Budget Showdown Leads to Partial FDA Shutdown

US government agencies, including FDA, faced the first shutdown in 17 years when the House of Representatives and Senate failed to reach agreement on a budget. While national parks and landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty were closed on October 1 and thousands of government workers were idled, FDA expects to retain approximately 55% of its staff during the current partial government shutdown.

According to a Department of Health and Human Services statement, FDA will continue limited activities related to its user fee-funded programs. The agency will also continue “select vital activities including maintaining critical consumer protection to handle emergencies, high-risk recalls, civil and criminal investigations, import entry review, and other critical public health issues.”

The agency reports that it will not support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities and may have to cease safety activities such as “routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula), and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.

Reviews of pending approvals for several drugs, originally scheduled for early October, were uncertain as of Oct. 1.

A provision by House Republicans to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act appears to be the major sticking point to an agreement. If elected officials get past this roadblock, the next big debate, over increasing the debt ceiling, is just two weeks away.

Congress Clarifies Drug Compounding, Tracking Policies

Public outrage over deaths from contaminated injectibles produced by large compounding pharmacies, along with rising concerns about counterfeit and unauthorized drugs entering the U.S. market, managed to lift the stalemate on Capitol Hill long enough to generate agreement on reform legislation. After months of public hearings and negotiations, Democrat and Republican leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unveiled a compromise bill last week. No one gets all they wanted from the Drug Quality and Security Act, but it provides more clarity and predictability to drug oversight programs and moves forward initiatives designed to enhance the safety and quality of medicines in the U.S.

Read more »

Pharma Revenues, Health Expenditures Set to Increase

Healthcare spending will rise modestly in the US over the next decade, as economic growth picks up, health reform provides expanded coverage, and the population continues to age, according to an annual analysis from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These trends similarly will boost expenditures for prescription drugs, but not as quickly as in previous decades.

Outlays for healthcare in the US have grown much more slowly over the past three years, largely due to an economic decline that deterred individuals from seeing doctors and to increased cost-sharing requirements for the privately insured. Minimal growth is continuing this year, but expenditures will begin to rise in 2014, boosting the average growth rate for national health spending to 5.8% through 2022, according to the National Health Expenditure Projections from the CMS Office of the Actuary and published by Health Affairs. Much of the spending will come from public agencies, as healthcare financed by federal, state, and local governments reaches $2.4 trillion in 2022, nearly half of all national health outlays.

Read more »

FDA, CDER Weigh Organizational Changes

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg has formed a top-level working group to propose strategies for enhancing agency functions and processes, starting with the relationship between FDA Centers and its field force. The Program Alignment Group (PAG), announced Sept. 6, 2013, will seek to clarify the roles and responsibilities of product centers and the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) to more effectively align practices, processes, and resources. The panel includes the deputy commissioners for food and veterinary medicine, for global regulatory operations and policy, plus the heads of ORA and all Centers to better coordinate inspection and oversight policies and programs throughout the agency.

Key issues are whether more specialization in FDA inspection and compliance functions would be beneficial, and how risk-based models and performance metrics may improve oversight and compliance outcomes. The agency also is looking for ways to achieve more efficient laboratory operations and to coordinate training for ORA and Center staffs.

Hamburg further explained at a conference on biomedical research the next week that her reorganization effort reflects the impact of a more globalized world for medical product development and production. Historically, ORA has fielded generalists able to inspect and evaluate a broad range of regulated products, but the modern era may require a more specialized regulatory staff. And while these issues have been addressed periodically by FDA Centers, including the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), the PAG will seek a more cohesive approach that considers the differences and needs of all regulated product areas.

CDER director Janet Woodcock, who is on the PAG, sees its mission paralleling her initiative to modernize how CDER regulates pharmaceutical quality. Woodcock seeks to establish an Office of Pharmaceutical Quality (OPQ), which similarly would coordinate drug compliance activities with ORA and take steps to clarify roles and responsibilities of CDER offices and to establish metrics and accountability.

At the PDA/FDA joint regulatory conference Sept. 16, Woodcock emphasized that CDER has to change the way it regulates industry to ensure an agile manufacturing sector that can reliably produce quality medicines, with less extensive agency oversight. One innovation would be to reorganize the review of the manufacturing portion of drug applications according to dosage forms and their predictable “failure modes.” Most product recalls, she noted, involve formulation design problems, such as particulates in parenterals and dissolution failures with solid oral products. This approach will involve setting clinically relative specifications and identifying what changes raise risks for drug safety and efficacy – and what do not.

The PAG is slated to give Hamburg an initial plan for operational changes by early December. And CDER hopes that OPQ will become a reality early next year, said Keith Webber, acting director of CDER’s Office of Pharmaceutical Science, at the PDA conference. The reorganization process is slow, as CDER’s OPQ proposal requires approval by HHS officials and has to be vetted by the Office of Management and Budget; some members of Congress also may want to review how the changes could affect drug shortages and patient access to medicines.

