FDA recently announced a proposal to add an exception to the agency’s informed consent requirements. Under the proposed rule, FDA will allow Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to waive or alter informed consent for clinical trials that present only minimal risk to the subjects. This proposal is similar to the policy set forth in FDA’s guidance document on the same topic, which we have written on previously.
Although federal efforts on drug pricing remain at the proposal stage, recently enacted legislation in six states on drug price transparency requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to review and update their approaches to prescription drug pricing and price increases on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with state laws. Beginning in 2019, some states will impose penalties for noncompliance with reporting obligations. The state statutes raise various concerns, including that they vary from state to state, are often unclear as to what products are covered, and use different calculation methods and evidence to support price increases.
President Donald Trump announced that, as of September 24, 2018, additional tariffs of 10% were imposed on hundreds of chemical ingredients, many of which are used in the manufacturing of dietary supplements, cosmetics, and over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. Manufacturers have had to develop contingency plans and strategies for dealing with the imposition of these tariffs. Such contingency plans may include renegotiating supplier contracts; re-sourcing the ingredients; and notifying distributors and customers of disruptions, delays, or price changes. A rise in the tariff rate to 25% for these products, scheduled for January 1, 2019, has been delayed pending current negotiations with China, and during this period no exclusion requests on particular products are being accepted by the Office of the US Trade Representative.
Law360 published an article on August 18, 2018, by Morgan Lewis life sciences lawyers that discusses the FDA’s plans to advance biosimilar products. In an effort to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, the Biosimilars Action Plan (BAP) focuses on four key strategies: (1) improving the efficiency of the biosimilar and interchangeable product development and approval process; (2) maximizing scientific and regulatory clarity for the biosimilar product development community; (3) developing effective communications to improve understanding of biosimilars among patients, providers, and payors; and (4) supporting market competition by reducing gaming of FDA requirements or other attempts to unfairly delay market competition to follow-on products. As discussed in the article, the BAP outlines several priority deliverables to achieve each strategy. Time will tell, however, if the BAP is able to achieve its goal of facilitating biosimilar development and promoting biosimilar use.
In an attempt to minimize perceived obstacles to generic drug market entry, the FDA issued two draft guidance documents on May 31, 2018, related to shared system risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS), providing the industry with insight into a previously underdefined area of FDA regulation. A shared REMS is one that encompasses multiple prescription drug products and is implemented jointly by two or more applicants. One of the new draft guidance documents sets forth the circumstances when a shared REMS program is required. The other draft guidance explains how to request a waiver from a shared REMS, signaling FDA’s willingness to grant such waivers.
Unfortunately, FDA did not provide any concrete steps to assist drug manufacturers with the challenging task of working cooperatively with market competitors on these drug safety programs. Nevertheless, the two guidance documents are a must-read for both brand and generic drug applicants.
The Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017 (Federal Right to Try Act), signed into law on May 30, creates a federal framework for patients to access investigational new drugs without enrolling in clinical trials and without FDA expanded access approval. The law, however, leaves a number of unanswered questions that industry, healthcare providers, and patients must currently navigate without the benefit of regulatory guidance. For example, exactly how the Federal Right to Try Act interacts with state right to try legislation and FDA’s existing expanded access program is currently unclear. Implementation of the Federal Right to Try Act will be a developing area that stakeholders should continue to monitor. Moreover, stakeholders considering providing investigational drug access outside of clinical trials will have a number of areas to think about when determining which pathway to use.
As precision medicine gains momentum and in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) become increasingly used in clinical trials, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies must quickly become familiar with the FDA’s investigational device framework. Based on concerns that drug clinical trial sponsors do not appreciate the need to follow device regulations when using “investigational” IVDs in clinical trials, in its draft guidance, FDA provides more structure around the incorporation of IVDs into clinical trials, and sets out its expectations about sponsors’ scope of review of the risk of use of such IVDs. The draft guidance will need to be factored into how pharmaceutical and biotechnology clinical trial sponsors use IVDs in clinical trials and work with device partners.