While it may feel like FDA’s attention has been focused on COVID-19 for nearly two years, as we have written about in a previous blog post, FDA is looking to the future, and particularly, one that signals exciting prospects for biotechnology products, including cell and gene therapies. This is mirrored by the increasing financial strength of the biotechnology industry. The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine reports that regenerative medicine and advanced therapy financing soared during the first half of 2021, resulting in the strongest half year to date, and reached 71% of 2020 full year levels. Moreover, the Alliance reports that there are now more than 1,200 companies worldwide developing advanced biotechnology products and an anticipated 18 global regulatory approval decisions this year. Also, 243 regenerative and advanced therapy phase 3 trials were ongoing at the time of the Alliance’s report.
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The accelerated approval pathway (i.e., the pathway that permits FDA to rely on surrogate or intermediate endpoints for the approval of a drug for serious conditions with unmet medical needs) has proven to be an important tool to provide patients with access to promising products. By example, as of June 2021, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research approved 269 drug and biologic products via accelerated approval. This does not include Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research approvals, which, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, has granted more than 155 accelerated approvals for oncology products alone.
Earlier in the summer, the FDA issued a quartet of guidance documents setting forth the Agency’s plan for implementing requirements under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). The DSCSA directs FDA to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States. It also requires that FDA establish national licensure standards for wholesale distributors and third-party logistics providers and establishes requirements for these entities to issue annual reports to FDA. Taken as a whole, these new guidances clarify FDA’s expectations for stakeholders to comply with the law to achieve a safer, more secure, and more trusted drug supply chain.
China’s long-awaited Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) has potentially significant implications for pharmaceutical and medical device companies doing business in China or with the market in China. Personal health information is considered sensitive personal information and is now subject to enhanced data compliance requirements for collection, processing, and cross-border transfer. After two rounds of draft versions, the PIPL was finally passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on August 20, 2021 and will become effective November 1, 2021.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the US House of Representatives’ Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee recently voted three bills out of committee that target the pharmaceutical industry practices of so-called “reverse payments,” “product hopping,” and “sham” citizen petitioning. Versions of some of these bills had been under consideration by this subcommittee for years, but had not been voted out of committee until now.
FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Quality (OPQ) issued a new Manual of Policies and Procedures (MAPP) in June explaining the agency’s internal procedures for evaluating color additives and flavors in an oral drug product submitted as part of an investigational new drug application (IND), new drug application (NDA), and Type IV drug master file (DMF).
Last year was a record-breaking one for capital raising in life sciences, and 2021’s first quarter was robust for special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) transactions. Now, after a second-quarter SPAC and initial public offering (IPO) slowdown, the outlook for summer SPACs has rebounded just in time for the Morgan Lewis Global Public Academy program, Going Public Through a SPAC: Current Issues for SPAC Sponsors and Private Companies 2021. Our panelists will discuss some of the most important legal issues for companies considering going public through a SPAC and for SPACs seeking an acquisition target. Topics covered will include the use of private investments in public equity (PIPEs), obtaining shareholder approval for a merger, and the required SEC filings and review process.
In a May 27 Federal Register notice, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the reinstatement of the Unapproved Drugs Initiative, the FDA’s compliance policy governing marketed unapproved drugs. The announcement is an abrupt—but not unexpected—reversal from a previously issued controversial decision by the Trump administration’s HHS to end the Unapproved Drugs Initiative in November 2020. The reinstatement means that companies that market unapproved drugs should reassess their risk under FDA’s preexisting enforcement priorities.
At the Food and Drug Law Institute’s 2021 annual conference, Dr. Peter Marks, the director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, commented on progress that has been made using FDA’s Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) designation. As quoted in the Pink Sheet, Dr. Marks stated that the RMAT designation is a “nice tool to have in our tool belt . . . . It may not be an earth-shattering new tool but it’s a nice tool just the same.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new guidance describing its current recommendations with respect to master protocols for the evaluation of drugs and biologics to treat or prevent COVID-19. While somewhat belated, this guidance may shed light on FDA’s approach to master protocols for other disease states/products.