FDA com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb just broke a pub­lic promise on pub­lish­ing CRLs — and yes, it mat­ters

Scott Got­tlieb

In his tes­ti­mo­ny to the US Sen­ate dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings to lead the FDA, Scott Got­tlieb clear­ly enun­ci­at­ed his po­si­tion on pub­lish­ing the com­plete re­sponse let­ters the FDA sends to bio­phar­mas when reg­u­la­tors re­ject their new drug ap­pli­ca­tions.

Vow­ing to achieve greater trans­paren­cy, Got­tlieb promised to open up more. He wrote: “This in­cludes the com­plete re­sponse let­ters, af­ter prop­er redac­tion of com­mer­cial con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion.”

To­day, af­ter hint­ing at it in a few in­ter­views, Got­tlieb sub­stan­tial­ly re­neged on that promise. In­stead of pub­lish­ing redact­ed CRLs, the com­mis­sion­er now says that he may be will­ing to pub­lish pieces of some of the re­jec­tion no­tices — pro­vid­ed it serves what the agency deems is a need to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion rel­a­tive to pub­lic health con­cerns.

In an ad­dress this morn­ing iron­i­cal­ly ti­tled “Fos­ter­ing Trans­paren­cy to Im­prove Pub­lic Health,” Got­tlieb now has this to say on CRLs:

Re­leas­ing all the CRLs would be ad­min­is­tra­tive­ly bur­den­some, giv­en the like­li­hood we would con­tin­ue to redact cer­tain pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion from these let­ters. And not all the let­ters have in­for­ma­tion that would di­rect­ly in­form clin­i­cal prac­tice. For ex­am­ple, many let­ters pri­mar­i­ly re­late to man­u­fac­tur­ing short­com­ings with new drug ap­pli­ca­tions that are even­tu­al­ly re­solved.

But some of the let­ters do con­tain in­for­ma­tion that could be di­rect­ly rel­e­vant to pa­tients. We’re eval­u­at­ing whether there is a sub­set of the com­plete re­sponse let­ters where there are es­pe­cial­ly im­por­tant pub­lic health rea­sons to redact and re­lease these let­ters. For ex­am­ple, let­ters that have safe­ty-re­lat­ed find­ings or rec­om­men­da­tions that could help in­form pa­tients and providers about the pro­file of al­ready-mar­ket­ed prod­ucts. Re­leas­ing this in­for­ma­tion could en­hance pa­tient safe­ty, by re­duc­ing the num­ber of po­ten­tial­ly fu­tile tri­als, and spare pa­tients ex­po­sure to po­ten­tial risks with­out the prospect of a like­ly ben­e­fit. It can al­so help bet­ter in­form clin­i­cal prac­tice.

So the FDA, at a time when there are grow­ing con­cerns that po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence could be shap­ing the agency’s de­ci­sions, now wants to be left in charge of de­cid­ing what is an im­por­tant pub­lic health rea­son and what isn’t.

And why did Got­tlieb re­treat now? What changed his mind?

Trans­paren­cy at the FDA is a pre­cious com­mod­i­ty, rarely found and of­ten bad­ly ne­glect­ed. Why don’t we let the peo­ple de­cide for them­selves what is im­por­tant and what is not in a CRL? If it’s a rou­tine mat­ter that can be eas­i­ly re­solved, then it should be a boon to the com­pa­ny in­volved to have that re­leased. If the com­pa­ny screwed up their da­ta, can’t prove ef­fi­ca­cy or raise unan­swered safe­ty is­sues, re­gard­less of what­ev­er class of drugs — on or off the mar­ket — this could re­late to, the pub­lic has a right to know.

Aside from in­form­ing the pub­lic about this process, re­searchers at the NIH, in acad­e­mia and com­pa­nies work­ing in drug de­vel­op­ment all have their own need to see be­hind the veil.

Every­one has a clear right to what Got­tlieb promised to win Sen­ate sup­port — which on­ly re­peat­ed his ear­li­er state­ments sup­port­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of CRLs. It’s all a pub­lic health is­sue, and com­pa­nies will be­have bet­ter if they know their own worst mis­steps will be a mat­ter of pub­lic record.

Too bur­den­some? Then pub­lish with­out a redac­tion. Prob­lem solved. Bur­den lift­ed. Or just try and match the greater trans­paren­cy achieved in Eu­rope, where no great hur­dles had to be over­come.

As of now, the FDA has re­versed it­self on three CRLs since Got­tlieb took the head of­fice at the FDA. We don’t know for cer­tain what prompt­ed the CRLs, we don’t know why the FDA changed its mind — though we do know that at least one of the com­pa­nies was will­ing to lob­by se­nior of­fi­cials at the agency with a case that it nev­er went pub­lic with.

That’s the op­po­site of trans­paren­cy.

As of now, this is the first promise Got­tlieb has clear­ly bro­ken.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.