Thursday, May 22, 2008

Entereg Approved at Last

Perspective is an amazing thing.

In June 2004, Adolor Corp. filed a new drug application for alvimopan (Entereg) for treatment of postoperative ileus. The product had "fast track" status, and Adolor and partner GlaxoSmithKline expected to launch the drug by the start of 2005.

What do you think they would have said if you had told them that the drug would not reach the market for four years, and then only with tough restrictions limiting access to the hospital setting and the course of therapy to two weeks or less? We try to keep our blog clean, so we won't speculate on the exact commentary that company executives might have offered.

In any event, here is what Adolor CEO Michael Dougherty did say during a conference call announcing the approval of the drug May 21: "This is such a big day for Adolor...Gaining approval of our lead product is a transforming event for our company. I cannot tell you how excited we are at Adolor."

And so Adolor joins the ranks of company's that are positively giddy at the prospect of becoming pioneers in the new drug safety era.

It joins a handful of other drugs approved by the agency under the new Risk Evaluation & Mitigation Strategy authorities that took effect March 25. (You can read more about the REMS pioneers in The RPM Report.)

Entereg is a precedent-setting new drug approval: the first new molecular entity approved by the agency with a formal, mandatory restriction on the setting of care in which it can be marketed. As part of the program, Adolor and GSK will have to monitor actual use of the drug and take corrective action if it is being used outside of hospitals or for longer than the 15-day therapy maxiumum.

It is surely a measure of how much the world has changed for drug development companies that the approval of Entereg, four years late and weighed down by those tough marketing restrictions, can still be greeted as a good news event. (Adolor shares jumped 10% in after market trading when the approval was announced May 20; profit takers and launch skeptics have brought it back down today.)

But it is also true that the REMS era is beginning about as well as it possibly could for the industry. Each of the first five products covered by the new authority is a drug that was stuck at FDA. The sponsors certainly didn't expect to find themselves bogged down by safety issues at the agency--but they also eagerly embraced the opportunity to become REMS pioneers as a way to get to the market at last.

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