Reduction in nonconformities, scrap, rework and customer complaints
  3. Lower overall costs associated with quality problems
  4. Better FDA inspection and Notified Body outcomes, and
  5. Safer products for your customer

%name How to Utilize CAPA Training To Avoid FDA 483 CitationsIf you are interested in learning more about CAPA, please register for the Medical Device Academy’s CAPA Workshop on October 3 in San Diego. Click here to register for the event: http://bit.ly/MDAWorkshops.

Posted in: CAPA

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