Pharmaceutical regulating authorities in the U.S. and Europe are under increasing pressure to approve new treatments as quickly as possible. Expedited approval programs were created to speed up patients’ access to innovative treatments that meet unmet health needs or treat life-threatening diseases. But concerns about post-approval follow-up persist. Value-based drug pricing arrangements are a solution that generates real-world data and evidence of a drug’s safety and benefit to health outcomes.
Global health authorities must consider the risks of bringing a new drug to market quickly with limited data about a product’s safety and effectiveness–these risks versus the potential benefits of a new drug that addresses an unmet medical need, alleviates a public health emergency, or saves a patient’s life. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are the ones weighing those risks and benefits and guarding the safety of pharmaceutical products and medical devices.
The usual approval process for pharmaceutical products is similar for both agencies. It includes pre-clinical testing, three clinical trials, and a final approval before manufacturers can sell their drugs to patients. Drugs that show potential and meet certain criteria may qualify for an expedited approval process.
Expedited drug approval programs
Both the European and U.S. agencies have developed expedited approval programs to speed up the process of drug development and approval when a treatment shows the potential to meet an unmet medical need or treat a life-threatening condition. A new drug may qualify for consideration under more than one expedited approval program.
• Priority-review designation (PR) – started in 1992, ensures the submission application will be reviewed within 6 months instead of the usual 12 months
• Accelerated approval (AA) – started in 1992, allows drugs to be approved using a surrogate endpoint instead of the outcomes of a clinical trial
• Fast-track designation (FTD) – started in 1997, a process to expedite the development and review of drugs designed to treat unmet medical needs and serious, life-threatening conditions
• Breakthrough-therapy designation (BTD) – started in 2012, speeds the development and review of drugs with the potential for better health outcomes compared to the results of current treatments on the market
• Accelerated assessment – started in 2004, a review of the application to be completed in 150 days instead of 210 days if there are no major objections from the authorizing agency
• Exceptional circumstances authorization – started in 2005, eligible for drugs that treat extremely rare diseases and where it is not possible to conduct large clinical trials
• Conditional marketing authorization (CMA) – started in 2006, accelerates approval of drugs designed to meet an unmet medical need or serious, life-threatening disease
• Priority medicines scheme (PRIME) – started in 2016, reviewers are appointed earlier than usual in the development process, mostly used for orphan medicines
Comparing FDA and EMA use of expedited approvals
A study published in 2020 in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) compares the use of expedited approval programs by the FDA and the EMA. The focus of the study included approvals of new medicines from 2007 to 2017. During that time, the FDA approved 320 new drugs, and the EMA approved 268.
The study shows that, as of April 2020, there was an overlap of 75% (239) of new drugs which were approved by both the FDA and the EMA. Most of the drugs approved by both agencies were developed to treat cancer, digestive and metabolic disorders, or blood and cardiovascular disorders.
Out of the 320 drugs the FDA approved, 57% (181) of the new drugs qualified for at least one of the FDA’s accelerated approval programs. Out of the 268 drugs approved by the EMA, only 15% (39) qualified for one of the EMA’s expedited approvals.
A different study of global drug approval programs, covering January 2007 to May 2020, focused on expedited approvals for 128 new cancer drugs. The EMA approved 73% (94) out of the 128 new drugs and qualified 46% of them through expedited approval. The FDA expedited 91% (117) of the new cancer drugs through at least one accelerated approval program. (In 2019, all the cancer drugs the FDA approved during the year qualified for expedited approval.)
Of the six jurisdictions in the study, the FDA was the first to approve 80% (102) of the new cancer drugs. In Europe, delays in submissions of regulatory applications slowed many of the approvals. The EMA’s approvals of the same 102 drugs took an additional median time of 9.7 months.
Post-approval confirmatory trials
The expedited approval process in both Europe and the U.S. relies on post-market, real-world clinical data to confirm the safety and effectiveness of a drug. After the FDA or EMA grants expedited approval and the drug is on the market, the manufacturer is required to conduct confirmatory trials to gather enough real-world evidence to transition the drug from an expedited approval to a regular approval. Both the FDA and the EMA carry a backlog of confirmatory trials that were not completed on time.
An NPR (National Public Radio) analysis of FDA and National Institutes of Health data showed there are around 200 drugs with expedited approvals currently on the U.S. market. Many drugs, especially cancer treatments, have more than one accelerated approval to cover expanded uses. Close to half of these drugs transitioned to standard approvals after confirmatory trials, and another 9% were withdrawn.
The 30 years of data NPR reviewed also revealed that 42% of confirmatory trials didn’t start within the first year after the drug was made available to patients. Some confirmatory trials were delayed by three or more years, and even up to ten years.
The EMA also appears to have a substantial percentage of manufacturers who are slow to transition expedited approvals to standard approvals. In 2016, only about half of the drugs that received expedited approvals from the EMA had converted to standard approvals. Manufacturers who switched to standard approvals took an average of 4 years to complete the conversion process.
Gathering real-world evidence through value-based drug pricing arrangements
Both healthcare payers and drug manufacturers benefit from value-based drug purchasing arrangements for drug treatments that come to market under expedited approval programs.
For manufacturers, the real-world evidence generated by a value-based agreement may be quite helpful for a few reasons. First, the data could satisfy the requirements for post-approval confirmatory trials. Second, manufacturers can show with real-world evidence that their treatment offers better benefits to patient outcomes as compared to competitors’ products. Third, manufacturers can use the data supporting the real-world effectiveness of their product to negotiate and justify their drug’s list price and preferential position on a payer’s formulary.
While payers want the expedited approval process to bring treatments for unmet needs to patients as quickly as possible, they may still have unanswered questions post-approval about a new drug’s benefits. Under a value-based arrangement, payers can collect and analyze real-world evidence to address their uncertainty and concerns about a drug’s safety, benefit to patient health outcomes, and cost-effectiveness.
Value-based pricing agreements between payers and manufacturers allow both parties to share the financial risk of a drug not performing as expected. And if a drug underperforms, real-world data from the value-based agreement can reinforce the terms of a manufacturer’s rebate. Therefore, manufacturers willing to share risk and enter value-based drug purchasing arrangements with payers have a competitive advantage.
The Lyfegen Solution
Lyfegen is an independent, global analytics company that offers a value-based contracting platform for healthcare insurances, pharma, and medtech companies wanting to participate in value-based drug pricing agreements. Lyfegen’s software platform includes three-fold functionality to implement value-based, data-driven agreements with greater efficiency and transparency: data ingestion, agreement execution, and insights generation. The Lyfegen Platform collects real-world data and uses intelligent algorithms to provide valuable information about drug performance and cost.
By enabling the shift away from volume-based and fee-for-service healthcare to value-based healthcare, Lyfegen increases access to healthcare treatments and their affordability.
To learn more about our services and the Lyfegen Platform, book a demo.