Monday, December 08, 2008

FDA's Internal Advisory Committee Meetings

Avandia. Vioxx. Ketek. Elidel. Palladone.

What do those drugs have in common? The obvious answer is that they are all associated with a major safety problem that resulted in a significant FDA regulatory action—either a “black box” warning in product labeling, or, in the case of Palladone and Vioxx, outright removal from the market.

But they have something else in common as well. In the months preceding those major regulatory steps, each product was the subject of a relatively unknown internal meeting at the Food & Drug Administration: a regulatory briefing.

Regulatory briefings can be described as “internal advisory committees” at FDA—a chance for review divisions to ask others in CDER for advice on how to handle a tricky regulatory or scientific decision. (For more on regulatory briefings, check out our coverage in The RPM Report. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up for a free trial to view the article.)

If you’ve never heard of a regulatory briefing, you’re not alone. Regulatory briefings have been kicking around FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation & Research for more than a decade, but because they are closed to industry—and review divisions don’t always inform sponsors when one is held—many companies are unaware that they exist. But now FDA is holding more of them, as many as one per week. And they are quite popular with reviewers.

The good news for drug sponsors is that regulatory briefings are not intended to be decisional meetings; the final approvability decision remains with the review division after the meeting is over. But given the typical attendance list—John Jenkins, Janet Woodcock, Bob Temple, Doug Throckmorton and 50-100 other drug reviewers—it would be hard to ignore any advice.

A drug does not have to rise to the level of an Avandia or a Vioxx to be discussed during a regulatory briefing—given the frequency of such meetings, that could not possibly be the case. But, as the list above indicates, they do tend to skew toward the more problematic end of the continuum. The need for a regulatory briefings should not spell doom and gloom for a sponsor, but it could be an indication that something is wrong. That alone makes them worth watching.

image via FDA

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