Thursday, July 31, 2008

REMS to the Rescue? Why FDA's Drug Safety Tools May Mean More Approvals This Year

The statistics aren't encouraging: fewer new drugs approved by FDA so far this year than last--and last year was arguably the worst year all time for the innovative industry.

But we are boldly predicting a big finish to the year, in part for an unlikely reason: FDA's new mandatory post-marketing safety tools that allow it to compel labeling changes, Phase IV studies, and--most significantly--Risk Evaluation & Mitigation Strategies.

The REMS authorities kicked in in March, and we’re learning a bit more about how FDA is using its new tools. And while there was much nervous anticipation as industry braced for FDA to start wielding its new (now mandatory!) risk management tools, the reality has been pretty positive.

There have been a lot of required post-marketing studies, and relatively few full-fledged REMS programs for new molecular entities. In fact, it looks like REMS is turning out to be a way to revive applications that once looked dead (or at least terminally “approvable”).

FDA has applied the new drug safety tools to three new molecular entities so far this year--CV Therapeutics/Astellas’ Lexiscan, UCB’s Cimzia, and GSK/Adolor's Entereg. And in every case the sponsor has been thrilled to have a product to market at all. (Read about some of the early experiences with REMS here.)

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

A REMS is definitely in the works for GSK’s platelet growth stimulator Promacta (eltrombopag), and Lilly has hinted that its antiplatelet agent Effient (prasugrel), partnered with Daiichi Sankyo, could have some form of a REMS – although Lilly is suggesting it would be on the less intensive end of the spectrum. Both NDAs received three-month review extensions, an emerging pattern for reviewing REMS proposals.

The premature press release snafu for Amgen’s Nplate also revealed that a REMS program called NEXUS is slated to accompany the approval of romiplostim, a fusion protein that, like Promacta, treats idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.

FDA’s new authority opens a new parlor game of guessing which applications could be REMS-worthy. According to Pharmaceutical Approvals Monthly, there are at least 30 NMEs pending with user fee deadlines coming up during the second half of the year. Which ones could have a REMS?

Pfizer/Ligand’s Fablyn (lasofoxifene) for treatment of post-menopausal osteoporosis: The post-Evista SERM class has had trouble clearing the final approval hurdle at FDA, in part because of safety issues. Prior to the Fablyn submission Jan. 15, lasofoxifene (then Oporia) was found not approvable for prevention of PMO in 2005, and then not approvable again, for treatment of vaginal atrophy, in 2006. Wyeth’s SERM Viviant (bazedoxifene) has been approvable twice for osteoporosis prevention and once for treatment. Further data was requested on stroke and venous thrombotic events.

Johnson & Johnson’s paliperidone palmitate: Can the once-monthly version of J&J’s antipsychotic Invega do better than the “not approvable” letter issued to Lilly’s fellow atypical antipsychotic Zyprexa for its once-monthly depot, Zyprexa LAI? The long-acting injection formulations may have a new risk of excessive sedation. Given J&J’s flagging public enthusiasm for the project, and its renewed interest in Alkermes’ claim that its technology can now support a once-monthly version of Risperdal Consta, does J&J really care?

Schering-Plough’s Bridion (sugammadex): The prospect of the first selective relaxant binding agent, which was just approved in the EU, has stirred up the anesthesia market. But signals from FDA could indicate caution. The agency extended the user fee goal by three months to review a hypersensitivity study. And in an unusual set of events, a March advisory committee supported approval, but could not make a formal recommendation because data had been submitted shortly before the panel met.

Moving beyond the bounds of pending NMEs opens a plethora of potential REMS. One likely candidate is Cephalon’s fentanyl product Fentora. The advisory committee review of a breakthrough cancer pain indication for the approved drug focused on the inadequacies of the existing RiskMAP. Other extended-release pain products, like Labopharm’s tramadol formulation, are also potential REMS contenders.

Review the list yourself and play along at home. What else looks REMS worthy to you?

--Bridget Silverman


Jorge Samaha said...

Sorry, but I don't believe FDA want take any risk, thus your predictions may be very optimistic. Maybe next year FDA could use the new tools more often leading to an increase number of NME approvals. Lets see.
Congratulations for the very nice blog, unfortunately as a Brazilian I can not afford for the payed publications, my institution can, but they are not interest.

Anonymous said...

REMS equals increase in approvals near term? If so this is GREAT NEWS for storied San Diego biotech and recent favorite Wall Street punching bag Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND)!

Not only, as the above mentions, is Pfizer's SERM Fablyn (lasofoxifene) a product candidate that Ligand will be due healthy milestones and royalties, but so is Wyeth's SERM Viviant (bazedoxifene), plus the Wyeth SERM combo product.

And ...drum roll please ... so is GSK's TPO mimetic Promacta (eltrombopag) and let's not forget Ligand's own nexgen unpartnered clinical stage TPO mimetic!

If what is posited above is true, as a long time loyal and suffering LGND shareholder, I think I'm really going to like REMS!