By Alexander J. Varond –
Evidence from recent approvals of breakthrough therapy-designated products suggests that, for some time now, FDA has been operating under accelerated review timelines for certain drugs with breakthrough therapy designation. Recently, FDA confirmed this and stated that it has been informally instituting a policy to expedite the review of certain breakthrough therapy-designated applications for the past several months. FDA’s informal policy has now found its way into a Manual of Policies and Procedures entitled “Good Review Practice: Review of Marketing Applications for Breakthrough Therapy-Designated Drugs and Biologics That Are Receiving an Expedited Review.”
Put simply, FDA’s MAPP establishes an “expedited review” pathway for certain breakthrough therapy-designated drugs. Under this pathway, FDA review teams are instructed to plan to act at least one month prior to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) goal date.
FDA’s MAPP states that breakthrough therapy-designated drugs eligible for “expedited review” should have the following characteristics:
- Preliminary review of results from clinical trials must indicate that the drug has demonstrated substantial improvement over existing therapies;
- The marketing application must be designated as a priority review; and
- The review team must have determined that a first cycle approval is likely.
As background, Section 902 of Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) provides that
[FDA should] expedite the development and review of [a breakthrough therapy-designated] drug if the drug is intended, alone or in combination with 1 or more other drugs, to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on 1 or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development.
While FDA’s May 2014 guidance entitled, “Expedited Programs for Serious Conditions – Drugs and Biologics,” which we blogged about here, provided several clues regarding how the development of breakthrough designated drugs might be expedited, the method by which FDA would expedite the “review” of applications was not clear. FDA’s new MAPP, therefore, is intended to provide clarity on this topic.
FDA was careful to state that not all breakthrough therapy-designated drugs will receive expedited review. Instead, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. The MAPP details examples of factors that FDA will weigh when considering whether to designate an application for expedited review:
- Resources to expedite the review are not available because of competing public health priorities (e.g., anthrax, Ebola, influenza);
- An advisory committee meeting is needed for reasons such as clinical trial results or safety issues;
- An unanticipated safety issue is identified that requires a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) with elements to ensure safe use; or
- Manufacturing issues are identified.
The MAPP describes the timing and process for these expedited reviews and notes that expedited review does not change PDUFA review performance goals. The MAPP also explains that CDER review teams can determine that an expedited review is no longer appropriate and change the review to the default priority review timeline. If this happens, FDA will communicate its decision to the sponsor within three days. Instances in which the CDER review team may determine that an expedited review is no longer appropriate include, if:
- Unexpected application deficiencies are found;
- The marketing application is of poor quality;
- The sponsor fails to engage in collaborative communications (e.g., failure to respond to information requests);
- There is a need to hold an advisory committee meeting;
- Unanticipated review issues arise; or
- The review team experiences an unexpected shift in work priorities or team staffing.
FDA has frequently exceeded its PDUFA goal dates for breakthrough therapy-designated applications. One notable example came on December 22, 2014 when FDA approved Opdivo (nivolumab), a therapy for melanoma, three months ahead of its PDUFA date.
Additional examples show that even breakthrough therapy designations granted mid-review have helped to speed FDA’s review of those applications. Roche’s idiopathic fibrosis (IPF) drug, Esbriet (pirfenidone), and Boehringer Ingelheim’s IPF drug, Ofev (nintedanib), are two examples:
- Esbriet’s resubmission was submitted on May 23, 2014, was granted breakthrough therapy designation on July 17, 2014, and was approved on October 15, 2014, ahead of its November 23, 2014 PDUFA goal date.
- Ofev’s application was submitted on July 2, 2014, granted breakthrough therapy designation on July 15, 2014, and was approved on October 15, 2014, ahead of its January 2, 2015 PDUFA goal date.
Notably, FDA’s previously released MAPP entitled, “Good Review Practice: Management of Breakthrough Therapy-Designated Drugs and Biologics” is still applicable and covers FDA’s actions from time of designation until marketing application has been submitted.