PDUFA Christmas Tree
If a Part D rebate requirement is not part of a broader deficit control measure this year, it's sure to be on the growing
list of pet programs that legislators hope to hang on the user-fee "Christmas tree." Pharma critics also seek bills to legitimize
drug reimportation, reduce biosimilar exclusivity, curb brand/generic patent settlements, and extend 340B discounts for drugs
used by safety-net hospitals to inpatient use and orphan medicines.
Pharma companies have their own preferences, such as added incentives for developing new antibiotics and an update for FDA's
orphan drug program. Industry supports drug safety legislation, but wants a say in provisions for mandating drug recalls and
enhancing import controls. There's also interest in making REMS less burdensome and in revising FDA conflict-of-interest policies
that exclude many qualified experts from seats on FDA advisory committees.
A Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) wish-list is less conventional, calling for FDA to become an independent agency
and to de-politicize it by appointing the FDA commissioner to a fixed six-year term. BIO wants to require FDA to tell sponsors
specifically why it's not approving an application and proposes a "progressive" drug approval procedure that permits therapies
for diseases that lack effective treatment to come to market on a limited basis while the sponsor completes clinical studies.
The basic PDUFA proposal is not radically different from the current fee program and thus by itself should win Congressional
support fairly easily. FDA is looking to boost user-fee revenue by a "modest" 6 percent a year, to about $700 million in fiscal
year 2013. Most notably, FDA gets an extra two months to review applications; the official review clock won't begin until
after a 60-day "administrative filing period" following application submission. PDUFA V also will support more reviewer/sponsor
meetings and a new cadre of FDA liaison officials to enhance communications. FDA will assess meta-analysis methods, biomarkers,
and patient-reported outcomes measures; boost its Sentinel system to improve post-market drug safety surveillance; and establish
an electronic submissions system for clinical data, something that has been in the works for years.
Along with PDUFA, FDA and manufacturers are working on a new user-fee program for generic drugs, while also discussing a fee
formula for biosimilar product applications. And there's strong support for renewing pediatric drug development and research
incentives, preferably on a permanent basis.
The Medical Device User Fee Act (MDUFA) also is up for renewal. Negotiations on that program have been much more contentious
than for drugs, as FDA weighs options for overhauling its 510k regulatory process for low-risk devices, which has device makers
up in arms.
Congress launched its formal assessment of PDUFA issues at hearings in July. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg outlined for the
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee how user fees enhance patient access to medical products. While
most Senators backed user-fee renewal, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) threatened to block PDUFA reauthorization if FDA doesn't speed
up approvals for medical devices.
At a hearing before the House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee, E&C chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) laid out prime Republican
concerns: REMS requirements may be thwarting new drug development, and "rigid and unrealistic" conflict-of-interest policies
keep top scientists off advisory committees, preventing these panels from vetting new drug candidates in a timely manner.
Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), provided a fairly positive report on FDA's
drug approval process, describing how proposed PDUFA V enhancements will further address access and safety issues. Woodcock
was able to report that FDA was on track to approve more drugs in 2011 than in recent years, with 20 new drugs already okayed
at mid-year—almost as many as in all of 2010. She also noted that CDER's rate of first-cycle approvals for priority new molecular
entities (NMEs) is going up, and that the agency was approving important innovative therapies, such as treatments for hepatitis
C and for late-stage melanoma.
The real problem, she said, is not slow approvals, but that too many experimental drugs continue to fail during development.
PDUFA can improve the process by supporting FDA science and research needs, as outlined in a July report from CDER's Science
Prioritization and Review Committee, which describes opportunities to improve analysis of post-market data, product quality
assessment, clinical trial design, and individualized treatments.
Jill Wechsler is Pharmaceutical Executive's Washington correspondent. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org