FDA Inspections are Always stressful. How should you answer the FDA Investigator’s questions? What should you say or, more importantly, what should you NOT say? Two common answers are to tell the truth and to only answer the question asked. Both are good points. The FDA investigator is conducting a public health inspection so you should want to tell the truth. It also happens to be against the law to lie to a federal official so there are both positive and negative motivations to answer a question truthfully. It is also a good idea to give a brief, factual, and truthful answer to the question you are asked, not a question you think might be asked. And remember to use a complete sentence. Receiving a barrage of monosyllables in an interview is only going to irritate the FDA investigator. The one answer I recommend to never give to an FDA investigator is, “It’s not my job.”
What? Most people who answer, “it’s not my job” are telling the truth! Not only that, it is not a good idea to answer for someone else who actually has that responsibility. However, you have to remember that an FDA investigator has heard that response one hundred times before. People frequently give evasive answers and avoid responsibility when being interviewed by the FDA. It gets very old, very fast.A better approach is to say, “That isn’t my job but I know whose responsibility it is and let me see if she is available.” During an FDA inspection it is important to build trust. If an FDA inspector asks a reasonable question, let’s say, “How do you ship investigational product to clinical sites?” It is in your interest to see that the right person answers the question and that you find the right person in a timely manner.
FDA has begun a program to increase the types of GCP inspections it conducts. There will be more inspections of CROs and clinical trial vendors such as clinical laboratories. In fact, they have already started. That means that many more people will need training on how to participate in an FDA inspection. GxP Perspectives will be having some Guest Commentaries on the subject and try to provide some practical solutions.The first step in successfully hosting an FDA inspection is to have a quality system in place that monitors the data or product lifecycle. You don’t want to start your quality process after you lock your database! Then, when FDA does show up, you want to give a positive impression. You want to build trust with FDA. Think back to the last time you phoned your utility company or complained about a pothole on your street. When you finally got a live person and they told you, “that’s not my job,” how did you feel? That isn’t how you want FDA to feel either.
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Here are some helpful articles and resources on FDA inspections:
Ten Steps for Improving GCP Inspections by Vernette Molloy and my late colleague, Sandy Mackintosh, also in Applied Clinical Trials
FDA Inspection Guides: How the FDA conducts inspections
SPECIAL UPDATE: 18MAR2011: FDA has released an updated version of the Compliance Program Guidance Manual 7348.810, Sponsors/Contract Research Organizations/Monitors. There are new sections on registration of clinical trials on ClinicalTrials.gov, Financial Disclosure, the Part 11 Scope & Application Guidance Document, and other issues. If you work for a sponsor, a CRO, or are a contract CRA you MUST read this document. Review Section III, Inspectional.
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