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Did FDA Reverse Course on Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19?

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

 

Starting with a timeline of recent announcements by the FDA on convalescent plasma therapy

April 16, 2020

FDA STATEMENT

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Encourages Recovered Patients to Donate Plasma for Development of Blood-Related Therapies

 

As part of the all-of-America approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working with partners across the U.S. government, academia and industry to expedite the development and availability of critical medical products to treat this novel virus. Today, we are providing an update on one potential treatment called convalescent plasma and encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help others fight this disease.

Convalescent plasma is an antibody-rich product made from blood donated by people who have recovered from the disease caused by the virus. Prior experience with respiratory viruses and limited data that have emerged from China suggest that convalescent plasma has the potential to lessen the severity or shorten the length of illness caused by COVID-19. It is important that we evaluate this potential therapy in the context of clinical trials, through expanded access, as well as facilitate emergency access for individual patients, as appropriate.

The response to the agency’s recently announced national efforts to facilitate the development of and access to convalescent plasma has been tremendous. More than 1,040 sites and 950 physician investigators nationwide have signed on to participate in the Mayo Clinic-led expanded access protocol. A number of clinical trials are also taking place to evaluate the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma and the FDA has granted numerous single patient emergency investigational new drug (eIND) applications as well.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-encourages-recovered-patients-donate-plasma-development-blood

August 23, 2020

 

Recommendations for Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

 

  • FDA issues guidelines on clinical trials and obtaining emergency enrollment concerning convalescent plasma

FDA has issued guidance to provide recommendations to health care providers and investigators on the administration and study of investigational convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 (COVID-19 convalescent plasma) during the public health emergency.

The guidance provides recommendations on the following:

Because COVID-19 convalescent plasma has not yet been approved for use by FDA, it is regulated as an investigational product.  A health care provider must participate in one of the pathways described below.  FDA does not collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma or provide COVID-19 convalescent plasma.  Health care providers or acute care facilities should instead obtain COVID-19 convalescent plasma from an FDA-registered blood establishment.

Excerpts from the guidance document are provided below.

Background

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) plays a critical role in protecting the United States (U.S.) from threats including emerging infectious diseases, such as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  FDA is committed to providing timely guidance to support response efforts to this pandemic.

One investigational treatment being explored for COVID-19 is the use of convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.  Convalescent plasma that contains antibodies to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is being studied for administration to patients with COVID-19. Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic.

Although promising, convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be safe and effective as a treatment for COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to study the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in clinical trials.

Pathways for Use of Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

The following pathways are available for administering or studying the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma:

  1. Clinical Trials

Investigators wishing to study the use of convalescent plasma in a clinical trial should submit requests to FDA for investigational use under the traditional IND regulatory pathway (21 CFR Part 312). CBER’s Office of Blood Research and Review is committed to engaging with sponsors and reviewing such requests expeditiously. During the COVID-19 pandemic, INDs may be submitted via email to CBERDCC_eMailSub@fda.hhs.gov.

  1. Expanded Access

An IND application for expanded access is an alternative for use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 disease who are not eligible or who are unable to participate in randomized clinical trials (21 CFR 312.305). FDA has worked with multiple federal partners and academia to open an expanded access protocol to facilitate access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma across the nation. Access to this investigational product may be available through participation of acute care facilities in an investigational expanded access protocol under an IND that is already in place.

Currently, the following protocol is in place: National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol

  1. Single Patient Emergency IND

Although participation in clinical trials or an expanded access program are ways for patients to obtain access to convalescent plasma, for various reasons these may not be readily available to all patients in potential need. Therefore, given the public health emergency that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, and while clinical trials are being conducted and a national expanded access protocol is available, FDA also is facilitating access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections through the process of the patient’s physician requesting a single patient emergency IND (eIND) for the individual patient under 21 CFR 312.310. This process allows the use of an investigational drug for the treatment of an individual patient by a licensed physician upon FDA authorization, if the applicable regulatory criteria are met.  Note, in such case, a licensed physician seeking to administer COVID-19 convalescent plasma to an individual patient must request the eIND (see 21 CFR 312.310(b)).

To Obtain a Single Patient Emergency IND  

The requesting physician may contact FDA by completing Form FDA 3926 (https://www.fda.gov/media/98616/download) and submitting the form by email to CBER_eIND_Covid-19@FDA.HHS.gov.

