Posted 14 December 2015
By Zachary Brennan
With a banner year for new drug approvals under its belt in 2015 (42 approvals and counting), the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is now looking at how it can not only negotiate three new user fee agreements but fill an enormous number of staff vacancies.
CDER Director Janet Woodcock, speaking Monday at the FDA/CMS Summit in Washington, DC, outlined 2015’s achievements and a number of the agency’s top priorities for 2016, particularly as CDER, with its $1.2 billion budget, continues to work with Congress on legislation like the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act.
As far as meeting CDER’s priorities for 2015, Woodcock said the agency did “pretty well,” noting that there were some serious concerns in the year prior on addressing the backlog of abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs), though she said there’s been “a huge turnaround.”
FDA has been particularly interested in reducing the number of multiple cycle reviews for generic drugs, she said, noting that in the not-too-distant past the average was four review cycles, though the reduction in such cases has occurred over the past year as more companies understand what it takes to submit a complete ANDA.
John Jenkins, Director of the Office of New Drugs at CDER, also outlined a number of the drug approval statistics, particularly as CDER has seen a steep rise in orphan drug approvals, though he noted that such approvals aren’t always to the benefit of public health (some of his slides can be viewed here).
On the international front, Woodcock highlighted FDA’s work with the International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH), noting that it “was headed off a cliff,” though after “strenuous efforts,” FDA was able to help sign new agreements and make the group more inclusive, which should be a boon for negotiating more global standards for drugs.
And while many in Congress and industry are still waiting on new biosimilar draft guidance documents on labeling and interchangeability, among others, Woodcock said that CDER has been working extremely hard behind the scenes to ensure the US market for biosimilars can be robust in the near future as education efforts continue.
She also highlighted the success of the new “drug trials snapshots” program under CDER, which offers a look at the demographics of clinical trial data for newly approved drugs, which she said has been “very popular” for consumers.
A Look Ahead
As far as what to expect for 2016, Woodock offered a wide-ranging laundry list of topics that the agency will look to address, though the 680 vacancies at CDER seem to be one of the focal points.
The re-negotiations of the prescription drug, generic drug and biosimilar user fee programs will also be at the forefront of CDER’s work next year as these agreements with industry need to be ironed out before the programs expire in 2017.
In addition, CDER is looking to:
- Reevaluate the regulations on drug advertising and promotion in light of current jurisprudence around the First Amendment
- Issue draft guidance on generic versions of abuse-deterrent opioid formulations
- Integrate the Sentinel Network into routine drug safety activities
- Further implement statutory provisions on track and trace legislation
- Continue drug label improvement initiative as “a lot of labels are out of date,” Woodcock said
- Develop a more robust process and policy documents on how to evaluate a biomarker as a surrogate endpoint for accelerated approvals
- Streamline clinical trial monitoring and data cleaning practices
- Conduct more outcomes assessments of breakthrough therapies, modernize clinical evidence assessments and further utilize electronic health data (which Woodcock said is a priority for FDA commissioner nominee Robert Califf)
- Make significant progress on FDA’s mutual reliance initiative with the European Medicines Agency
- Improve combination product inter-center review process
- Develop an implementation plan and training for a new pregnancy/lactation labeling rule
- Continue to push standards development and standardized electronic submissions to CDER