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Emergency Use of a Test Article

Overview of the Emergency Use Process

The following is a brief overview of the emergency use process. More detailed information is found in the sections below.

The physician reviews the FDA definition of life threatening [21 CFR 56.102(d)] and can verify that the proposed use of an investigational drug or device meets that definition. The physician should contact the IRB for consultation regarding the potential emergency use. If the definition of life threatening is not met, emergency use procedures must not be followed. For additional options, consult the IRB guidance on Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs and Expanded Access Mechanisms for Unapproved Devices

If using an investigational drug or biologic, the physician must either

  1. obtain an emergency use IND number from the FDA; or
  2. obtain access to the drug under an existing IND number; the IND holder (usually the drug manufacturer) must authorize the drug to be used under the emergency use regulations, which may require contacting the FDA.

Emergency use may be requested through the FDA by telephone, fax, or other means of electronic communication. If there is an emergency that requires the patient to be treated before a written submission can be made, FDA may authorize use of the investigational drug to begin without a written submission. The FDA reviewing official may authorize the emergency use by telephone.

  • For investigational biological drug products regulated by the Center for Biologics Evaluation: (301) 827-1800 or 1-800-835-4709, 
  • For all other investigational drugs: (301) 796-3400, 
  • After hours: 1-886-300-4374,

If using an unapproved medical device, the physician has obtained authorization from the IDE sponsor if an IDE exists for the device. If no IDE exists, the physician reports the emergency use to CDRH or CBER.

Informed Consent:

  • Informed consent will be obtained from the patient or a legally authorized representative (LAR) before the emergency use of a test article. An Emergency Use Consent and Authorization Template is available on the IRB Forms page
  • If the exception from informed consent for emergency use was used instead of obtaining consent, the physician will prepare the Certification for Emergency Use of a Test Article without Consent [DOC].
The physician submits an Emergency Use of a Test Article Application in ERICA.
  • The emergency use is reported to the IRB in ERICA before the treatment is given, unless the patient must be treated immediately.
  • If the patient was treated immediately, the emergency use is reported to the IRB in ERICA within 5 business days after the treatment.
  • If the IRB Chair concurs that the proposed or reported activity meets the FDA requirements for exemption from prospective IRB review for emergency use of a test article, the treating physician will receive an acknowledgment via email from ERICA.
  • If the IRB Chair determines that there is time to review a proposed use of the test article (i.e. the test article has not been used yet) at the convened IRB, the physician will be required to complete the entire new study application and the application will not be considered for the exemption from prospective IRB review for emergency use.
  • If the IRB Chair determines that a reported use of the test article (i.e. the test article has already been used) does not meet the definition of emergency use, you will be required to submit a protocol deviation and the IRB will review the use for non-compliance.

How to Submit an "Emergency Use of a Test Article" Application

  1. Log on to the ERICA system. If you have never used the ERICA system before, you will log in using your uNID and associated password (the same as used for CIS or other campus systems). You will be asked to create a profile with your contact information.
  2. Complete a conflict of interest disclosure for this emergency use submission. You will need this conflict of interest disclosure during your submission of the Emergency Use of a Test Article Application.
  3. Click on the "IRB Studies"  button on the red menu bar.
  4. Click the "Create a New Study Application" button.
  5. Complete the first page (Contacts and Title) of the new study application, selecting Emergency Use of a Test Article Application for question 7.
  6. Complete the entire emergency use of a test article application by clicking Continueafter completing each page. This is a smart form and will automatically select the emergency use pages that will need to be completed. Keep in mind:
    • The application will ask you about the emergency situation, and then ask you for information about the drug. The manufacturer should be able to provide you with all information about the drug.  
    • Do not include any identifiable information about the patient in the application. You can refer to the patient by his/her initials, if you need to. 
  7.  Attach documentation required, as applicable, for emergency use to the Documents and Attachmentspage.
    • Consent Document (unsigned) or Certification for Emergency Use of a Test Article without Consent [DOC]. The consent document should not be on the IRB watermark template, as it will not receive an approval stamp.
    • Any IND or IDE information (i.e. Investigator's Brochure, package insert, device instructions, etc.)
    • Sponsor Protocol or Grant Application, if applicable
    • Monitoring or debriefing plans not already described in the emergency use application
    • Principal Investigator's (the treating physician) Scholarly Record (CV/Resume)
  8. Once you click "Finish" on the last page of the application, you will be taken to the application workspace page. On this page, click "Submit" located on the menu on the left side of the screen. 

Emergency Use: Background and Regulations

The FDA defines "emergency use" as the use of a test article on a human subject in a life-threatening situation in which no standard acceptable treatment is available, and in which there is not sufficient time to obtain IRB approval [21CFR 56.102 (d)]. The FDA regulates use of all investigational drugs and devices, including emergency use. The IRB must be notified of all emergency use, even though it is not considered research. 

Often, the term "emergency use" creates confusion because there are three different areas of concern. This web page offers more detailed information about each of these issues:

  1. IRB requirements: IRB approval is required for the use of a test article on a human subject unless there is not enough time to obtain approval at a convened board (even if the study is for only one patient).This means that no board will convene prior to the need to administer the treatment to the subject. This section explains how the IRB review process works in an emergency situation.
  2. Informed consent requirements: Informed consent must be obtained from a subject. A consent form must be prepared for use and submitted to the IRB. Regulations allow for an exception from informed consent in certain emergency situations. This section explains when the exception from informed consent is allowable.
  3. Requirements for the test article: These requirements deal with how the FDA allows the shipment and distribution of investigational drugs and devices in emergency situations. If an emergency IND or IDE is obtained, it does not necessarily qualify a protocol for the exemption from prospective IRB review or an exemption from informed consent. The following sections outline how drugs and devices are authorized for use by the FDA in an emergency use situation.
    1. Emergency investigational new drug (IND) requirements
    2. Emergency use of an unapproved device

What Does "Life-Threatening" Mean?

Life-threatening, for the purposes of the above section [21 CFR 56.102(d)] includes the scope of both life-threatening and severely debilitating as defined below:

  • FDA definition of "life-threatening": Diseases or conditions where the likelihood of death is high unless the course of the disease is interrupted and diseases or conditions with potentially fatal outcomes, where the end point of clinical trial analysis is survival. The criteria for life threatening do not require the condition to be immediately life threatening or to immediately result in death. Rather, the subjects must be in a life-threatening situation requiring intervention before review at a convened meeting of the IRB is feasible.
  • FDA definition of "severely debilitating": Diseases or conditions that cause major irreversible morbidity. Examples of severely debilitating conditions include blindness, loss of arm, leg, hand or foot, loss of hearing, paralysis or stroke.

IRB Requirements

The FDA provides an emergency use provision in the regulations [21 CFR 56.104(c)] which allows an exception from prospective review by the IRB. Emergency use of a test article as defined above does not require review by a convened IRB Panel, but the use must be reported to the IRB. The IRB Chair, Co-Chair, or a Vice Chair will determine whether the use complies with the regulatory requirements.

The treating physician must notify the IRB before the emergency use of the test article using the ERICA system. If immediate use of the test article is required to save the life of the participant and there is not sufficient time to contact the IRB, the treating physician may proceed with the emergency use. In this case, the use of the test article must be reported to the IRB using the ERICA system as soon as possible and absolutely no later than 5 working days from the time the procedure is conducted or drug is administered.

Notifying the IRB of the emergency use (either before or after the procedure or drug administration) should not be construed as IRB approval. A letter will be issued from the IRB Chair, Co-Chair or Vice-Chair stating whether the use complies with the regulatory requirements.

If the IRB can reasonably hold a convened meeting to review all prepared emergency use materials prior to the use of the test article, it is not considered exempt from prospective review by the IRB. The IRB staff should be contacted as soon as possible to facilitate review at the convened meeting.

See also SOP 506: Emergency Use of a Test Article and Planned Emergency Use on the IRB Standard Operating Procedures page. 

Is the emergency use of a test article considered "research?"

Emergency use of a test article (21 CFR 56.104(c)) is considered by FDA to be human research. It meets the FDA definition of clinical investigation and requires regulation under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It also involves the administration of a test article to a human, so it involves human subjects. Therefore under FDA regulations, it is human research.

