More than 10 years after the enactment of FDC Act § 505(q), titled “Petitions and Civil Actions Regarding Approval of Certain Applications,” interest in citizen petitions remains high. Each year we see several analyses of the effects of citizen petitions on generic competition, as well as recommendations to improve the petitioning process (see here, here, here, and here). Another annual occurrence is the publication of FDA’s Report to Congress on 505(q) Citizen Petitions. FDA recently released this report – the Ninth Annual Report to Congress on Delays in Approvals of Applications Related to Citizen Petitions and Petitions for Stay of Agency Action for Fiscal Year 2016. The Report, which is required by FDC Act § 505(q)(3), gives us the skinny on FDA’s experience during Fiscal Year 2016 (“FY 2016”) with citizen petitions subject to FDC Act § 505(q). While the Report provides updated numbers for FY 2016 and largely repeats both FDA’s concerns about petitioning expressed in previous reports (see our previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) and the trends the Agency has been seeing in petitioning, FDA appears to be adopting a new tone and an action plan to address petitioning concerns.
By way of background, FDC Act § 505(q) was added to the law by the 2007 FDA Amendments Act (“FDAAA”) and is intended to prevent the citizen petition process from being used to delay approval of pending ANDAs and 505(b)(2) applications. The law was amended by Section 301 of Pub. L. No. 110-316 (2008), and again by Section 1135 of the 2012 FDA Safety and Innovation Act (“FDASIA”). Among other things, FDASIA changed the original 180-day response deadline to 150 days, and made the law applicable to citizen petitions concerning biosimilar applications submitted to FDA pursuant to PHS Act § 351(k). In June 2011, FDA issued final guidance on FDC Act § 505(q). That guidance was revised in November 2014 to account for changes made to the law by FDASIA. In January 2012, FDA issued proposed regulations to amend the Agency’s citizen petition regulations to implement changes made to the law by Section 505(q). FDA issued a final rule in November 2016.
Under FDC Act § 505(q), FDA shall not delay approval of a pending ANDA, 505(b)(2) application, or 351(k) biosimilar application as a result of a citizen petition submitted to the Agency pursuant to 21 C.F.R. § 10.30 (citizen petition) or § 10.35 (petition for stay of action), unless FDA “determines, upon reviewing the petition, that a delay is necessary to protect the public health.” FDA is required to “take final agency action on a petition not later than 150 days after the date on which the petition is submitted.” FDA may not extend the 150-day period “for any reason,” including consent of the petitioner. Although the statute provides that FDA may summarily deny a petition submitted with the primary purpose of delaying ANDA, 505(b)(2) application, or 351(k) biosimilar approval, the Agency has never done so.
FDC Act § 505(q)(3) requires that each Report to Congress specify: “(A) the number of applications that were approved during the preceding 12-month period; (B) the number of such applications whose effective dates were delayed by petitions . . . during such period; (C) the number of days by which such applications were so delayed; and (D) the number of such petitions that were submitted during such period.” FDA says in its Ninth Annual Report to Congress that:
During the FY 2016 reporting period, the Agency approved 651 ANDAs, 51 505(b)(2) applications, and 3 biosimilar biological product applications. No approvals for biosimilar biological product applications or ANDAs were delayed because of a 505(q) petition in this reporting period. The approval of one 505(b)(2) application was delayed because of one 505(q) petition. During FY 2016, FDA received 19 505(q) petitions.
The delayed 505(b)(2) approval was delayed by 28 days. “FDA was concerned that if it approved the 505(b)(2) application before resolving the issues raised in the petitions and later concluded that one or more of the arguments against approval were meritorious, then the presence on the market of a drug product that did not meet the requirements for approval could negatively affect public health,” says FDA in the report (in what is now boilerplate language). FDA does not identify by name or application number the particular approval delayed.
As to the number of 505(q) citizen petitions submitted in FY 2016, the Report says that the Agency received 19 petitions. From FY 2008 through FY 2016, FDA received a total of 194 505(q) petitions, and responded to all but 14 of them within the statutory timeframe (i.e., 180 days or 150 days). That’s a pretty good track record; however, in many cases FDA merely denies a petition without substantive comment (see, e.g., here). According to FDA, “[t]here is no evidence that in enacting section 505(q) of the FD&C Act, Congress intended to bypass the application review process or to lessen the procedural rights of an ANDA or NDA applicant by requiring that the Agency make decisions that constitute final Agency action regarding the approvability of certain aspects of pending applications on a piecemeal basis outside of the process established under the FD&C Act and FDA regulations.”
The outcomes of FDA’s 182 petition responses from FY 2008 through FY 2016 are shown in a table included in the report. Approximately 70% (127 petitions) of the 182 petition decisions have been denials, while another 23% (42 petitions) have been denied in part and granted in part. Only about 4% (8 petitions) have been granted. The remaining 5 petitions (3%) were voluntarily withdrawn by the petitioner.
As to 505(q) petitioning trends and FDA concerns, the Agency continues a trend of paring down comments that appeared in previous reports. That being said, FDA’s bottom line in the FY 2016 Report differs in tone from the bottom line in the Agency’s FY 2015 Report. Here’s what the FY 2015 Report said:
The Agency continues to be concerned that section 505(q) may not be discouraging the submission of petitions that are intended primarily to delay the approval of competing drug products and do not raise valid scientific issues. The statute requires FDA to prioritize these petitions above other matters, such as safety petitions, that do raise important public health concerns. As a result, FDA remains concerned about the resources required to respond to 505(q) petitions within the 150-day deadline at the expense of completing the other work of the Agency.
Now compare that to the FY 2016 Report:
The Agency continues to be concerned that section 505(q) allows the submission of petitions that are intended primarily to delay the approval of competing drug products and do not raise valid scientific concerns. The FDA statute requires FDA to prioritize these petitions above other matters, such as safety petitions, that do raise important public health concerns. The Agency remains concerned about the resources required to respond to 505(q) petitions within the 150-day deadline at the expense of completing the other work of the Agency, when these petitions are not based on public health concerns. Accordingly, as part of the Drug Competition Action Plan, FDA is reviewing what actions can be taken to address these issues.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced the Agency’s Drug Competition Action Plan (“DCAP”) in Spring 2017 (here). The intent of the DCAP is to encourage generic drug development and competition. Since the creation of the DCAP, FDA has taken several steps to implement that plan, including holding a public meeting in July 2017 and issuing REMS guidance earlier this week (here). Given FDA’s statement that the Agency is reviewing what actions can be taken under the DCAP to address citizen petition concerns, new citizen petition initiatives appear to be on the horizon.