FDA Publishes Updated Security Guidance Documents

FDA Publishes Updated Security Guidance Documents

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published (June 2021) four new guidance documents to help accelerate supply chain security and new product tracing requirements in the pharmaceutical industry. While most countries have implemented firmer regulations over the last decade, this new guidance is timely in the United States as industry executives have been encouraged by the Biden Administration to reexamine security protocols in the wake of prominent cyberattacks.


The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was originally designed as a framework for manufacturers, wholesalers, and dispensers to comply with laws that accomplish a safer, secure, and entrusted drug supply chain. A primary objective of DSCSA is to develop models and strategies to reduce the distribution of counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful drugs. These new FDA guidances include protocols for developing data architecture systems and how industry executives can optimize interoperability during the design and build phase. The DCSCA regulatory deadline is November, 27 2023.

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Drug Packaging


As part of the DSCSA, pharmaceutical manufacturers and repackagers are required to add a product identifier on drug packaging. The product identifier includes the product national drug code (NDC), serial number, lot number and expiration date for each package. It must be in both human- and machine-readable form (e.g. two-dimensional data matrix barcode). This is designed to help downstream partners (e.g. repackagers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers) associate the information encoded in the barcode with readable text used by Logistics teams. The updated human-readable format includes:


FDA Security Guidance

  • NDC: [insert product’s NDC]
  • SERIAL: [insert product’s serial number]
  • LOT: [insert product’s lot number]
  • EXP: [insert product’s expiration date]


Expiration Date


For select products where an expiration date includes only year and month due to space limitations, the drug’s actual expiration date is recommended to be the last day of the calendar month included in the human-readable expiration date on the drug package label.


Product Identifier


Each finished or unfinished drug is subject to regulatory listing requirements. The product identifier is a standardized graphic composed of an alphanumeric serial number (up to 20 characters) that helps identify the product and package configuration. Product identifiers must be affixed or imprinted on the smallest individual saleable unit of a product, which also includes all product sold to a dispenser.


National Drug Code


Each product identifier has a unique NDC. The NDC is a FDA-assigned 3-segment format (10 or 11-digit number) to identify its labeler, product, and package size and type. In select instances, the linear barcode requirements from 21 CFR 181 201.25 will stay in effect for additional FDA-regulated products and packaging. This digital fingerprint of data will be used to accelerate the regulatory learning process


Suspect/Illegitimate Products


The revised FDA guidance documents also now provide increased clarity regarding the FDA’s current interpretation of “suspect” and “illegitimate” products. “Suspect” and “illegitimate” products are defined as:


  • “counterfeit”
  • “diverted”
  • “stolen”
  • “fraudulent transaction”
  • “unfit for distribution”


Artificial Intelligence


As artificial intelligence and machine learning modernize the supply chain over time, it’s not unreasonable to imagine the new bar codes could detect medication errors in real time for healthcare professionals and pharmacists. This could provide alerts to validate industry professionals are:


  • Giving the right drug,
  • Via the right dose,
  • Via the right route of administration,
  • To the right patient,
  • At the right time.


Regulatory Agency Response


Specific scenarios designed for risk management of a suspect product entering the pharmaceutical supply chain are also referenced. The guidance provides examples of when manufacturers should notify the FDA of a high risk product that may be or is illegitimate. Industry executives are also encouraged to collaborate with the Agency to help refine existing processes for terminating notifications.


This new clarity provides pharmaceutical executives a further glimpse into the FDA’s interpretation of system attributes necessary for secure product tracing inside the marketplace. The language is noticeably more detailed at the package level and provides supporting commentary for avoiding supply chain disruptions and enhanced drug distribution security that goes into effect in November 2023.


About RCA’s Pharmaceutical Consulting Services 


Regulatory Compliance Associates (RCA) has helped thousands of pharmaceutical companies meet regulatory, compliance, quality assurance, and remediation challenges. With more than 20 years of experience with FDA, Health Canada, EU and global regulatory agencies worldwide, Regulatory Compliance Associates® offers leading pharmaceutical consultants. We’re one of the few pharma consulting companies that can help you navigate the challenges associated with industry regulations.


Our pharmaceutical consulting firm includes over 500 seasoned FDA, Health Canada & EU compliance consultants and regulatory affairs experts who understand industry complexities. It’s a pharma consultancy founded by regulatory compliance executives from the pharmaceutical industry. Every pharmaceutical industry consultant on the Regulatory Compliance Associates team knows the unique inner workings of the regulatory process. 


