EMA and FDA his­tor­i­cal­ly agree on just about every new drug ap­proval, but is that slow­ly chang­ing?

The EMA and FDA con­cur more than 90% of the time in their de­ci­sions to ap­prove new drugs, ac­cord­ing to a new study from EMA and FDA of­fi­cials that looked at 107 ap­pli­ca­tions from 2014 to 2016.

In just eight of the 107 ap­pli­ca­tions, the FDA ini­tial­ly de­clined to ap­prove a new drug or bi­o­log­ic while the EMA ap­proved it, al­though in all eight of those cas­es, the FDA end­ed up ap­prov­ing that drug or bi­o­log­ic. And in one case (Take­da’s Nin­laro (ix­a­zomib) for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma), the FDA ap­proved the treat­ment and the EMA ini­tial­ly did not, but lat­er did.

“Over­all, tak­ing ac­count of the re­sub­mit­ted and re­ex­am­ined ap­pli­ca­tions, the EMA and the FDA had fi­nal dis­cor­dant mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion de­ci­sions for two drugs: cori­fol­litropin al­fa and ataluren,” the study notes, as both were ap­proved by the EMA and not the FDA.

More re­cent­ly, how­ev­er, the EMA’s Com­mit­tee for Med­i­c­i­nal Prod­ucts for Hu­man Use (CHMP) adopt­ed neg­a­tive opin­ions for two drugs in 2018 that were ap­proved by FDA in 2017, and one sick­le cell drug in 2019 that was al­so pre­vi­ous­ly ap­proved by FDA. In ad­di­tion, CHMP raised ques­tions about Mit­subishi Tan­abe Phar­ma’s treat­ment for amy­otroph­ic lat­er­al scle­ro­sis, which with­drew its ap­pli­ca­tion this year, and which was ap­proved by FDA in 2017.

“Di­ver­gence in ap­proval de­ci­sions, type of ap­proval, and ap­proved in­di­ca­tion were pri­mar­i­ly due to dif­fer­ences in agen­cies’ con­clu­sions about ef­fi­ca­cy based on re­view of the same da­ta or dif­fer­ing clin­i­cal da­ta sub­mit­ted to sup­port the ap­pli­ca­tion,” the study pub­lished in Clin­i­cal Phar­ma­col­o­gy & Ther­a­peu­tics found.

In the more re­cent case of the sick­le cell drug, the FDA said its ap­proval was based on a tri­al show­ing that pa­tients treat­ed with En­dari (glu­t­a­mine) ex­pe­ri­enced few­er hos­pi­tal vis­its for sick­le cell crises, on av­er­age, when com­pared to place­bo. But the EMA’s CHMP said it “con­sid­ered that the main study did not show that [glu­t­a­mine] was ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing the num­ber of sick­le cell crises or hos­pi­tal vis­its.”

The study al­so notes how the FDA more com­mon­ly grant­ed ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals (12/25 in on­col­o­gy and 5/8 in hema­tol­ogy) than the EMA grant­ed con­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion or au­tho­riza­tion un­der ex­cep­tion­al cir­cum­stances (7/25 in on­col­o­gy and 2/8 in hema­tol­ogy).

But sub­mis­sions in these ar­eas of­ten oc­curred lat­er to the EMA than the FDA, and of­ten in­clud­ed ad­di­tion­al clin­i­cal tri­als or more ma­ture da­ta from the same clin­i­cal tri­al than were sub­mit­ted to the FDA. “In those in­stances, the EMA was more like­ly than the FDA to grant stan­dard ap­proval (where­as the FDA is­sued ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval) or a broad­er in­di­ca­tion,” the study said.

The study al­so found the EMA had a high­er rate of first-cy­cle ap­provals than the FDA, and the re­searchers “ob­served re­mark­able sim­i­lar­i­ty in the ba­sic sci­en­tif­ic and da­ta in­ter­pre­ta­tion is­sues raised by the FDA and the EMA dur­ing re­views of the same ap­pli­ca­tions. Specif­i­cal­ly, most of the FDA’s sec­ond cy­cle ap­provals (i.e., ap­provals af­ter re­sub­mis­sion of the ap­pli­ca­tions) were based on sub­mis­sion by the spon­sor of the same ad­di­tion­al da­ta that EMA had re­ceived dur­ing its ini­tial re­view ei­ther from the start or fol­low­ing re­quest af­ter clock‐stops.”

In their dis­cus­sion of the re­sults, the study au­thors al­so note the study’s lim­i­ta­tions, such as on­ly us­ing two years’ worth of da­ta. But over­all, the two agen­cies are com­mu­ni­cat­ing and work­ing to­geth­er more close­ly than in years past.

