The FDA closely regulates the post-approval marketing and promotion of biologics, including standards and regulations for direct-to-consumer advertising, off-label promotion, industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities, and promotional activities involving the internet and social media. A company can make only those claims relating to safety and efficacy that are approved by the FDA. Physicians may prescribe legally available biologics for uses that are not described in the product’s labeling and that differ from those tested by us and approved by the FDA. The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments. The FDA does, however, impose stringent restrictions on manufacturers’ communications regarding off-label use. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in adverse publicity, warning letters, corrective advertising and potential civil and criminal penalties.
Biosimilars and Regulatory Exclusivity
We believe that any of our product candidates approved under a BLA should qualify for a 12-year period of exclusivity against biosimilar competition currently permitted by the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, or BPCIA. Specifically, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010, as amended by the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act, collectively the ACA, the BPCIA established an abbreviated pathway for the approval of biosimilar and interchangeable biological products. The abbreviated regulatory pathway provides legal authority for the FDA to review and approve biosimilar biologics based on their similarity to an existing brand product, referred to as a reference product, including the possible designation of a biosimilar as interchangeable with a brand product. Under the BPCIA the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. Moreover, the extent to which a biosimilar, once approved, will be substituted for any one of our reference products in a way that is similar to traditional generic substitution for non-biological drug products is not yet clear, and will depend on a number of marketplace and regulatory factors that are still developing. The BPCIA is complex and continues to be interpreted and implemented by the FDA. As a result, its ultimate impact, implementation and meaning is subject to uncertainty. While it is uncertain when any such processes may be fully adopted by the FDA, any such processes that operate to limit the scope or length of exclusivity afforded by the BPCIA could have a material adverse effect on the future commercial prospects for our biological products. In addition, the period of exclusivity provided by the BPCIA only operates against third parties seeking approval via the abbreviated pathway but would not prevent third parties from pursuing approval via the traditional approval pathway. In addition, foreign regulatory authorities may also provide for exclusivity periods for approved biological products. For example, biological products in the EU may be eligible for at least a ten-year period of exclusivity.
Orphan Drug Designation
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or if it affects more than 200,000 individuals in the United States, there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making the product available in the United States for the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product. Orphan designation must be requested before submitting a BLA. Orphan designation does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process, though companies developing orphan products are eligible for certain incentives, including tax credits for qualified clinical testing and waiver of application fees.
If a product that has orphan designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a seven-year period of marketing exclusivity during which the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same therapeutic agent for the same indication, except in limited circumstances, such as a subsequent product’s showing of clinical superiority over the product with orphan exclusivity or where the original applicant cannot produce sufficient quantities of product. Competitors, however, may receive approval of different therapeutic agents for the indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity or obtain approval for the same therapeutic agent for a different indication than that for which the orphan product has exclusivity. Orphan product exclusivity could block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval for the same therapeutic agent for the same indication before we do, unless we are able to demonstrate that our product is clinically superior. Further, if a designated orphan product receives marketing approval for an indication broader than the rare disease or condition for which it received orphan designation, it may not be entitled to orphan exclusivity.
In August 2015, the FDA granted orphan drug designation to SER-109 for the treatment of recurrent CDI. In December 2017, the FDA granted Orphan Drug Designation to SER-287 for treatment of UC in pediatric patients.
We may seek additional orphan designation for one or more of our product candidates, but the FDA may disagree with our analysis of the prevalence of a disease or condition or other criteria for designation and refuse to grant orphan status. We cannot guarantee that we will obtain designation or approval for any product candidate, or that we will be able to secure orphan product exclusivity if we do obtain approval.