FACT SHEET FOR PATIENTS AND PARENTS/CAREGIVERS EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION (EUA) OF COVID-19 CONVALESCENT PLASMA FOR TREATMENT OF COVID-19 IN HOSPITALIZED PATIENTS

  • FDA issues fact sheet for patients on donating plasma

August 23, 2020

 

FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Convalescent Plasma as Potential Promising COVID–19 Treatment, Another Achievement in Administration’s Fight Against Pandemic

 

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19. Based on scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded, as outlined in its decision memorandum, this product may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

Today’s action follows the FDA’s extensive review of the science and data generated over the past several months stemming from efforts to facilitate emergency access to convalescent plasma for patients as clinical trials to definitively demonstrate safety and efficacy remain ongoing.

The EUA authorizes the distribution of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in the U.S. and its administration by health care providers, as appropriate, to treat suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary:
“The FDA’s emergency authorization for convalescent plasma is a milestone achievement in President Trump’s efforts to save lives from COVID-19,” said Secretary Azar. “The Trump Administration recognized the potential of convalescent plasma early on. Months ago, the FDA, BARDA, and private partners began work on making this product available across the country while continuing to evaluate data through clinical trials. Our work on convalescent plasma has delivered broader access to the product than is available in any other country and reached more than 70,000 American patients so far. We are deeply grateful to Americans who have already donated and encourage individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating convalescent plasma.”

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., FDA Commissioner:
“I am committed to releasing safe and potentially helpful treatments for COVID-19 as quickly as possible in order to save lives. We’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen about convalescent plasma. The data from studies conducted this year shows that plasma from patients who’ve recovered from COVID-19 has the potential to help treat those who are suffering from the effects of getting this terrible virus,” said Dr. Hahn. “At the same time, we will continue to work with researchers to continue randomized clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma in treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus.”

Scientific Evidence on Convalescent Plasma

Based on an evaluation of the EUA criteria and the totality of the available scientific evidence, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research determined that the statutory criteria for issuing an EUA criteria were met.

The FDA determined that it is reasonable to believe that COVID-19 convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some hospitalized patients. The agency also determined that the known and potential benefits of the product, when used to treat COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product and that that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternative treatments.

 

August 24, 2020

Donate COVID-19 Plasma

 

  • FDA posts video and blog about how to donate plasms if you had been infected with COVID

 

https://youtu.be/PlX15rWdBbY

 

 

Please go to https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/donate-covid-19-plasma

to read more from FDA

 

 

August 25, 2020

 

CLINICAL MEMORANDUM From: , OBRR/DBCD/CRS To: , OBRR Through: , OBRR/DBCD , OBRR/DBCD , OBRR/DBCD/CRS Re: EUA 26382: Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Request (original request 8/12/20; amended request 8/23/20) Product: COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Items reviewed: EUA request Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers Fact Sheet for Recipients Sponsor: Robert Kadlec, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) EXECUTIVE SUMMARY COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP), an unapproved biological product, is proposed for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) under section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act),(21 USC 360bbb-3) as a passive immune therapy for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, a serious or life-threatening disease. There currently is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to CCP for treating COVID-19. The sponsor has pointed to four lines of evidence to support that CCP may be effective in the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19: 1) History of convalescent plasma for respiratory coronaviruses; 2) Evidence of preclinical safety and efficacy in animal models; 3) Published studies of the safety and efficacy of CCP; and 4) Data on safety and efficacy from the National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol (EAP) sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. Considering the totality of the scientific evidence presented in the EUA, I conclude that current data for the use of CCP in adult hospitalized patients with COVID-19 supports the conclusion that CCP meets the “may be effective” criterion for issuance of an EUA from section 564(c)(2)(A) of the Act. It is reasonable to conclude that the known and potential benefits of CCP outweigh the known and potential risks of CCP for the proposed EUA. Current data suggest the largest clinical benefit is associated with high-titer units of CCP administered early course of the disease.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/media/141480/download

 

And Today August 26, 2020

  • A letter, from Senator Warren, to Commissioner Hahn from Senate Committee asking for documentation for any communication between FDA and White House

August 25, 2020 Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. Commissioner of Food and Drugs U.S. Food and Drug Administration 10903 New Hampshire Avenue Silver Spring, MD 20993 Dear Commissioner Hahn: We write regarding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) troubling decision earlier this week to issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma as a treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).1 Reports suggests that the FDA granted the EUA amid intense political pressure from President Trump and other Administration officials, despite limited evidence of convalescent plasma’s effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment.2 To help us better understand whether the issuance of the blood plasma EUA was motivated by politics, we request copies of any and all communications between FDA and White House officials regarding the blood plasma EUA.

