I’m sure that Senator Charles Grassley and others who think the FDA should view the pharmaceutical industry in a strictly one-dimensional adversarial fashion will be upset to learn that collegial two-way communications is — gasp — good for the public health.
According to a new report, new medicines reach the U.S. market sooner when regulators meet with drug makers before the final phase of human testing and made sure they were addressing potential pitfalls. The report, by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton (undertaken at the request of the FDA), said fifty-two percent of manufacturers that consulted the Food and Drug Administration at that time won approval after an initial review, according to an analysis of 77 drug applications submitted from 2002 to 2004. Only 29 percent of companies that did not have such meetings received clearance for their products during the original cycle. (Medicines that fail to win FDA clearance after the original review of typically six to 10 months may go through multiple evaluations before reaching the market.)
A top FDA official said the agency agreed the early meetings with drug makers were productive but said more staff would be needed if the number increased substantially. (This is code for “we need more money!”)
“We have seen a pretty dramatic growth in the number of meetings we’re having with sponsors in the past several years. Any additional workload for meetings is going to have to be supported by additional staffing,” said Dr. John Jenkins, director of the FDA’s Office of New Drugs.
“Early and open communication with the sponsors will allow sponsors to address/resolve issues in a timely manner, potentially within the first review cycle,” the report said.
Once more with feeling everybody, let’s do the budget season chant — “Show me the money!”