PDUFA season officially opened November 14, at an FDA stakeholder meeting to discuss the reauthorization. Acting commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and deputy commissioner Janet Woodcock, among others, praised the $250 million program. Although some consumer advocates and their Congressional allies blast user fees, arguing that they boost industry control over the drug approval process, FDA officials, pharma companies, and patient disease groups applaud the program for ending "drug lag" and speeding new therapies to market:
FDA cites a growing workload to justify fee revisions: While NDAs and BLAs are fairly flat, efficacy and manufacturing supplements continue to rise. The agency struggled last year to prepare for more than 2,000 industry-requested meetings and to assess nearly 350 special research protocols for innovations in carcinogenicity testing and clinical trial design, among others.
Similar discussions have begun involving reauthorization of user fees for medical device manufacturers, which also expire in 2007. Officials at FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) want to be able to use some of the fees collected under the Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act (MDUFMA) of 2002 for post-market surveillance, a proposal that has gained momentum following recent safety crises involving pacemakers and defibrillators.
No Christmas Trees
The pharmaceutical industry, for its part, wants to hold the line on fee increases (it currently costs a sponsor nearly $800,000 to file an NDA or BLA) and to restrain the use of fee revenues for activities unrelated to drug development and approval. A broader goal is to prevent a reauthorization bill from becoming a "Christmas tree" loaded with miscellaneous legislation. That's a legitimate concern. Proposals are already circulating on the Hill to establish new drug-safety-oversight arrangements, spur development of follow-on biologics, mandate completion of post-approval studies, and boost oversight of DTC advertising, to name just a few.
There's even an item industry would like to put on the tree: a measure to reauthorize the use of patent extensions as incentive for conducting studies of drugs in pediatric populations, which also is up for renewal in 2007. The six-month extensions have been a boon for pharma companies, while also generating important pediatric labeling information.