Client Solutions


Whether you’re in the product planning, development or pharmaceutical lifecycle management stage or need a remediation strategy for a compliance crisis, Regulatory Compliance Associates will guide you through every pharmaceutical consulting step of the regulatory process and create a customized approach depending on your product and your pharma company’s individual needs. Our regulatory compliance clients include:


  • Companies new to FDA, Health Canada or EU regulations and regulatory compliance
  • Start-up organizations with novel submissions to 510(k) submissions from multi-national corporations
  • Investment firms seeking private equity due diligence for pre-acquisition and post-deal research
  • Law firms seeking pharmaceutical consulting firm expertise in the remediation of warning letters, consent decrees, 483’s or import bans


Regulatory Affairs


Regulatory affairs is Regulatory Compliance Associates backbone. We exceed other pharma consulting companies with industry experts experienced in complexities of the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries. Our pharma consulting expertise spans all facets and levels of Regulatory Affairs, from Regulatory Support for New Products to Life Cycle Management, to other services like Outsourced Regulatory Affairs, Submissions, Training, and more.


As your partner, we can negotiate the potential assessment minefield of regulatory compliance services with insight, hindsight, and the clear advantage of our breadth and depth of knowledge and regulatory compliance consulting. We offer the following pharma consulting regulatory affairs services for pharmaceutical companies.


  • New Product Support
  • Product Lifecycle
  • Other Regulatory Services
  • Combination Products


Compliance Assurance


The regulations process surrounding pharmaceutical companies can be tricky for even the most experienced industry veteran to understand. Just one misstep could mean significant and lasting consequences for your business. At Regulatory Compliance Associates, we offer the pharma consulting experience and pharma consultants necessary to guide you through the quality compliance process.


  • Assessments
  • Audits
  • Regulatory Agency Response
  • Preparation and Training
  • Inspection Readiness
  • Data Integrity


Quality Assurance


Regulatory Compliance Associates Quality consulting includes assessments, strategy, implementations, staff augmentations, and identification of quality metrics to ensure continuous improvement. Our pharma consultants understand the strategic thinking needed to align your business needs and goals. Regulatory Compliance Associates quality assurance services include quality experts with experience spanning major corporations and start-ups. Our pharmaceutical consulting firm knows firsthand how to achieve, maintain, and improve quality, and we excel in transferring pharma consulting knowledge to your organization.


  • 21 CFR Part 11
  • Data Integrity
  • Manufacturing Support
  • Facility Support
  • Quality Metrics


Remediation Services 


Regulatory Compliance Associates has a proven remediation services approach to managing FDA Warning Letters, Consent Decrees, Remediation and other serious regulatory situations. Our pharma consultants know how to partner with executive, legal, and communication teams. Each RCA pharma consulting Expert will develop a response that will be accepted by the regulatory agency and be realistic to execute.


Regulatory Compliance Associates pharma regulatory consultants will develop a comprehensive proof book of documented evidence demonstrating the corrective action taken to remediate non-compliant issues. In addition, each Regulatory Compliance Associates pharma consulting Expert understands compliance enforcement. We’ll prepare a comprehensive pharma consulting strategy to assist in your remediation efforts, drive continuous improvement, and maintain regulatory compliance with the regulations.


  • Regulatory Action
  • Regulatory Compliance
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About Regulatory Compliance Associates


pharmaceutical consultantsRegulatory Compliance Associates® (RCA) provides pharmaceutical consulting to the following industries for resolution of life science challenges:



We understand the complexities of running a life science business and possess areas of expertise that include every facet of R&D, operations, regulatory affairs, quality, and manufacturing. We are used to working on the front lines and thriving in the scrutiny of FDA, Health Canada, MHRA and globally-regulated companies.


As your partners, we can negotiate the potential minefield of regulatory compliance and regulatory due diligence with insight, hindsight, and the clear advantage of our unique expertise and experience.


  • Founded in 2000
  • Headquartered in Wisconsin (USA)
  • Expertise backed by over 500 industry subject matter experts
  • Acquired by Sotera Health in 2021


About Sotera Health


The name Sotera Health was inspired by Soteria, the Greek goddess of safety, and reflects the Company’s unwavering commitment to its mission, Safeguarding Global Health®.


Sotera Health Company, along with its three best-in-class businesses – Sterigenics®Nordion® and Nelson Labs®, is a leading global provider of mission-critical end-to-end sterilization solutions and lab testing and advisory services for the healthcare industry. With a combined tenure across our businesses of nearly 200 years and our industry-recognized scientific and technological expertise, we help to ensure the safety of over 190 million patients and healthcare practitioners around the world every year.


We are a trusted partner to 5,800+ customers in over 50 countries, including 40 of the top 50 medical device companies and 9 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies.


Commitment to Quality


Our Certificate of Registration demonstrates that our Quality Management System meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2015, an internationally recognized standard of quality.


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