Source: https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2020.08.25%20Letter%20to%20FDA%20re%20Blood%20Plasma%20EUA.pdf

…….. which may have been a response to this article

FDA chief walks back comments on effectiveness of coronavirus plasma treatment

 

From CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/25/fda-chief-walks-back-comments-on-effectiveness-of-coronavirus-plasma-treatment.html

PUBLISHED TUE, AUG 25 202010:45 AM EDTUPDATED TUE, AUG 25 20204:12 PM EDT

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.@BERKELEYJR

Will Feuer@WILLFOIA

KEY POINTS

  • The authorization will allow health-care providers in the U.S. to use the plasma to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19.
  • The FDA’s emergency use authorization came a day after President Trump accused the agency of delaying enrollment in clinical trials for vaccines or therapeutics.
  • The criticism from Trump and action from the FDA led some scientists to believe the authorization, which came on the eve of the GOP national convention, was politically motivated.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn is walking back comments on the benefits of convalescent plasma, saying he could have done a better job of explaining the data on its effectiveness against the coronavirus after authorizing it for emergency use over the weekend.

Commisioners responses over Twitter

https://twitter.com/SteveFDA/status/1298071603675373569?s=20

https://twitter.com/SteveFDA/status/1298071619236245504?s=20

August 26, 2020

In an interview with Bloomberg’s , FDA Commissioner Hahn reiterates that his decision was based on hard evidence and scientific fact, not political pressure.  The whole interview is at the link below:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-25/fda-s-hahn-vows-to-stick-to-the-science-amid-vaccine-pressure?sref=yLCixKPR

Some key points:

  • Dr. Hahn corrected his initial statement about 35% of people would be cured by convalescent plasma. In the interview he stated:

I was trying to do what I do with patients, because patients often understand things in absolute terms versus relative terms. And I should’ve been more careful, there’s no question about it. What I was trying to get to is that if you look at a hundred patients who receive high titre, and a hundred patients who received low titre, the difference between those two particular subset of patients who had these specific criteria was a 35% reduction in mortality. So I frankly did not do a good job of explaining that.

  • FDA colleagues had frank discussion after the statement was made.  He is not asking for other people in HHS to retract their statements, only is concerned that FDA has correct information for physicians and patients
  • Hahn is worried that people will not enroll due to chance they may be given placebo
  • He gave no opinion when asked if FDA should be an independent agency

 

For more articles on COVID19 please go to our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

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Multiple Barriers Identified Which May Hamper Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Clinical Setting

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD.

From the Journal Science:Science  21 Jun 2019: Vol. 364, Issue 6446, pp. 1119-1120

By Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

 

In a commentary article from Jennifer Couzin-Frankel entitled “Medicine contends with how to use artificial intelligence  the barriers to the efficient and reliable adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the hospital setting are discussed.   In summary these barriers result from lack of reproducibility across hospitals. For instance, a major concern among radiologists is the AI software being developed to read images in order to magnify small changes, such as with cardiac images, is developed within one hospital and may not reflect the equipment or standard practices used in other hospital systems.  To address this issue, lust recently, US scientists and government regulators issued guidance describing how to convert research-based AI into improved medical images and published these guidance in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.  The group suggested greater collaboration among relevant parties in developing of AI practices, including software engineers, scientists, clinicians, radiologists etc. 

As thousands of images are fed into AI algorithms, according to neurosurgeon Eric Oermann at Mount Sinai Hospital, the signals they recognize can have less to do with disease than with other patient characteristics, the brand of MRI machine, or even how a scanner is angled.  For example Oermann and Mount Sinai developed an AI algorithm to detect spots on a lung scan indicative of pneumonia and when tested in a group of new patients the algorithm could detect pneumonia with 93% accuracy.  

However when the group from Sinai tested their algorithm from tens of thousands of scans from other hospitals including NIH success rate fell to 73-80%, indicative of bias within the training set: in other words there was something unique about the way Mt. Sinai does their scans relative to other hospitals.  Indeed, many of the patients Mt. Sinai sees are too sick to get out of bed and radiologists would use portable scanners, which generate different images than stand alone scanners.  

The results were published in Plos Medicine as seen below:

PLoS Med. 2018 Nov 6;15(11):e1002683. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002683. eCollection 2018 Nov.

Variable generalization performance of a deep learning model to detect pneumonia in chest radiographs: A cross-sectional study.

Zech JR1, Badgeley MA2, Liu M2, Costa AB3, Titano JJ4, Oermann EK3.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

There is interest in using convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to analyze medical imaging to provide computer-aided diagnosis (CAD). Recent work has suggested that image classification CNNs may not generalize to new data as well as previously believed. We assessed how well CNNs generalized across three hospital systems for a simulated pneumonia screening task.

