FDA: Neither Too Fast Nor Too Slow, Just Underappreciated

  • by: |
  • 09/29/2006
In one week the FDA has been pilloried as being to ineffectual in the effort to make medicines safer and now, in a New York Times article, described as an agency under seige too afraid to approve any new medication in a timely fashion. Has anyone ever written an article commending FDA employees for just doing a good job on behalf of the public health?

The fact is while there are some reviewers and senior officials who are likely to be cautious most people working in the FDA are truly devoted to the public health and have no ax to grind against drug companies.

The fact is, most folks at the FDA -- like those at the drug companies -- know a good drug when they see it and work hard -- without bending rules to make sure a medicine gets a fair shot at approval. To be sure no one at the FDA is going to break new scientific ground in terms of establishing endpoints but the agency is, despite IT limitations, still the single largest repository of information on how to measure the relative risks and benefits of medicines on earth. Which means that they are fairly good, if not always up to date, on how they do their jobs.

The bottom line, at least in 2005, was a reflection of continued effort to use the regulatory tools at hand to make medicines available as quickly as possible. Have there been demands for additional data before going to market? Absolutely. And in some cases companies have volunteered the data while in others the requests are probably better obtained post market through observational studies. But in the main, the demands for data are not all that onerous.

Moreover, if you look at the nature of the medicines approved, they reflect a desire to understand if the risk-safety profile will apply in subpopulations that are likley to receive entirely new medicines.

On the whole, the debate too fast/too slow debate about the FDA has grown tired, empty and irrelevant. The real issue is, will the media and politicos focus on what the agency needs to move drug approvals into personalized and targeted era? Meanwhile, an overview of the accomplishments of Center for Drug Evaluation and Review -- hardly mentioned in the media -- are listed below... And by the way, thanks for your efforts...

Many Americans benefited from last year’s timely reviews of new prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines and the generic equivalents for both. When we review a medicine, we use the best science available to determine if a medicine’s benefits outweigh its risks for its intended use. An internal study showed that about half of our professional staff time is spent on safety assessment. We oversee the development of new medicines in the United States, and our paramount concern is the safety of patient volunteers in clinical trials.

Highlights for 2005 include:

* 80 new medicines. We approved 78 drugs and two biologics (22 priority and 58 standard reviews).

* 20 truly new medicines. We approved 18 drugs and two new biologics that had never been marketed before in any form in this country (15 priority and 5 standard reviews).

* 141 new treatment options. We approved new or expanded uses for 126 already approved drugs and 15 already approved biologics (36 priority and 105 standard reviews).

* 5 over-the-counter drugs. Our approvals included five new medicines to be sold over the counter without a prescription, and four of them can be used by children. We approved three new uses for existing OTCs, all of which can be used by children.

* 10 “orphan” medicines. Our approvals included nine drugs and one biologic for patient populations of 200,000 or fewer.

* 344 generic drugs. We gave final approval to 344 generic versions of existing drugs and tentative approval to another 108. We received 777 marketing applications for generic drugs.

* User fee goals. We exceeded all our performance goals for the fiscal year 2004 receipt cohort, the latest year for which we have full statistics. We are on track for exceeding most user-fee performance goals for the fiscal year 2005 cohort.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog