FDA Update: Agency Takes Action to Eliminate Orphan Drug Backlog

By | June 29, 2017

The FDA has unveiled a strategic plan to eliminate the agency’s existing orphan designation request backlog and ensure continued timely response to all new requests for designation with firm deadlines. The agency’s Orphan Drug Modernization Plan comes a week after FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb committed to eliminating the backlog within 90 days and responding to all new requests for designation within 90 days of receipt.

As authorized under the Orphan Drug Act, the Orphan Drug Designation Program provides orphan status to drugs and biologics that are defined as those intended for the safe and effective treatment, diagnosis or prevention of rare diseases, which are generally defined as diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. Orphan designation qualifies the sponsor of the drug for various development incentives, including tax credits for clinical trial costs, relief from prescription drug user fee if the indication is for a rare disease or condition, and eligibility for seven years of marketing exclusivity upon approval.

Currently, the FDA has about 200 orphan drug designation requests that are pending review. The number of orphan drug designation requests has steadily increased over the past five years. In 2016, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development received 568 new requests for designation – more than double the number of requests received in 2012. The increased interest in the program is a positive development for those with rare diseases and the agency remains committed to advancing the program to ensure it can efficiently and adequately review these requests.

This is the first element of several efforts the FDA will undertake under its new “Medical Innovation Development Plan,” which is aimed at ensuring that the FDA’s regulatory tools and policies are modern, risk based, and efficient. The goal of the plan is to seek ways the FDA can help facilitate the development of safe, effective and transformative medical innovations that have the potential to significantly impact disease and reduce overall health care costs.

Among the elements of the plan to eliminate the backlog, the FDA will deploy a Backlog SWAT team comprised of senior, experienced reviewers with significant expertise in orphan drug designation. The team will focus solely on the backlogged applications, starting with the oldest requests. The agency will also employ a new streamlined Designation Review Template to increase consistency and efficiency of its reviews.  (Source: FDA Website, 29 June, 2017)

Follow link for the FDA Orphan Drug Modernization Plan.