METHODS AND FINDINGS:

A cross-sectional design with multiple model training cohorts was used to evaluate model generalizability to external sites using split-sample validation. A total of 158,323 chest radiographs were drawn from three institutions: National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (NIH; 112,120 from 30,805 patients), Mount Sinai Hospital (MSH; 42,396 from 12,904 patients), and Indiana University Network for Patient Care (IU; 3,807 from 3,683 patients). These patient populations had an age mean (SD) of 46.9 years (16.6), 63.2 years (16.5), and 49.6 years (17) with a female percentage of 43.5%, 44.8%, and 57.3%, respectively. We assessed individual models using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for radiographic findings consistent with pneumonia and compared performance on different test sets with DeLong’s test. The prevalence of pneumonia was high enough at MSH (34.2%) relative to NIH and IU (1.2% and 1.0%) that merely sorting by hospital system achieved an AUC of 0.861 (95% CI 0.855-0.866) on the joint MSH-NIH dataset. Models trained on data from either NIH or MSH had equivalent performance on IU (P values 0.580 and 0.273, respectively) and inferior performance on data from each other relative to an internal test set (i.e., new data from within the hospital system used for training data; P values both <0.001). The highest internal performance was achieved by combining training and test data from MSH and NIH (AUC 0.931, 95% CI 0.927-0.936), but this model demonstrated significantly lower external performance at IU (AUC 0.815, 95% CI 0.745-0.885, P = 0.001). To test the effect of pooling data from sites with disparate pneumonia prevalence, we used stratified subsampling to generate MSH-NIH cohorts that only differed in disease prevalence between training data sites. When both training data sites had the same pneumonia prevalence, the model performed consistently on external IU data (P = 0.88). When a 10-fold difference in pneumonia rate was introduced between sites, internal test performance improved compared to the balanced model (10× MSH risk P < 0.001; 10× NIH P = 0.002), but this outperformance failed to generalize to IU (MSH 10× P < 0.001; NIH 10× P = 0.027). CNNs were able to directly detect hospital system of a radiograph for 99.95% NIH (22,050/22,062) and 99.98% MSH (8,386/8,388) radiographs. The primary limitation of our approach and the available public data is that we cannot fully assess what other factors might be contributing to hospital system-specific biases.

CONCLUSION:

Pneumonia-screening CNNs achieved better internal than external performance in 3 out of 5 natural comparisons. When models were trained on pooled data from sites with different pneumonia prevalence, they performed better on new pooled data from these sites but not on external data. CNNs robustly identified hospital system and department within a hospital, which can have large differences in disease burden and may confound predictions.

PMID: 30399157 PMCID: PMC6219764 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002683

[Indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article

Images from this publication.See all images (3)Free text

 

 

Surprisingly, not many researchers have begun to use data obtained from different hospitals.  The FDA has issued some guidance in the matter but considers “locked” AI software or unchanging software as a medical device.  However they just announced development of a framework for regulating more cutting edge software that continues to learn over time.

Still the key point is that collaboration over multiple health systems in various countries may be necessary for development of AI software which is used in multiple clinical settings.  Otherwise each hospital will need to develop their own software only used on their own system and would provide a regulatory headache for the FDA.

 

Other articles on Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Medicine on this Open Access Journal include:

Top 12 Artificial Intelligence Innovations Disrupting Healthcare by 2020

The launch of SCAI – Interview with Gérard Biau, director of the Sorbonne Center for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI).

Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence #AI: Realizing Precision Medicine One Patient at a Time

50 Contemporary Artificial Intelligence Leading Experts and Researchers

 

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New Neuromodulation Device to Treat Migraines

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Theranica, Israeli startup is developing a non-invasive medical device that treats migraine pain through smartphone-controlled electric pulses unlike existing pharmaceutical solutions like triptans and ergotamine. The company recently received FDA De-novo clearance on Nerivio Migra, a class II medical device to treat acute migraine pain.

The non-invasive medical device, Nerivio Migra contains a bioelectric patch which is placed on the upper arm and a linked smartphone app which controls the electrical impulses and records data. The device’s electric pulses excite C-fiber nerves, generating an analgesic mechanism in the brain that lightens migraine pain.

In order to diminish the overuse of painkillers, the company developed the non-invasive device and tested it among acute migraine patients both two and 48 hours after treatment. Side effects from the device were mild and resolved within 24 hours.

