Industry Needs to Drive the Dialogue Regarding FDA’s Quality Metrics Initiative

Guest blog written by Walter Morris, Director of Publishing, Parenteral Drug Association, on behalf of the PDA Quality Metrics Task Force

The US FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) reached out earlier this year to industry and the public for input into plans to implement parts of the 2012 Food Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA).1 Quality manufacturing leaders in the industry must now seize this opportunity to help bring about real changes to a system of regulatory inspection and enforcement that, in spite of reasonable attempts at reform over the last decade, is struggling with new challenges. Continued high-cost enforcement actions, plant closures, drug shortages and, regrettably, real harm to patients have pushed everyone involved with this industry to recognize, finally, that a new regulatory and quality paradigm is needed.

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True Pharma Innovation Lies in Quality, not Quantity, of Approvals, say FDA Analysts

We’re already embroiled in the annual speculation game about whether FDA approvals this year will keep pace with last year’s near-record of 39 new molecular entities (NMEs) brought to market. The tally is closely watched as a sign of the state of biopharmaceutical innovation and the health of the pharmaceutical industry and biomedical research enterprise.

But this focus on the quantity of new drug approvals is misleading, according to FDA analysts, because it fails to distinguish between truly innovative new therapies and those that are similar to medicines already on the market, explains Mike Lanthier, operations research analyst on the economics staff of FDA’s Office of Planning. While all NMEs offer some therapeutic advantage, those that are “first-in-class” and “advance-in-class” medicines represent important advances, he explains. Alternatively, “addition-to-class” therapies may provide useful options for patients, but not substantial advances over existing products. And it is this last category that has experienced the much-hyped decline in approvals in recent years, while more vital therapies are holding steady or increasing in number, Lanthier points out in an FDA Voice blog posted Aug. 6, 2013. This “more nuanced and informative” assessment of NME categories thus refutes fears of an “innovation gap” that threatens drug discovery.

One factor may be a rise in small biopharma companies developing more innovative drugs, while large drug companies have focused on refining blockbuster drugs for large patient populations. NMEs from small companies have increased notably since 1996 and now account for 50% of approvals, compared to roughly one-third in the past, Lanthier and colleagues explain more fully in an article in the August 2013 issue of Health Affairs.

FDA initiatives also may support these developments. Most innovative NMEs have benefited from priority review treatment, and the new breakthrough drug program and added incentives for new antibiotics and pediatric treatments promise to expedite the development of innovative therapies. It’s also possible, the authors say, that the increased influence of large pharmacy benefit management firms reduces reimbursement for pricey drugs that lack proven benefits.

Another measure of biopharma innovation may be the number of new drug applications filed with FDA, although the quantity-over-quality measure also may apply here.

Advertising of Prescription Drugs – Keeping it Honest and Balanced

It is well known that the pharmaceutical industry spends billions each year on promoting their products, especially to healthcare professionals. In the US, a significant amount is also spent on direct advertising to consumers. In a report by the FDA on Keeping Drug Advertising Honest and Balanced, Thomas Abrams, director of the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP), shares on how the agency “protects consumers from false and misleading ads for prescription drugs that appear on TV, radio, online and in print publications.” Read more »

Quality Manufacturing Key to Global Attack on Fake Drugs

Jill Wechsler Washington EditorThe growing dangers from substandard and falsified medicines around the world has prompted a blue-ribbon panel formed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to call for clear international standards for higher quality medical products,  plus an electronic tracking system in the US to uncover bogus products in the supply chain. Read more »

Future Hub of Biotech: Boston or San Francisco?

San Francisco and Boston sit on opposite coasts and each has a rich history and character that make them distinct. However, they share some similarities: both cities are centers of top biotechnology hubs in the US. Read more »

Spot Shortages and New Approvals for US Influenza Vaccine

Recently, after reading about the severity of this year’s flu season, I finally went and got my vaccine, which my doctor had been out of when I tried in October. I received one of the last doses the clinic had on hand, and two other places I called were already out. Apparently, others in the US have been experiencing similar situations. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg posted Jan. 14 on the FDA blog that vaccines are available but FDA is monitoring spot shortages. Read more »

FDA’s Position on Abuse-Deterrant Opioid Formulations Becomes Clearer

Amy RitterWith the release of a draft guidance on the evaluation and labeling of abuse-deterrent opioid formulations, FDA is one step closer to clarifying its thinking on acceptable formulations for this product class. Read more »

Social Media and the Pharma Industry

PharmTech’s February issue will feature a guest editorial by Aaron Davidson, a partner in the life sciences practice at Baker Botts, on social media and the pharmaceutical industry. In his editorial, Mr. Davidson points to FDA and a lack of regulatory guidance as the reasons that social media has not caught on in the pharma and bio/pharma industries. FDA’s requirement to provide consumers with FDA-approved promotional materials that contain risk information may limit a pharmaceutical company’s ability to use mediums such as Twitter and Facebook effectively.

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A New Year in Pharma

A new year has started in the world of pharmaceutical manufacturing and technology, and 2013 looks to bring plenty of innovation. PharmTech’s January issue highlights what the pharma industry can expect in the upcoming year.

Look for a discussion with FDA on the changing scope of regulatory science and its effect on drug reviews, site inspections, and approvals as well as academia’s role in the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing. We will also have a look at the future of CMOs and ISPE’s view on the future of the quality laboratory.

We would also like to know what you think the new year will bring! Please leave your comments on what your company’s goals and innovative projects are for the new year, and be sure to let us know what you would like to see us cover in the year to come!

A Tough Time for FDA at House Hearings

Amy RitterYesterday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the fungal meningitis outbreak. The purpose of the hearing was to determine why contaminated medicines entered the supply chain so that future occurrences could be prevented. Read more »

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