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.
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).
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.
The Purple Book—a database containing information about all licensed biological productsis set for a revamping that offers more patent transparency regarding reference biologics.
Over the past year and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, FDA relied on alternative inspectional tools and approaches, including remote interactive evaluations and record requests, as well as a prioritization scheme, to continue its oversight activities.
FDA recently issued its first clinicaltrials.gov notice of noncompliance to a clinical trial sponsor for failure to submit clinical trial results to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) databank. Despite having authority to issues such notices since the 2007 passage of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA), FDA has not previously exercised its clinicaltrials.gov enforcement authority.
In an apparent effort to combat prescription drug shortages and price spikes, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced the forthcoming termination of FDA’s Unapproved Drugs Initiative (UDI). This announcement essentially walks back FDA’s enforcement approach regarding “marketed unapproved drugs,” allowing them to continue to be sold consistent with the 2006 FDA policy, and may cause objections from those companies that spent millions of dollars in scientific resources and application user fees to obtain New Drug Application (NDA) approval for these drugs over the last 14 years.