The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) on January 30 signaled what could be an about-face with regard to its role administering the List of Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluation (referred to as the Orange Book). Historically, FDA’s Orange Book role has been solely ministerial. However, over the next year, FDA may begin taking a more active approach to the Orange Book.
In FDA’s latest Director’s Corner podcast, Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER or Center), reflects on the Center’s accomplishments of the past year and priorities for 2019. As expected, parts of CDER were affected by the government shutdown, which has caused a delay in the development of some of the Center’s policy activities and accomplishments to start the year. However, despite the delay, Dr. Woodcock provided updates on several initiatives coming up in 2019. Below is a summary of the major initiatives to expect in 2019. Overall, it looks like CDER is gearing up for a busy and productive year. Industry stakeholders should be on the lookout for many new developments coming out of the Center.
After several delays, the revised US Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (also known as the Common Rule) went into effect on January 21. The Common Rule is generally applicable to research conducted or supported by one of the federal departments or agencies that has integrated the rule into its own regulations (e.g., US Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Health), US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Defense). Some clinical trial sites may also apply the Common Rule across all clinical research projects, regardless of funding source, through a US Office for Human Research Protections Federal Wide Assurance.
Despite the mandate under the 21st Century Cures Act to harmonize FDA regulations with the Common Rule to the extent practicable and allowable under existing legislative provisions, FDA has yet to propose aligning regulations. Rather, FDA issued guidance titled Impact of Certain Provisions of the Revised Common Rule on FDA-Regulated Clinical Investigations. As of right now, while FDA is aware of new inconsistencies between its human subject regulations and the revised Common Rule, the agency has advised that when a given study is subject to both sets of regulations, the rule that offers greater human subject protection should be applied. The guidance sets forth FDA’s position on the following areas of potential discrepancies between the Common Rule and FDA regulations:
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.
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.
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.