Generic drug manufacturers have complained that innovative pharmaceutical manufacturers use FDA-mandated safety-based distribution requirements—called “risk evaluation and mitigation strategies” (REMS)—to prevent or delay generic medicines from coming to market. Some generic and biosimilar manufacturers have argued that innovative manufacturers use REMS to avoid selling samples of their medicines to competitors, which results in some generic and biosimilar manufacturers being unable to complete the testing necessary to obtain FDA approval of their medicines.
To address this issue, generic and biosimilar manufacturers are supporting, the “Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act of 2016” or the “CREATES Act.” The CREATES Act allows a generic or biosimilar manufacturer to bring a civil action in federal court against an innovator to obtain injunctive relief and monetary damages in two instances: (1) where the innovator has failed to provide samples of a drug or biological product within 31 days of a request for samples, and (2) if the companies fail to reach an agreement on the development of a single, shared REMS system. While seeking to address a narrow issue, the bill is drafted in manner that will put patients and medical researchers at risk of serious harm and generate significant and meritless litigation costs for innovative pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The CREATES Act Lacks Adequate Patient Safety Protections
* The CREATES Act fails to adequately protect both patients and medical researchers who participate in clinical trials of REMS drugs conducted by generic or biosimilar manufacturers. This is concerning because REMS drugs are not typical prescription medicines—they are a special class of potentially harmful drugs that may be subject to restrictions called “elements to assure safe use” (ETASU), which FDA deems as necessary to ensure patient safety. In fact, many REMS drugs subject to ETASU may only be distributed with specific safeguards to protect anyone who comes in contact with the medicine.
* The bill fails to ensure sufficient FDA oversight of safety protections for subjects and researchers in studies of drugs having REMS with ETASU. To obtain an authorization, a generic or biosimilar manufacturer may -- but need not -- submit a clinical trial safety protocol outlining its planned testing of the drug in patients. The bill does not require FDA to pre-approve the safety protocol or to even make the determination that it provides equivalent protections for patients and researchers in comparison with the REMS with ETASU. The bill also grants FDA no authority to suspend a generic or biosimilar manufacturer’s access to samples or otherwise modify or revoke an authorization if the generic or biosimilar manufacturer does not implement appropriate safeguards.
* Instead of providing the FDA with authority to address these safety issues, the bill tasks the federal courts with adjudicating the terms. Although the bill contemplates a limited role for FDA in the authorization process for these products, the federal courts will determine what, if any, safety protections imposed on the transfer of samples are reasonable. The federal courts lack the expertise of FDA in evaluating the safety of a medicine and the measures necessary to protect patients and researchers.
The CREATES Act Exposes Innovative Manufacturers to Liability Risks Through No Fault of Their Own
* The CREATES Act will hold innovators responsible for the actions of generic and biosimilar manufacturers because the bill provides innovators liability protection only for claims arising out of failure to follow adequate safeguards during handling or use of product by the generic or biosimilar manufacturer. As a result, innovative manufacturers could still be unfairly liable for others’ negligence, long after the medicine has left their control. The CREATES Act exposes innovators to significant new liability risks based on the actions of their competitors.
The CREATES Act Hurts Patient Access to Life Sustaining Therapies During Drug Shortages
* The CREATES Act could exacerbate drug shortages and further limit the supply of medically necessary drugs. If a medicine has been on the shortage list for more than six months, the medicine is not exempt from the bill. In other words, manufacturers of these products would be forced to divert medicines from their patients—even when the medicines are life sustaining—to ensure supply for their competitors’ clinical trials.
More careful consideration needs to be inserted into the CREATES Act design so that it more clearly addressed its intent and avoids unintended consequences or hidden agendas. Patient safety, public health, and healthcare innovation mustn't become innocent victims.