Wednesday 30 May 2018

FDA Attempts to Shame Pharmacuetical and Biotechnology Companies

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently decided to try to “shame” some pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for failing to provide samples to companies who wish to produce generic versions of their pharmaceuticals.  The FDA states:

In passing the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, Congress created a system that balances encouraging and rewarding medical innovation with facilitating robust and timely market competition. One of the primary ways that FDA facilitates a competitive marketplace is through the efficient approval of generic drugs, which are often lower-cost than brand drugs.

Unfortunately, the process established by Congress may not always function as intended. At times, certain “gaming” tactics have been used to delay generic competition. One example of such gaming is when potential generic applicants are prevented from obtaining samples of certain brand products necessary to support approval of a generic drug. The inability of generic companies to purchase the samples they need slows down, or entirely impedes, the generic drug development process – leading to delays in bringing affordable generic alternatives to patients in need.

As described in further detail below, these kinds of problems with generic access to necessary samples may occur when brand products are subject to limited distribution – whether the company has voluntarily adopted limitations on distribution, or the limitations have been imposed in connection with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (or REMS), a program that FDA implements for certain drugs to help ensure that their benefits outweigh their risks. In some cases, brand drug sponsors may use these limited distribution arrangements, whether or not they are REMS-related, as a basis for blocking potential generic applicants from accessing the samples they need.

As part of the FDA’s Drug Competition Action Plan (DCAP), FDA is committed – among other things – to addressing and improving transparency about this and other gaming tactics that delay the generic competition Congress intended.

There are around 50 drugs listed, including about 40 different pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.  Do you think this tactic will work?  Interestingly, a New York Times article describes Celgene’s response, here. 

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