Once a BLA has been accepted for filing, by law the FDA has 180 days to review the application and respond to the applicant. However, the review process is often significantly extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification. Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, the FDA has a goal of reviewing BLAs within ten months of the 60-day filing date for standard review or six months for priority review, but the overall timeframe is often extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification. The FDA reviews a BLA to determine, among other things, whether the biological product is safe, pure and potent and whether the facility or facilities in which it is manufactured meet standards designed to assure the product’s continued safety, purity and potency. The FDA may refer the application to an advisory committee for review, evaluation and recommendation as to whether the application should be approved. The FDA is not bound by the recommendation of an advisory committee, but it generally follows such recommendations. Before approving a BLA, the FDA will inspect the facility or the facilities at which the biologic product is manufactured, and will not approve the product unless cGMP compliance is satisfactory. The FDA may also inspect the sites at which the clinical trials were conducted to assess their compliance with GCP requirements, and will not approve the biologic unless compliance with such requirements is satisfactory.
The FDA may deny approval of a BLA if the applicable statutory and regulatory criteria are not satisfied, or it may require additional pre-clinical or clinical data. Even if such data are submitted, the FDA may ultimately decide that the BLA does not satisfy the criteria for approval. Data from clinical trials are not always conclusive and the FDA may interpret data differently than sponsors. Once the FDA approves a BLA, such approval defines the indicated uses for which the biologic may be marketed. The FDA may also require implementation of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, which can include a medication guide, communication plan, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, physician training, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. The FDA also may condition approval on, among other things, changes to proposed labeling claims or the development of adequate controls and specifications. Once approved, the FDA may withdraw the product approval if compliance with pre- and post-marketing regulatory standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. The FDA may require one or more Phase 4 post-market studies and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization, and may limit further marketing based on the results of these post-marketing studies.
The biologic testing and approval processes encompasses significant risk, and requires substantial time, effort and financial resources, and each may take several years to complete. The FDA may not grant approval on a timely basis, or at all. Even if we believe a clinical trial has demonstrated safety and efficacy of one of our product candidates for the treatment of a disease or condition, the results may not be satisfactory to the FDA. Pre-clinical and clinical data may be interpreted by the FDA in different ways, which could delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. We may encounter difficulties or unanticipated costs in our efforts to secure necessary governmental approvals which could delay or preclude us from marketing our product candidates. The FDA may limit the indications for use or place other conditions on any approvals that could restrict the commercial application of our products. After approval, certain changes to the approved biologic, such as adding new indications, manufacturing changes or additional labeling claims, are subject to further FDA review and approval. Depending on the nature of the change proposed, a BLA supplement must be filed and approved before the change may be implemented. For many proposed post-approval changes to a BLA, the FDA has up to 180 days to review the application. As with new BLAs, the review process is often significantly extended by the FDA requests for additional information or clarification.
Expedited Development and Review Programs
The FDA maintains several programs intended to facilitate and expedite development and review of new drugs and biologics to address unmet medical needs in the treatment of serious or life- threatening diseases or conditions. These programs include Fast Track designation, Breakthrough Therapy designation, Priority Review designation and Accelerated Approval, and the purpose of these programs is to provide important new drugs to patients earlier than under standard FDA review procedures.
A new drug or biologic is eligible for fast track designation if it is intended to treat a serious or life- threatening disease or condition and demonstrates the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition. Fast Track designation provides increased opportunities for sponsor meetings with the FDA during pre-clinical and clinical development, in addition to the potential for rolling review once a marketing application is filed, meaning that the agency may review portions of the marketing application before the sponsor submits the complete application, as well as Priority Review, discussed below. In addition, a new drug or biologic may be eligible for breakthrough therapy designation if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. Breakthrough Therapy designation provides all the features of Fast Track designation in addition to intensive guidance on an efficient drug development program beginning as early as Phase 1, and FDA organizational commitment to expedited development, including involvement of senior managers and experienced review staff in a cross-disciplinary review, where appropriate.