Meeting Technical and Regulatory Requirements for Organic Impurity Control and Analysis

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editorProduct quality is of paramount importance to pharmaceutical manufacturers, and implementing a strategy for impurity control is crucial. Organic impurities cover a wide spectrum of compounds that have varying structures, behaviors, and characteristics. Organic impurities can result from the manufacturing process, storage conditions, or degradation resulting from light, heat, and other external factors. Deciding what technology or analytical methods to use to detect and measure organic impurities is a challenge. Pharmaceutical Technology will hold a live educational webcast, “Meeting Regulatory and Technical Requirements for Organic Impurity Analysis, on Tuesday Sept. 24 at 11:00 AM EDT to 12:00 PM EDT to provide insight on the regulatory, compendial, and ICH requirements for organic impurity control and analysis as well as best practices in analytical method development, method selection, and method validation for detecting and quantifying organic impurities in drug substances and drug products.

The panelists for the webcast will be: Timothy Watson, PhD, and research fellow in the GCMC Advisory Office at Pfizer and a member of the PhRMA Expert Working Group on the ICH Q11 regulatory guidance document for drug substances; Mark Argentine, PhD, senior research advisor, analytical sciences R&D with Eli Lilly; and Hildegard Bruemmer, PhD, operational laboratory manager, SGS Life Science Services, Berlin. The panelists will provide insight on the regulatory and compendial requirements for organic impurity control and analysis in drug substances and drug products. They will also share insight on selecting the appropriate analytical methods for the detection, analysis, and quantification of organic impurities and offer related case studies on how best to ensure product quality.

Audience members may ask questions of the panelists during the live webcast. Information on how to register for the webcast, “Meeting Regulatory and Technical Requirements for Organic Impurity Analysis” for Tuesday Sept. 24 at 11:00 AM EDT to 12:00 PM EDT and for on-demand viewing is available here.

Examining Containment Strategies in High-Potency Manufacturing

With the increasing use of high-potency APIs, it is more important than ever to have an appropriate containment strategy to protect both the quality of your product and the safety of your personnel. Many important questions should be asked. Have you considered environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) issues early in your product development process? What are OELs and how should you evaluate industrial hygiene exposure? How can you prevent exposure? What elements are crucial for containment?

To examine these questions and others, Pharmaceutical Technology will host a complimentary, educational, live webcast, Containment Strategies in High-Potency Manufacturing, on Thursday, September 12 at 11:00 AM EDT. This 30-minute webcast will focus on current best practices and strategies for containment in high-potency manufacturing.

The webcast will be presented by John Farris, a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president & CEO of SafeBridge Consultants.  John is a recognized expert in the safe handling of potent pharmaceutical compounds.

Audience members will be able to ask questions for additional insight during the live webcast on Thursday, September 12. Additional information and registration for the live webcast and on-demand viewing may be found at www.pharmtech.com/highpotency.

Neutron Studies Reveal New Areas for Improvement in Drug Design of HIV Inhibitors

A team of scientists recently reported on the first study of interactions between the antiretroviral drug, amprenavir, and the HIV-1 protease enzyme. The findings provide the first true picture of how the protease inhibitor blocks viral replication. More importantly, the study reveal how drug design can be improved to enhance performance, combat resistance and reduce dosage of antiretroviral medications to treat HIV. Read more »

The Truth Behind China Bribery Scandals

VLUU L110  / Samsung L110The last few weeks have seen the media swamped with stories about the rampant bribery clawing the pharmaceutical industry in China. Big names were engulfed in the scandal, including GSK, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, Novartis, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and UCB amongst others.

Last month, four GSK executives were put under investigation for allegedly paying up to $480 million to doctors, hospital administrators, government officials and medical groups to promote the use of its medications. The limelight then shifted to Sanofi when some of its employees were accused of paying bribes totaling up to $280,000 to more than 500 Chinese doctors across 79 hospitals six years ago. The newspapers also alleged that Sanofi paid doctors 80 yuan each time a patient bought its products, with the largest payment said to be 11,200 yuan.

Novartis has also fallen prey to bribery allegations in China. The Swiss drug maker was accused of paying doctors $8000 to prescribe its cancer drug, Sandostatin LAR. Sales figures were expected to increase in June and July this year as a result. Eli Lilly is now the latest being investigated after a former employee alleged in a report that the company spent more than $490,000 to bribe doctors in China. The former sales manager said that Eli Lilly offered kickbacks to ensure doctors used its drugs, including its insulin brand. Read more »

Falsified Medicines Directive Enforced in the UK

Craig Stobie from Domino Printing Sciences shares on how to prepare for FMD and other emerging legislation.

The Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) has finally been transposed into UK legislation. The FMD came into force on 20 August 2013. “It is now time for pharmaceutical manufacturers to walk the talk,” said Craig Stobie, global life sciences sector manager at Domino Printing Sciences. Read more »

Myriad Ruling Will Undermine Global Biotech investment But All Is Not Lost

Guest blog written by Adrian Tombling, partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers LLP.

The US Supreme Court ruling in the so-called ‘Myriad case’ regarding the patentability of human genes will undermine global biotech investment but all is not lost. Judge Thomas, in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, effectively tightened the rules on the patentability of human genes, finding that all naturally occurring gene sequences, even when isolated in the laboratory, are not patentable. In future, only non-naturally occurring gene sequences (e.g., sequences that have been modified or entirely created in the laboratory), will be patentable, and therefore, attract investment from biotech companies. Read more »

« Previous PageNext Page »