According to a report in the Pink Sheet, “Spurred by increasing stakeholder requests for clarity, FDA may be moving toward developing guidance on how and when drug firms can provide health care economic data to formulary managers.”
Per an FDA spokesperson “This is one of the areas that is of interest to FDA and we are discussing possible guidance development.”
The guidance could help clarify the regulatory parameters around the provision in the FDA Modernization Act of 1997 that allows drug companies to proactively disseminate health care economic information to formulary committees within certain limitations. Sec. 114 requires that such information be supported by “competent and reliable scientific evidence” and that any health economic information disseminated must “directly relate” to a drug’s approved indication.
As payers push for more information on the cost effectiveness of drug treatment, manufacturers are taking a closer look at Sec. 114 and are seeking direction from the agency on how it could be used. FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion Director Tom Abrams recently acknowledged heightened stakeholder interest in guidance on appropriate communications under FDAMA Sec. 114. “We know that’s a hot topic – what goes to formulary committees and similar bodies,” he said on June 25at the DIA annual meeting in Boston.
Abrams identified dissemination of health care economic information as one of four topics the agency is “exploring for future guidance development.” The other three are medical practice guidelines, comparative claims and “scientific exchange.”
Abrams’ DIA remarks are the first inkling of Agency movement since late 2011 when, according to a notice in the Federal Register:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing the establishment of a docket to assist with our evaluation of our policies on communications and activities related to off-label uses of marketed products, as well as communications and activities related to use of products that are not yet legally marketed for any use, we would like to obtain comments and information related to scientific exchange. FDA is interested in obtaining comments and information regarding scientific exchange about both unapproved new uses of products already legally marketed (“off-label” use) and use of products not yet legally marketed for any use.
And the issue of “scientific exchange” comes front and center. According to the FR notice, To assist with our evaluation of our policies on communications and activities related to off-label uses of marketed products, as well as communications and activities related to use of products that are not yet legally marketed for any use, we would like to obtain comments and information related to scientific exchange.
The FR notice puts this request into perspective:
On July 5, 2011, a citizen petition was submitted by Ropes & Gray and Sidley Austin LLP on behalf of seven product manufacturers (Petitioners): Allergan, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Co.; Johnson & Johnson; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.; Novo Nordisk, Inc.; Pfizer, Inc.; and sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC under 21 CFR 10.30. The citizen petition requested that FDA clarify its policies for drug products and devices governing certain communications and activities related to off-label uses of marketed products and use of products that are not yet legally marketed for any use. Specifically, the petition requests clarification in the following areas:
1. Manufacturer responses to unsolicited requests;
2. Scientific exchange;
3. Interactions with formulary committees, payers, and similar entities; and
4. Dissemination of third-party clinical practice guidelines.
For some time, FDA has been considering these issues and is currently evaluating our policies on sponsor or investigator communications and activities related to off-label uses of marketed products and use of products that are not yet legally marketed for any use. We have been considering what actions to take in the areas specified by the petitioners with respect to manufacturer responses to unsolicited requests; interactions with formulary committees, payors, and similar entities; and the dissemination of third-party clinical practice guidelines.
Specifically, the FDA asks:
• How should FDA define scientific exchange?
• What types of activities fall under scientific exchange?
• What types of activities do not fall under scientific exchange?
• Are there particular types and quality of data that may indicate that an activity is, or is not, scientific exchange?
• In what types of forums does scientific exchange typically occur? Should the use of certain forums be given particular significance in determining whether an activity is scientific exchange or an activity that promotes the drug or device? If so, which forums?
• What are the distinctions between scientific exchange and promotion? What are the boundaries between scientific exchange and promotion?
• Generally, who are the speakers involved in scientific exchange, and who is the audience for their communications?
• Should the identity of the participants (either speakers or audience) be given particular significance in determining whether an activity is scientific exchange or an activity that promotes the drug or device? If so, which participants would be indicative of scientific exchange and which would be indicative of promotion?
• How do companies generally separate scientific roles and promotional roles within their corporate structures?
• How should the Agency treat scientific exchange concerning off-label uses of already approved drugs and new uses of legally marketed devices? Please address whether there should be any distinctions between communications regarding uses under FDA-regulated investigation (to support potential approval) and communications regarding uses that are not under express FDA-regulated investigation.
• How should the Agency treat scientific exchange concerning use of products that are not yet legally marketed (that is, products that cannot be legally distributed for any use outside of an FDA- or institutional review board (IRB)-approved clinical trial)?
• Should investigational new drugs and investigational devices be treated the same with respect to scientific exchange? Why or why not?
