FDA Targets Unapproved OTC Ibuprofen Pain Gels

Several makers of over-the-counter (OTC) topical ibuprofen pain gels have been issued warning letters from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). According to the agency, topical ibuprofen pain gels are unapproved new drugs that require an approved new drug application in order to be legally marketed.

The FDA warning letters advise the companies that they may not continue to market their products without FDA approval. The FDA is requesting a written response from the companies within 15 business days of receipt of the warning letters stating how they will correct these violations and prevent similar violations in the future. FDA warning letters are not legally binding, but the agency can take companies to court if they are ignored.

The names of the products and manufacturers that received FDA warning letters are:

Emuprofen (Progressive Emu, Inc.)
BioEntopic 15% Ibuprofen Crème (BioCentric Laboratories, Inc.)
Ibunex Topical Ibuprofen (Core Products International, Inc.)
LoPain AF 15% Ibuprofen Crème (Geromatrix Health Products)
Profen HP (Ridge Medical Products)
IbuPRO-10 Plus (Meditrend, Inc. dba Progena Professional Formulations)
IBU-RELIEF 12 (Wonder Laboratories)

According to a statement on the FDA Web site, the products contain ibuprofen in combination with a variety of other active ingredients and are marketed for pain relief. Under its OTC drug monograph system, the FDA allows some OTC drugs to be marketed without first obtaining agency approval. These drugs must comply with applicable monographs, that is, regulations that set requirements for the drugs’ labeling, formulations, and indications. Ibuprofen is not included in any OTC drug monograph. Companies wishing to market OTC drugs that do not meet the monograph requirements can submit and receive approval of a new drug application.

While orally administered ibuprofen has been approved as a safe and effective treatment for pain and inflammation, there are no approved applications for topical ibuprofen products. Although the FDA has proposed to add orally administered ibuprofen to the applicable OTC monograph, it has never proposed that topical ibuprofen be added to any OTC monograph.

Topical ibuprofen is often promoted as a “safer” alternative that can be used in place of oral ibuprofen because of certain side effects, such as stomach ulcers and cardiovascular effects that are associated with prolonged use of oral ibuprofen. However, these safety claims for topical ibuprofen have not been reviewed by the FDA, nor has the agency evaluated what side effects might be associated with such products.

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