Theranica’s product is lower in price than the existing alternatives and it is using existing smartphone technology. Their initial focus is on marketing to headache clinics as a start. And hoping to expand the indications for its device to the pediatric migraine population and finally use its platform to treat other idiopathic pain conditions like cluster headaches.

SOURCE

Israeli startup gets FDA nod for neuromodulation device to treat migraines

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Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Genome Editing and Regulatory Harmonization: Progress and Challenges

Reporter: Stephen J Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

 

Genome editing offers the potential of new and effective treatments for genetic diseases. As companies work to develop these treatments, regulators are focused on ensuring that any such products meet applicable safety and efficacy requirements. This panel will discuss how European Union and United States regulators are approaching therapeutic use of genome editing, issues in harmonization between these two – and other – jurisdictions, challenges faced by industry as regulatory positions evolve, and steps that organizations and companies can take to facilitate approval and continued efforts at harmonization.

 

CBER:  because of the nature of these gene therapies, which are mainly orphan, there is expedited review.  Since they started this division in 2015, they have received over 1500 applications.

Spark: Most of the issues were issues with the primary disease not the gene therapy so they had to make new endpoint tests so had talks with FDA before they entered phase III.   There has been great collaboration with FDA,  now they partnered with Novartis to get approval outside US.  You should be willing to partner with EU pharmas to expedite the regulatory process outside US.  In China the process is new and Brazil is behind on their gene therapy guidance.  However there is the new issue of repeat testing of your manufacturing process, as manufacturing of gene therapies had been small scale before. However he notes that problems with expedited review is tough because you don’t have alot of time to get data together.  They were lucky that they had already done a randomized trial.

Sidley Austin:  EU regulatory you make application with advance therapy you don’t have a national option, the regulation body assesses a committee to see if has applicability. Then it goes to a safety committee.  EU has been quicker to approve these advance therapies. Twenty five percent of their applications are gene therapies.  Companies having issues with manufacturing.  There can be issues when the final application is formalized after discussions as problems may arise between discussions, preliminary applications, and final applications.

Sarepta: They have a robust gene therapy program.  Their lead is a therapy for DMD (Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy) where affected males die by 25. Japan and EU have different regulatory applications and although they are similar and data can be transferred there is more paperwork required by EU.  The US uses an IND for application. Global feedback is very challenging, they have had multiple meetings around the world and takes a long time preparing a briefing package….. putting a strain on the small biotechs.  No company wants to be either just EU centric or US centric they just want to get out to market as fast as possible.

 

Please follow LIVE on TWITTER using the following @ handles and # hashtags:

@Handles

@pharma_BI

@AVIVA1950

@BIOConvention

# Hashtags

#BIO2019 (official meeting hashtag)

 

 

 

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Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Chat with @FDA Commissioner, & Challenges in Biotech & Gene Therapy June 4 Philadelphia

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD @StephenJWillia2

 

  • taking patient concerns and voices from anecdotal to data driven system
  • talked about patient accrual hearing patient voice not only in ease of access but reporting toxicities
  • at FDA he wants to remove barriers to trial access and accrual; also talk earlier to co’s on how they should conduct a trial

Digital tech

  • software as medical device
  • regulatory path is mixed like next gen sequencing
  • wearables are concern for FDA (they need to recruit scientists who know this tech

Opioids

  • must address the crisis but in a way that does not harm cancer pain patients
  • smaller pain packs “blister packs” would be good idea

Clinical trial modernization

  • for Alzheimers disease problem is science
  • for diabetes problem is regulatory
  • different diseases calls for different trial design
  • have regulatory problems with rare diseases as can’t form control or placebo group, inhumane. for example ras tumors trials for MEK inhibitors were narrowly focused on certain ras mutants
Realizing the Promise of Gene Therapies for Patients Around the World

103ABC, Level 100

Speakers
Lots of promise, timeline is progressing faster but we need more education on use of the gene therapy
Regulatory issues: Cell and directly delivered gene based therapies have been now approved. Some challenges will be the ultrarare disease trials and how we address manufacturing issues.  Manufacturing is a big issue at CBER and scalability.  If we want to have global impact of these products we need to address the manufacturing issues
 of scalability.
Pfizer – clinical grade and scale is important.
Aventis – he knew manufacturing of biologics however gene therapy manufacturing has its separate issues and is more complicated especially for regulatory purposes for clinical grade as well as scalability.  Strategic decision: focusing on the QC on manufacturing was so important.  Had a major issue in manufacturing had to shut down and redesign the system.
Albert:  Manufacturing is the most important topic even to the investors.  Investors were really conservative especially seeing early problems but when academic centers figured out good efficacy then they investors felt better and market has exploded.  Now you can see investment into preclinical and startups but still want mature companies to focus on manufacturing.  About $10 billion investment in last 4 years.