• Under 21 CFR 812.7(b), an investigational device is considered to be “commercialized” if the price charged for it is more than is necessary to recover the costs of manufacture, research, development, and handling. Similarly, FDA considers charging a price for an investigational drug that exceeds that permitted under its regulations (generally limited to cost recovery) to constitute “commercialization” of the drug (see 74 FR 40872 at 40890, August 13, 2009; 52 FR 19466 at 19467). What other actions indicate the commercialization of drug and/or device products? If there are differences in the steps taken to commercialize drug products and the steps taken to commercialize device products, either before or after approval, please explain these differences.
A lot of questions and, it seems, a lot of potential regulatory mission creep.
Relative to, “Interactions with formulary committees, payors, and similar entities,” the door is now also open for debate on FDAMA Section 114 and health economic data.
There is no on-the-books draft or final guidance on Section 114. It’s been 14 years since the initial language. Health-related quality of life claims are considered under the established "adequate and well-controlled trials" standard.
Some background to put this into perspective:
To address concerns that FDA regulations were limiting the dissemination of outcomes research, Congress added Section 114 to set a new, less stringent standard applicable to promotional dissemination of health care economic information to MCO formulary committees: "competent and reliable scientific evidence."
Even though there is no FDA guidance to explain the agency's understanding "competent and reliable scientific evidence,” PhRMA developed a draft guidance, which was submitted to the FDA in June 1998. In its draft, PhRMA sought input from the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, the Society for Medical Decision Making, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, the American Pharmaceutical Association, and other groups.
In its submission to the FDA, PhRMA explained the history behind Section 114 and proposed guidance on the following terms used in the new law:
- Health care economic information.
- Managed care or other similar organizations.
- Formulary committee or other similar entity.
- Directly related to an approved indication.
- Competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The PhRMA proposal took an approach to interpretation consistent with Congress's intent that Section 114 would increase the dissemination of outcomes research information by product manufacturers to MCOs. PhRMA concluded that the term "health care economic information" should include all forms of economic analysis so the guidance could adapt to new and evolving outcomes research methods.
One of the phrases in Section 114 that is difficult to interpret is that promotion must involve a claim that "directly relates to an indication approved [by the FDA]." In the draft guidance, PhRMA proposed that extrapolation from data included on labeling would be appropriate at least under the following circumstances: from duration of use in labeling to actual duration of use found in pharmacy databases, from dosages included in labeling to actual dosages found in pharmacy databases, and from controlled trial settings to actual practice settings.
The standard set by Section 114, "competent and reliable scientific evidence," is the same standard used by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when assessing the adequacy of substantiation for manufacturer claims involving OTC drugs and products affecting environmental health. That standard requires transparency of methods and use of methods accepted by experts in the field. In its proposal, PhRMA recommended that the FDA follow long-established FTC interpretation of the competent and reliable scientific evidence standard.
The full FR Notice on "Communications and Activities Related to Off-Label Uses of Marketed Products and Use of Products Not Yet Legally Marketed; Request for Information and Comments" can be found here.
In October 2012, PhRMA issued a white paper, asking the FDA for guidance on the supporting evidence drug companies need for the health care economic data they send to formulary managers should specifically allow for use of a range of data sources, not limited to adequate and well-controlled clinical trials.
The white paper urges the agency to develop formal regulatory guidance on Sec. 114 of the FDA Modernization Act of 1997, which allows drug companies to proactively disseminate health care economic information to formulary committees within certain limitations.
The white paper outlines a number of data elements that should satisfy the competent and reliable scientific evidence standard. They include: methods for establishing economic costs and consequences that are widely accepted by experts in the field using a clear, pre-defined study protocol; an “accurate and balanced assessment of the economic consequences of a drug therapy, consistent with the current weight of credible evidence”; a representative study population; and information that allows the reader to determine how the research was conducted.
PhRMA recommends that FDA allow the competent and reliable standard to be satisfied with data obtained through a number of different methods, including observational study designs, database reviews and other economic modeling techniques. “There should be no pre-specified number or type of study required to substantiate a claim."
For example, “a claim that a drug is more cost-effective than a competing drug may be made where the cost savings are due to reduced resource utilization resulting from improved efficacy outcomes, decreased administration or monitoring costs, or where the difference in cost is due to the drug causing fewer adverse events, as long as these differences are supported by competent and reliable evidence.”
PhRMA argues that FDA should not consider such a statement a comparative clinical claim, which would trigger the “substantial evidence” requirement involving clinical trials.
Companies should be permitted to disseminate data on the “real world” economic implications of a therapy on health outcomes, according to the white paper. For example, “if a manufacturer conducts a competent and reliable study investigating the impact of a drug indicated for the treatment of diabetes mellitus on costs associated with cardiovascular care, the manufacturer should be permitted to proactively disseminate such data to appropriate audiences.”
Tom Abrams’ comments should act as more than a passing notice. Folks – it’s time to step up to the plate – the implications for payers and academic detailing are both timely and significant.