The research must not be subject to DHHS regulation since DHHS has no corresponding exemption from prospective IRB review. The activity must not meet the DHHS definition of "research" and involve "subjects" as defined by DHHS regulations. In other words, the data from an emergency use may not be reported in a way that implies that the activity was a prospectively planned systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

Informed Consent

Even for emergency use, the treating physician is required to obtain informed consent of the subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative. An informed consent must be submitted to the IRB. Although emergency use is not research, a research consent template may be used to create a consent form for emergency use situations. The drug/device manufacturer may possibly have a consent template available. The IRB consent template may also be used. Language in the consent form must reflect that the treatment is not FDA-approved and the treatment is an option for treating the patient’s life-threatening condition. The consent form must state that the patient is not receiving treatment as part of research.

Additionally, the FDA provides an exception from the requirements of informed consent [21 CFR 50.23] as outlined below.

Before the use of the test article, both the treating physician and a physician who is not otherwise participating in the clinical investigation must certify all of the following:

  1. The human subject is confronted by a life-threatening situation necessitating use of test article.
  2. Consent cannot be obtained because of an inability to communicate with or obtain consent from the subject.
  3. Time is not sufficient to obtain consent from subject's legal representative.
  4. No alternative generally approved method is available.
  5. If immediate use of the test article is required to save the life of the subject and time is not sufficient to obtain independent determination by another physician, a determination by the treating physician shall be made. This determination is to be reviewed and evaluated in writing by a physician who is not participating in the investigation within 5 days after use of article. Use the Certification for Emergency Use of a Test Article without Consent [DOC] found on the IRB websiteand submit the completed certification with the Report of Emergency Use in the ERICA system.

The documentation described above must be submitted to the IRB within 5 working days after the use of a test article.

Emergency Use of an Investigational Drug

The emergency use of an unapproved investigational drug or biologic requires an Investigational New Drug (IND) number. For more information, please refer directly to the Emergency Use of an Investigational Drug or Biologic - Information Sheet found on the FDA website. 

Obtaining access to an IND number can be accomplished in two ways:

  • Contact the manufacturer (or IND holder) of the product to determine if the drug or biologic can be made available for the emergency use under the existing IND.  There may or may not be an existing, approved study (at any of the manufacturer’s study sites) using the IND. The manufacturer may be required to contact the FDA to obtain permission for the emergency use to occur using the existing IND. 
  • A treating physician may request an emergency IND from the FDA specific to the emergency use case.  An emergency use IND number is not associated with another other clinical trial or another emergency use case. In some cases, the need for an investigational drug or biologic may be a situation that does not allow time for a submission of an emergency IND and the FDA may authorize shipment of the test article in advance of the IND submission.

When a treating physician submits the Emergency Use of a Test Article application in the ERICA system, an IND number needs to be provided.

A treating physician who is responsible for the emergency use of a drug, where drugs are stored and dispensed by the Investigational Pharmacy, must abide by the following policies:

  • University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics Policy Manual
    • Medication Management, Investigational Drug Use, No. 9-8
    • Department of Pharmacy Policies and Procedures, No. 12-12, section IV, item C
  • Investigational Drug Studies (SOP 18.31) for Primary Children’s Medical Center

Emergency Use of an Unapproved Device

The FDA provides guidance that defines an unapproved medical device as a device that is utilized for a purpose, condition, or use for which the device requires, but does not have, an approved application for premarket approval under section 515 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 360e)(the act) or an approved IDE under section 520(g) of the act (21 U.S.C. 360j(g)).

An unapproved device should normally only be used in human subjects if it is approved for clinical testing under an IDE and if it is used by an investigator for the sponsor in accordance with the terms and conditions of the application. Emergency use of an unapproved device, however, may also occur when: (i) an IDE for the device does not exist, (ii) when a physician wants to use the device in a way not approved under the IDE, or (iii) when a physician is not an investigator under the IDE.

A physician who intends to treat a patient with an unapproved medical device in an emergency situation should conclude that:

  1. The patient has a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment.
  2. No generally acceptable alternative treatment for the condition exists; and
  3. Because of the immediate need to use the device, there is no time to use existing procedures to get FDA approval for the use.

FDA expects the physician to make the determination that the patient's circumstances meet the above criteria, to assess the potential for benefit from the use of the unapproved device, and to have substantial reason to believe that benefits will exist.

The emergency use of an investigational device must be reported to the FDA by the IDE sponsor within 5 working days. If no IDE exists, the physician should follow the above procedures and report the emergency use to CDRH or CBER. For additional information on the procedures physicians should follow in an emergency situation, see chapter 3 of the guidance entitled IDE Policies and Procedures on the FDA website.

Last Updated: 4/7/21