How Early is Too Early? Valuing and De-Risking Preclinical Opportunities

109AB, Level 100

Speakers
Valuing early-stage opportunities is challenging. Modeling will often provide a false sense of accuracy but relying on comparable transactions is more art than science. With a long lead time to launch, even the most robust estimates can ultimately prove inaccurate. This interactive panel will feature venture capital investors and senior pharma and biotech executives who lead early-stage transactions as they discuss their approaches to valuing opportunities, and offer key learnings from both successful and not-so-successful experiences.
Dr. Schoenbeck, Pfizer:
  • global network of liaisons who are a dedicated team to research potential global startup partners or investments.  Pfizer has a separate team to evaluate academic laboratories.  In Most cases Pfizer does not initiate contact.  It is important to initiate the first discussion with them in order to get noticed.  Could be just a short chat or discussion on what their needs are for their portfolio.

Question: How early is too early?

Luc Marengere, TVM:  His company has early stage focus, on 1st in class molecules.  The sweet spot for their investment is a candidate selected compound, which should be 12-18 months from IND.  They will want to bring to phase II in less than 4 years for $15-17 million.  Their development model is bad for academic labs.  During this process free to talk to other partners.

Dr. Chaudhary, Biogen:  Never too early to initiate a conversation and sometimes that conversation has lasted 3+ years before a decision.  They like build to buy models, will do convertible note deals, candidate compound selection should be entering in GLP/Tox phase (sweet spot)

Merck: have MRL Venture Fund for pre series A funding.  Also reiterated it is never too early to have that initial discussion.  It will not put you in a throw away bin.  They will have suggestions and never like to throw out good ideas.

Michael Hostetler: Set expectations carefully ; data should be validated by a CRO.  If have a platform, they will look at the team first to see if strong then will look at the platform to see how robust it is.

All noted that you should be completely honest at this phase.  Do not overstate your results or data or overhype your compound(s).  Show them everything and don’t have a bias toward compounds you think are the best in your portfolio.  Sometimes the least developed are the ones they are interested in.  Also one firm may reject you however you may fit in others portfolios better so have a broad range of conversations with multiple players.

 

 

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A Timeline of Dr. Gottlieb’s Tenure at the FDA: 2017-2019

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

From FiercePharma.com

FDA chief Scott Gottlieb steps down, leaving pet projects behind

Scott Gottlieb FDA
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was appointed by President Trump in 2017. (FDA)

Also under his command, the FDA took quick and decisive action on drug costs. The commissioner worked to boost generic approvals and crack down on regulatory “gaming” that stifles competition. He additionally blamed branded drug companies for an “anemic” U.S. biosimilars market and recently blasted insulin pricing.

His sudden departure will likely leave many agency efforts to lower costs up in the air. After the news broke, many pharma watchers posted on Twitter that Gottlieb’s resignation is a loss for the industry.

During his tenure as FDA commissioner, Gottlieb’s name had been floated for HHS chief when former HHS secretary Tom Price resigned due to a travel scandal, but Gottlieb said he was best suited for the FDA commissioner job. Now, former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar serves as HHS secretary, and on Tuesday afternoon, Azar praised Gottlieb for his work at the agency.

Also read from FiercePharma:

Gottlieb’s quick goodbye triggers investor panic, biopharma bewilderment and at least one good riddance

AUDIT Podcast

An emergency Scott Gottlieb podcast

 

Why is Scott Gottlieb quitting the FDA? Who will replace him?

 

A Timeline of Dr. Gottlieb’s Tenure at the FDA

From FiercePharma.com

New FDA commissioner Gottlieb unveils price-fighting strategies

Scott Gottlieb
New FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb laid out some approaches the agency will take to fight high prices.

UPDATED 3/19/2019

Dr. Norman E. Sharpless was named acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday. For the last 18 months, he had been director of the National Cancer Institute.CreditTom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images
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Dr. Norman E. Sharpless was named acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday. For the last 18 months, he had been director of the National Cancer Institute.CreditCreditTom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Dr. Norman E. (Ned) Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Alex M. Azar III, secretary of health and human services, announced on Tuesday.

Dr. Sharpless temporarily will fill the post being vacated by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who stunned public health experts, lawmakers and consumer groups last week when he abruptly announced that he was resigningfor personal reasons.

