What does it even mean to officially respond to a 483 and, better yet, how can a 483 be avoided altogether? The answer is basically split into 3 parts:

  1. The Pre-Response
  2. The Response Itself
  3. The Post-Response

1. The Pre-Response

You can talk directly with the inspectors during and after the inspection to clarify points and understand their reasoning better. Inspectors are, in fact, directed to discuss all observations with management as they are observed (or at least on a daily basis) in order to minimize any surprises down the line.

You don’t have to agree with every observation. Or, even if you agree with the observation itself and the facts used to get there, you might disagree that the observation represents an “objectionable condition or practice” (this is where you have to know the law/code – the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Section 704(b) is all on factory inspections). Remember, the FDA can issue FDA 483s under this authority:

The observations of objectionable conditions and practices listed on the front of this form are reported:

  1. Pursuant to Section 704(b) of the FFD&C Act
  2. To assist firms inspected in complying with the Acts and regulations enforced by the FDA

Of course, don’t make excuses (i.e., “Come on, we’re just a struggling company trying to survive. Just cut us a break, k?”). If you disagree with the facts of the observations or that the observations are objectionable, back up your claims with data, literature references, code references, and other scientifically sound justifications.

If you do feel that there is an error in the 483, it is worth trying to correct it. After all, the FDA 483 is a legal document and part of your company’s official history.

2. The Official Response

In short, the response must:

  1. Take a systemic and global approach. Don’t simply address the 1 or 2 examples in the observation that the FDA found problematic. Look broadly. Also, look across all company sites. FDA does not want to find the same problem at each of the company sites they inspect. That alone may be cause for additional actions.
  2. Be well-reasoned. Identify root causes, consider systemic issues, and look at specific issues. Explain things carefully and back it up by submitting data/documentation including revised SOPs, protocols, or other documented evidence. Many warning letters identify the failure to submit documentation and evidence as part of the 483 response.
  3. Be timely. Submit the response within 15 business days after the close of inspection if you want your responses to be considered by FDA when they decide whether to take additional enforcement action such as a warning letter. If you respond later than 15 business days, FDA is not required to consider your response as they decide on additional enforcement action.
  4. Be complete. Address every single observation (not just all of them in general), articulate a plan of action for each (including timelines, metrics, and monitoring systems). This should include short-term as well as long-term corrective actions to prevent a recurrence.
  5. Include a commitment/statement from senior leadership.  

Also keep in mind that your response will be read by multiple people at the FDA, some of whom are not as technically familiar with your company or your technologies. At the very least, the investigator, his/her supervisor, a compliance officer at the district office, and maybe other FDA headquarters personnel will review your response.

3. The Post-Response

This likely goes without saying, but once you submit the response, be diligent in executing the plan. At the end of the day, the FDA 483 and your response to it is just one aspect of a broader relationship that your firm has with the FDA. It represents your commitment to the FDA, and rest assured that the FDA takes those commitments seriously. Tell them what you’re going to do and do it. If an unanticipated delay occurs in remediation, it is reasonable to communicate that delay to the FDA.