Friday, June 04, 2010

Transparency in Action: FDA Comments on Pirfenidone

It's no secret: FDA review managers would like to make "complete response" letters public.

We've heard that directly from them, and now the idea is moving forward as one of a number of proposals from the agency's Transparency Task Force.

This idea, to put it mildly, provokes mixed feelings in industry. "Mixed" in the sense that sponsors love the idea of seeing their competitors' complete response letters, but hate the idea of having their own made public.

But a recent presentation by FDA officials during the American Thoracic Society's annual conference has us wondering what the fuss is all about.

As reported by The Pink Sheet (relying on a transcript by one of the Wall Street analyst firm, ThinkEquity, who attended the briefing), medical officer Banu Karimi-Shah discussed the recent complete response letter for Intermune's IPF therapy pirfenidone, and outlined the agency's position that the existing dataset does not meet the statutory definition of "substantial evidence," and therefore another clinical trial is required. Karimi-Shah also discussed issues around the adequacy of forced vital capacity as a surrogate endpoint, and the relevance (or lack thereof) of Japanese clinical data with a different formulation of pirfenidone.

FDA rejected the application May 4, over-ruling an FDA advisory committee that voted in favor of approval--though the committee had significant misgivings about the sufficiency of the data as a basis for approval.

This is not be the first time an FDA official has commented on a non-approval decision during a public forum, but the extensive discussion of FDA's issues with the application can hardly be described as routine. So we asked the agency whether the remarks were cleared by top FDA officials or posed any concerns regarding the appropriateness of discussing the elements of a Complete Response.
Here is what the agency told us, by email:
"The information presented by Dr. Karimi-Shah was presented and discussed at the Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee meeting on March 9, 2010, so her presentation was already in the public domain. Intermune disclosed in a press statement on May 4, 2010, that the FDA issued a CR letter and the FDA requested an additional clinical trial to support the efficacy of pirfenidone, so this information was also in the public domain."
See? There is really no reason to argue about making CR letters public after all. Right?

Okay, our tongue is firmly in our cheek on that. We'll have much more on the reaction to the transparency proposals in an upcoming issue of The RPM Report.

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