FDA Matters Blog

2012 Mid-Year Report on FDA: Opportunities, Threats and Accomplishments

July 9th, 2012

So much is going on at FDA right now, that it is difficult to pick just one topic for this week’s FDA Matters. Instead, we are going to take a quick tour of some “hot spots” at FDA and how they might affect the agency over the remainder of the year and beyond.

Please read on…there is something for everyone in the topics covered.

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User Fee Reauthorization—Critics Come Out Before the Ink Is Dry

June 26th, 2012

The House passed the final user fee reauthorization legislation last week and (as of this evening) the Senate has also passed the bill. It will now go to the President for signature. FDA Matters says: well done, Congress! Despite my fear of delays and bickering, you completed this process on time and with broad bipartisan support.

However, critics are already emerging, “before the ink is dry.” The advocacy group, Public Citizen, is complaining that drugs and devices will be less safe as a result of the legislation. At the same time, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA official, has published an essay arguing the legislation doesn’t go far enough to expedite review of drugs for serious medical conditions.

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Biosimilars Update: Keys for the Next Year and Beyond

June 22nd, 2012

The biosimilars market in the U.S. will not grow large overnight. However, over the next 4 to 10 years, a lot of companies are going to become players. During this same period, health plans, pharmacy benefit managers, Medicare, and Medicaid are going to start reaping savings by buying less expensive biosimilars. By a decade from now, sales of biosimilars will be creating new winners and losers in the overall biopharmaceutical marketplace.

In light of this, I was recently asked: what should a developer or investor be looking to achieve over the next year in the area of biosimilars? What should they be looking to achieve in the years after that?

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Spinal Cord Injury—Innovation Measured in Decades, Not Headlines

June 18th, 2012

We are undergoing a supposed “national crisis” in medical innovation. Congress, FDA, NIH, and industry are involved in multiple initiatives to “cure” this problem. This is particularly visible now because the user fee reauthorization process is underway, but the state of medical innovation is always relevant because of our headline-driven, crisis-oriented culture.

To FDA Matters, this approach profoundly distorts medical accomplishment. You can’t use “where are we today” to judge the success or failure of a medical research process that is inherently broad, iterative, uneven, filled with false starts and driven by cumulative success more often than miraculous breakthroughs. As a case in point, I offer efforts to achieve spinal cord regeneration.

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PDUFA Reauthorization: Major Upgrades for Orphan Drugs

June 13th, 2012

Congress is to be congratulated on its progress toward passage of user fee reauthorization legislation. House and Senate-passed versions are being reconciled by staff, with a few fairly tough issues yet to be resolved. There is no apparent barrier to a final piece of legislation later this month or during July.

One of the big winners in this process has been the rare disease/orphan drug (RD/OD) community. Notwithstanding a few remaining (minor) disputes in the RD/OD space (more on this later), the final legislation will contain the strongest set of improvements for the community since the original 1983 Orphan Drug Act.

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A Well-Funded FDA: Only if Congress Stands Behind its Own Words

June 4th, 2012

This week, FDA Matters raises the delicate question: can Congress be counted to act upon its own words supporting the FDA? This is desperately important as Congress makes decisions on FDA’s FY 13 funding and possible sequestration.

Over the last few weeks, the Senate and the House have passed the FDA user fee reauthorization legislation by large bipartisan majorities with almost no opposition. Both bodies have extolled the importance of the FDA. The urgency of it funding needs have been fully acknowledged. The incredible breadth of support for the agency has been counted and documented. But will Congress provide the funding to back this up?

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Biosimilars and the U.S. Supreme Court: FDA Program Could Be Nullified

May 29th, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (also known as ObamaCare) no later than early July. One of the possible results is nullification of the entire Act, although FDA Matters thinks this is the least likely outcome.

Nonetheless, the U.S. biosimilars law—passed as a separate section of ACA—could be rendered void if the Supreme Court overturns the entire ACA. Where would that leave FDA? What about those companies that have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to be part of the emerging U.S. biosimilars marketplace?

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FDA, Me and Maybe the Mafia—A True Story

May 14th, 2012

In honor of FDA Matters’ third anniversary, I am sharing a personal story. It reflects FDA’s history as a struggle of competing interests—where sometimes reasonable people disagree, often vehemently, while at other times it is obvious that indifference or greed are the driving forces.

Both are a fact of everyday life at FDA and in the FDA-regulated world. Here is my own little story and I still can’t say for sure whether it involved reasonable people or dark forces.

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Safety and Efficacy Standards: Innovative Approaches to Radical Ideas

May 7th, 2012

FDA is in the midst of its quinquennial* (five year) review from Congress as part of the user fee reauthorization cycle. Lots of proposals are on the table and FDA Matters agrees with some and disagrees with others. So far though, there doesn’t seem to be anything that would pull FDA apart or create an agency that cannot act with integrity.

In contrast, two key opinion leaders are talking about potentially radical changes in FDA’s safety and efficacy standards. While neither has seen their specific proposals become part of the Hill debate, there are redeeming qualities to what both of them are suggesting.

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OMB, HHS, or FDA: Who Really Makes FDA’s Decisions?

April 23rd, 2012

OMB, White House staff, and the Secretary of HHS review many FDA decisions and their oversight sometimes alters FDA’s positions. This was chronicled in a recent NY Times article and generated a number of editorial comments criticizing anyone tampering with FDA’s integrity. However, the individuals named in the article have the authority (on behalf of the President) to question FDA’s judgments.

More importantly, FDA Matters observes that the vast majority of FDA-related decisions–and virtually all of the science-related decisions–are made by the FDA. The key is the strong public health and scientific expertise of FDA staff and the credibility this brings to any scientifically-based agency decision.

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