“The high rate of con­ver­gence in the au­tho­ri­sa­tion of new med­i­cines at EMA and the FDA is the re­sult of ex­pand­ed in­vest­ment in di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion since 2003 and has fos­tered align­ment be­tween the EU and the US with re­spect to de­ci­sions on mar­ket­ing au­tho­ri­sa­tions, while both agen­cies eval­u­ate ap­pli­ca­tions in­de­pen­dent­ly of each oth­er,” said Zaide Frias, head of the EMA’s hu­man med­i­cines eval­u­a­tion di­vi­sion.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock, AP


RAPS: First pub­lished in Reg­u­la­to­ry Fo­cus™ by the Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs Pro­fes­sion­als So­ci­ety, the largest glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion of and for those in­volved with the reg­u­la­tion of health­care prod­ucts. Click here for more in­for­ma­tion.

Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Big week for Alzheimer’s da­ta; As­traZeneca buys cell ther­a­py start­up; Dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics hits a pay­er wall; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may start to notice more stories exclusively available to Premium subscribers. This week alone, paid subscribers can read our in-depth reporting on Alzheimer’s data, digital therapeutics and Allogene’s cell therapy for solid tumors, as well as scoops on Twitter ads and Catalent. With your support, we can keep growing our team and spend more time on quality work. We have both individual and company plans available — check them out to unlock the full Endpoints experience.

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Am­gen, years be­hind ri­vals, says PhI obe­si­ty drug shows dura­bil­i­ty signs

While NBC ran “The Biggest Loser” for 17 seasons, deemed toxic by critics for the reality show’s punishing exercise and diet upheavals, researchers in pharmaceutical labs have been attempting to create prescription drugs that induce weight loss — and one pharma betting it can require less frequent dosing is out with a new crop of data.

Amgen was relatively late to the game compared to its approved competitor Novo Nordisk and green light-approaching rival Eli Lilly. But early data suggested Amgen’s AMG 133 led to a 14.5% weight reduction in the first few months of dosing, buoying shares earlier this fall, and now the California pharma is out with its first batch of durability data showing that figure fell slightly to 11.2% about 150 days after the last dose. Amgen presented at the 20th World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease on Saturday afternoon.

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls



Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

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Eli Lil­ly’s Alzheimer’s drug clears more amy­loid ear­ly than Aduhelm in first-ever head-to-head. Will it mat­ter?

Ahead of the FDA’s decision on Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab in February, the Big Pharma is dropping a first cut of data from one of the more interesting trials — but less important in a regulatory sense — at an Alzheimer’s conference in San Francisco.

In the unblinded 148-person study, Eli Lilly pitted its drug against Aduhelm, Biogen’s drug that won FDA approval but lost Medicare coverage outside of clinical trials. Notably, the study didn’t look at clinical outcomes, but rather the clearance of amyloid, a protein whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain.

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US month­ly costs for biosim­i­lars 'sub­stan­tial­ly high­er' than Ger­many or Switzer­land, JA­MA re­search finds

As the global biologics market is expected to hit nearly the half-trillion-dollar mark this year, new JAMA research points to the importance of timely biosimilar entry, particularly as fewer biosimilars are entering the US than in Europe, and as monthly treatment costs for biosimilars were “substantially higher” in the US compared with Germany and Switzerland.

Among the three countries, biosimilar market share at launch was highest in Germany, but increased at the fastest rate in the US, the authors from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Law wrote in JAMA Network Open today.

Kirk Myers is shown in a still image from a new film series showcasing the efforts of HIV advocates funded by Gilead.

Gilead spot­lights HIV projects and the com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers dri­ving them in new mi­ni-doc­u­men­tary films

Gilead is going behind the scenes of some of the HIV initiatives it funds through grants in a new film series narrated by the people helming the projects.

The first four films and leaders come from across the US — Arianna Lint in Florida and Puerto Rico, Cleve Jones in San Francisco, June Gipson in Mississippi and Kirk Myers in Texas. Their HIV-focused efforts range from addressing unmet needs of the transgender community to delivering social services and high-quality health care in underserved communities.

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EMA pulls an opi­oid from the 1950s used to treat dry cough

The European Medicines Agency said Friday that it’s pulling from all European markets pholcodine-containing medicines, which are an opioid used in adults and children for the treatment of dry cough and in combo with other drugs as a treatment for cold and flu.

The decision to pull the medicines comes as the EMA points to the results from the recent ALPHO study, which show that use of pholcodine during the 12 months preceding anesthesia is linked to a risk of an anaphylactic reaction related to the neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) used (with an adjusted OR of 4.2, and a 95% confidence interval of 2.5 to 6.9).

FDA's drug short­ages leader wants com­pa­nies to start re­port­ing in­creas­es in de­mand

It is no secret that drug shortages have been prevalent in 2022. Several major drug products, such as amoxicillin and Adderall, have been in short supply for several months and have led to members of Congress applying pressure on the FDA and HHS to resolve the situation.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, Valerie Jensen, the associate director of the FDA’s Drug Shortage Staff, noted both the rise in quality-related issues and increased demand for some products. She called on companies to report such demand increases, even though they are not currently required to do so.