The Regulation of Patient-Reported Outcome Claims: Need for a Flexible Standard


Address correspondence to: Louis A. Morris & Associates, Inc., President, 8 Norman Court, Dix Hills, NY. E-mail:


We review the FDA's policies for the regulation of patient-reported outcome (PRO) claims such as quality of life, productivity, satisfaction and symptom reports and suggest alternative standards for substantiation. We base our review on FDA regulatory activities and public statements in the field of advertising substantiation. We compare these activities to the FDA's label substantiation policies and policies for health-economic (HE) claim substantiation. There is an overt inconsistency between the FDA's policies for substantiation of PRO claims in product labels and substantiation for such claims in advertising materials. This results in a higher standard for PRO claims in promotional vehicles than in product labels. Rather than relying on a “substantial evidence” standard, the FDA should consider a more flexible standard, such as the one currently applied to information included in the Clinical Trials section of product labels, or adopting a “competent and reliable scientific evidence” standard as set forth in Section 114 of the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (FDAMA) for HE data. We conclude that there needs to be greater consistency for substantiation in product labels and promotional materials. Furthermore, reconceptualizing most PRO claims as benefit extrapolations as opposed to efficacy information suggests a less rigorous standard is necessary.