FDA knocks Acella for lax controls on thyroid medicine recalled in May

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The FDA found that Acella failed to create adequate assays for its thyroid med NP Thyroid. (FDA)

As the pharmaceutical supply chain has grown more geographically diverse, drugmakers have leaned more and more on contract manufacturers to help carry the load. But bringing on a production partner can pose quality risks—a reality Georgia-based Acella Pharmaceuticals is finding out the hard way.

The FDA cited Acella after quality control issues with a contract manufacturer led the drugmaker to pull lots of its prescription NP Thyroid med off shelves back in May, according to a warning letter posted online Tuesday. 

During an investigation between December and January, FDA investigators found Acella failed to use appropriate assays for the contract-manufactured active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) used in its thyroid drug: levothyroxine and liothyronine.

While Acella eventually corrected those errors, a May follow-up FDA investigation at its CMO's facility found that 13 lots of NP Thyroid exceeded the specified strength. Acella agreed the same month to voluntarily recall those lots and acknowledged two side-effects reports. 

The FDA noted that due to the "narrow therapeutic range" of NP Thyroid, out-of-spec dosing could pose serious side effects for patients who take the drug. 

In addition, Acella failed to pursue a long-term stability study for lots of NP Thyroid produced by its CMO and a new API supplier back in May 2019, the FDA said. Almost a year after manufacturing, validation batches of the drug had still not been studied for long-term potency, casting doubts on its shelf life, the FDA said. 

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