Dr. Sharpless has been director of the cancer center, part of the National Institutes of Health, since October 2017. He is also chief of the aging biology and cancer section in the National Institute on Aging’s Laboratory of Genetics and Genomics. His research focuses on the relationship between aging and cancer, and development of new treatments for melanoma, lung cancer and breast cancer.

“Dr. Sharpless’s deep scientific background and expertise will make him a strong leader for F.D.A.,” said Mr. Azar, in a statement. “There will be no let up in the agency’s focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opioid crisis to modernizing food safety and addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes.”

Dr. Douglas Lowy, known for seminal research on the link between human papillomavirus and multiple cancer types including cervical, and ultimately leading to development of a vaccine, will be named head of the NCI to replace Dr. Sharpless. Dr. Lowy currently is Deputy Director of the NCI.

Other posts on the Food and Drug Administration and FDA Approvals during Dr. Gotlieb’s Tenure on this Open Access Journal Include:

 

Regulatory Affairs: Publications on FDA-related Issues – Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

FDA Approves La Jolla’s Angiotensin 2

In 2018, FDA approved an all-time record of 62 new therapeutic drugs (NTDs) [Not including diagnostic imaging agents, included are combination products with at least one new molecular entity as an active ingredient] with average Peak Sales per NTD $1.2Billion.

Alnylam Announces First-Ever FDA Approval of an RNAi Therapeutic, ONPATTRO™ (patisiran) for the Treatment of the Polyneuropathy of Hereditary Transthyretin-Mediated Amyloidosis in Adults

FDA: Rejects NDA filing: “clinical and non-clinical pharmacology sections of the application were not sufficient to complete a review”: Celgene’s Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis Drug – Ozanimod

Expanded Stroke Thrombectomy Guidelines: FDA expands treatment window for use (Up to 24 Hours Post-Stroke) of clot retrieval devices (Stryker’s Trevo Stent) in certain stroke patients

In 2017, FDA approved a record number of 19 personalized medicines — 16 new molecular entities and 3 gene therapies – PMC’s annual analysis, titled Personalized Medicine at FDA: 2017 Progress Report

FDA Approval marks first presentation of bivalirudin in frozen, premixed, ready-to-use formulation

Skin Regeneration Therapy One of First Tissue Engineering Products Evaluated by FDA

FDA approval on 12/1/2017 of Amgen’s evolocumb (Repatha) a PCSK9 inhibitor for the prevention of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary revascularizations in patients with established cardiovascular disease

FDA Approval of Anti-Depression Digital Pill Tracks Use When Swallowed and transmits to MDs Smartphone – A Breakthrough in Medication Remote Compliance Monitoring

Medical Devices Early Feasibility FDA’s Pathway – Accelerated Recruitment for Randomized Clinical Trials: Replacement and Repair of Mitral Valves

Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), FDA approved genetically engineered immune cells, would charge $475,000 per patient, will use Programs that Payers will pay only for Responding Patients 

FDA has approved the world’s first CAR-T therapy, Novartis for Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Gilead’s $12 billion buy of Kite Pharma, no approved drug and Canakinumab for Lung Cancer (may be?)

FDA: CAR-T therapy outweigh its risks tisagenlecleucel, manufactured by Novartis of Basel – 52 out of 63 participants — 82.5% — experienced overall remissions – young patients with Leukaemia [ALL]

‘Landmark FDA approval bolsters personalized medicine’ by Edward Abrahams, PhD, President, PMC

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37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: News at #JPM2019 for Jan. 8, 2019: Deals and Announcements

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

From Biospace.com

JP Morgan Healthcare Conference Update: FDA, bluebird, Moderna and the Price of Coffee

Researcher holding test tube up behind circle of animated research icons

Tuesday, January 8, was another busy day in San Francisco for the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. One interesting sideline was the idea that the current government shutdown could complicate some deals. Kent Thiry, chief executive officer of dialysis provider DaVita, who is working on the sale of its medical group to UnitedHealth Group this quarter, said, “We couldn’t guarantee that even if the government wasn’t shut down, but we and the buyer are both working toward that goal with the same intensity if not more.”

And in a slightly amusing bit of synchrony, U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s keynote address that was delivered by way of video conference from Washington, D.C., had his audio cut out in the middle of the presentation. Gottlieb was talking about teen nicotine use and continued talking, unaware that his audio had shut off for 30 seconds. When it reconnected, the sound quality was reportedly poor.

Click to search for life sciences jobs

bluebird bio’s chief executive officer, Nick Leschlygave an update of his company’s pipeline, with a particular emphasis on a proposed payment model for its upcoming LentiGlobin, a gene therapy being evaluated for transfusion-dependent ß-thalassemia (TDT). The gene therapy is expected to be approved in Europe this year and in the U.S. in 2020. Although the price hasn’t been set, figures up to $2.1 million per treatment have been floated. Bluebird is proposing a five-year payment program, a pledge to not raise prices above CPI, and no costs after the payment period.

