Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Next Steps For Prasugrel: The Anatomy of an Advisory Committee

Eli Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo used the morning of New Years Eve (‘tis the season for hiding news) to announce that the delayed anti-clotting drug prasugrel will be considered by the Cardiovascular-Renal Advisory Committee February 3. (Shameless self-promotion alert: We predicted that February meeting in October.)

Now that a date has been offically set, let the next round of speculation begin.

That news can be viewed in two ways: optimists (like Lilly and Daiichi investors) will argue that the meeting is a signal that the review is wrapping up and a decision is close at hand. Pessimists will argue that the meeting is an indication of the internal strife at FDA over prasugrel’s benefit-risk profile—and that products that go before an advisory committee are less likely to be approved on the first cycle.

Here's our take. First, we should note that the confirmation of the advisory committee meeting is a milestone in prasugrel’s development. It’s the first word to come out of FDA on the drug since June, when the agency extended the review by three months. FDA then let the revised September 26 review deadline pass without an approvability decision.

Another positive indicator for Lilly and Daiichi is that FDA is only convening the Cardio-Renal committee—and is not asking for a joint review with the Drug Safety & Risk Management Advisory Committee. A joint meeting would indicate significant concerns at FDA regarding prasugrel’s safety profile, which we have delved into in this earlier post.

Of course, that certainly doesn’t preclude FDA from drawing from members of the Drug Safety & Risk Management Advisory Committee as needed—including its newest member, Public Citizen’s Sidney Wolfe, who is unlikely to look kindly upon the prasugrel NDA.

Wolfe is just one extra member that could be asked to show up on February 3, given the current vacancies on the Cardio-Renal advisory committee. There are just eight permanent Cardio-Renal members, including a consumer rep (Consumers Union’s Stephen Findlay) and a non-voting industry rep (AstraZeneca’s Jonathan Fox).

That can make for a lot of last-minute additions. At the committee’s last meeting, FDA added 13 temporary members, including two regulars: University of Washington statistician Thomas Fleming and Duke University human cognition expert Ruth Day.

So who might be asked to serve? With a product like prasugrel, one obvious choice for a temporary member is Steven Nissen, the head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic—an expert on cardiovascular drug safety and a former chair of the Cardio-Renal advisory committee.

Nissen’s participation on the committee would be a positive development for Lilly and Daiichi, given that he has come out in favor of prasugrel—first giving the drug a thumbs up for approval and then criticizing FDA for not delivering an on-time approvability decision. Nissen isn’t exactly a shrinking violet, so if he still favors a prasugrel approval, he stands a good chance of getting the committee to see things his way.

But those statements may prevent Nissen from serving—especially given FDA’s tougher line on conflicts of interest. Indeed, Nissen himself has questioned whether he is qualified to serve on an advisory committee under the new CoI guidelines. The meeting roster will be out in the next month. Lilly and Daiichi should hope Nissen's name is on it.

Human brain image courtsey of flickr user hduhadaway.

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