For Medical Device and Pharma Sector, New Law Streamlines FDA Approval Process, Adds $6 Billion in Funding

January 18, 2017Alerts Health Law Alert

A new federal law – the 21st Century Cures Act – will funnel more than $6 billion in funding to medical research and innovation. It also brings significant changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of new drugs and medical devices, creating procedures that will speed up regulatory review so that medicines and devices can get to market faster.

Signed by President Obama on Dec. 13, the Cures Act will take effect over time because the new programs have varying timeframes for implementation.

Outlined below are seven of the new law’s most important provisions.

Combination Products

To assist and streamline the review of combination products consisting of a drug, device or biologic product, the FDA shall assign a Center to regulate these products. The purpose is to streamline the review of these products and help focus on the “primary mode of action” and administer any requests for review by the sponsor of an application if the “primary mode of action” is in question and general shepherding the review process to approval.

Medical Device Innovation

A program will be established for expediting approval for breakthrough technologies for which there are no comparable technologies. In doing so, the FDA will work with the sponsor to help with a development plan. Certain criteria will be developed for determining if a device meets this designation. Another area of importance and very much needed is the requirement for the FDA to clarify medical device software regulations. With the evolving technology of medical devices, this is very much needed.

Antimicrobial Innovation and Stewardship

The FDA shall continue to monitor, along with other federal agencies, antimicrobial drugs that become resistant to humans. In a limited population, the FDA may approve an antibacterial or antifungal drug, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs, in a limited population those that are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening infection. Such drugs may be approved notwithstanding a lack of evidence to fully establish a favorable benefit-risk profile in a population that is broader than the intended limited population. Promotional material for such drugs will require preapproval 30 days prior to dissemination. The FDA will develop appropriate susceptibility test interpretive criteria and provide the information on its website.

Patient-Focused Drug Development

Additional information focusing on the patient’s experience while using an investigative drug will be included in 505b submissions. Input on the experience will be derived from any person, including patients, family members and caregivers of patients, patient advocacy organizations, disease research foundations, researchers and drug manufacturers. Methodologies to collect such information will be issued in a guidance document from the FDA. Clearly, the FDA will be seeking more input regarding the experience of the patients, other than the manufacturer, when determining the decision to approve a drug.

Advancing New Drug Therapies

There are new provisions in the Act that will allow the Secretary to establish a process for the qualification of drug/biologic development tools such as a biomarker, a clinical outcome assessment and any other method, material or measure that aids drug development and regulatory review. Such submissions for the qualifications will have a transparent review process for all to see on the FDA website. The purpose of qualifying development tools to encourage the development of genetically targeted drugs or biologics for rare diseases. Other areas of interest will be drugs for serious or life-threatening diseases and a program will be developed to encourage treatments for rare pediatric diseases. Grants and vouchers for priority review of drugs for such conditions will be expanded by the FDA and other federal agencies.

Modern Trial Design and Evidence Development

The FDA will consider sources for data regarding the usage or potential benefits or risks of a drug derived from sources other than randomized clinical trials. A framework for collecting this information shall be established with the consultation of industry, academia, medical professional organizations, representative of patient advocacy groups, consumer organizations, disease research foundations and other interested parties. The goal is to consider other sources when determining regulatory approval and conditions for use of the drug/biologic.

Patient Access to Therapies and Information

Manufacturers of investigational therapies for serious diseases shall make available policies for inclusion of patients on a publicly available website. Certainly, applications for regenerative advanced therapy under 505(b)(1) will be eligible for priority and accelerated review meeting certain criteria. This will apply to cell therapy, therapeutic engineering products, human cell and tissue products and combination products using such therapies or products. By opening the door in this area the FDA will be issuing guidance for devices used in the recovery, isolation or delivery of regenerative advanced therapies.

For more information about this alert, please contact Jean W. Frydman at 609.895.6630 or [email protected].