Eli Lilly’s chief executive officer David Ricks, just days after acquiring Loxo Oncologyoffered up projections for this year, noting that 45 percent of its revenue will be created by drugs launched in 2015. Those include Trulicity, Taltz and Verzenio. The company also expects to launch two new molecular entities this year—nasal glucagons, a rescue medicine for high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), and Lasmiditan, a rescue drug for migraine headaches.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer interviewed Allergan chief executive officer Brent Saunders, in particular discussing the fact the company’s shares traded in 2015 for $331.15 but were now trading for $145.60. Cramer noted that the company’s internal fundamentals were strong, with multiple pipeline assets and a strong leadership team. Some of the stock problems are related to what Saunders said were “unforced errors,” including intellectual property rights to Restasis, its dry-eye drug, and Allergan’s dubious scheme to protect those patents by transferring the rights to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in New York. On the positive side, the company’s medical aesthetics portfolio, dominated by Botox, is very strong and the overall market is expected to double.

One of the big areas of conversation is so-called “flyover tech.” Biopharma startups are dominant in Boston and in San Francisco, but suddenly venture capital investors have realized there’s a lot going on in between. New York City-based Radian Capital, for example, invests exclusively in markets outside major U.S. cities.

“At Radian, we partner with entrepreneurs who have built their businesses with a focus on strong economics rather than growth at all costs,” Aly Lovett, partner at Radian, told The Observer. “Historically, given the amount of money required to stand up a product, the software knowledge base, and coastal access to capital, health start-ups were concentrated in a handful of cities. As those dynamics have inverted and as the quality of living becomes a more important factor in attracting talent, we’re not seeing a significant increase in the number of amazing companies being built outside of the Bay Area.”

“Flyover companies” mentioned include Bind in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Solera Health in Phoenix, Arizona; ClearDATA in Austin, Texas; Healthe, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; HistoSonics in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and many others.

Only a month after its record-breaking IPO, Moderna Therapeutics’ chief executive officer Stephane Bancelspent time both updating the company’s clinical pipeline and justifying the company’s value despite the stock dropping off 26 percent since the IPO. Although one clinical program, a Zika vaccine, mRNA-1325, has been abandoned, the company has three new drugs coming into the clinic: mRNA-2752 for solid tumors or lymphoma; mRNA-4157, a Personalized Cancer Vaccine with Merck; and mRNA-5671, a KRAS cancer vaccine. The company also submitted an IND amendment to the FDA to add an ovarian cancer cohort to its mRNA-2416 program.

One interesting bit of trivia, supplied on Twitter by Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, this year at the conference, 33 female chief executive officers were presenting corporate updates … compared to 19 men named Michael. Well, it’s a start.

And for another bit of trivia, Elisabeth Bik, of Microbiome Digest, tweeted, “San Francisco prices are so out of control that one hotel is charging the equivalent of $21.25 for a cup of coffee during a JPMorgan conference.”

Other posts on the JP Morgan 2019 Healthcare Conference on this Open Access Journal include:

#JPM19 Conference: Lilly Announces Agreement To Acquire Loxo Oncology

36th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE January 8 – 11, 2018

37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: #JPM2019 for Jan. 8, 2019; Opening Videos, Novartis expands Cell Therapies, January 7 – 10, 2019, Westin St. Francis Hotel | San Francisco, California

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Update on FDA Policy Regarding 3D Bioprinted Material

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Last year (2015) in late October the FDA met to finalize a year long process of drafting guidances for bioprinting human tissue and/or medical devices such as orthopedic devices.  This importance of the development of these draft guidances was highlighted in a series of articles below, namely that

  • there were no standards as a manufacturing process
  • use of human tissues and materials could have certain unforseen adverse events associated with the bioprinting process

In the last section of this post a recent presentation by the FDA is given as well as an excellent  pdf here BioprintingGwinnfinal written by a student at University of Kentucky James Gwinn on regulatory concerns of bioprinting.

Bio-Printing Could Be Banned Or Regulated In Two Years

3D Printing News January 30, 2014 No Comments 3dprinterplans

organovaliver

 

 

 

 

 

Cross-section of multi-cellular bioprinted human liver tissue Credit: organovo.com

Bio-printing has been touted as the pinnacle of additive manufacturing and medical science, but what if it might be shut down before it splashes onto the medical scene. Research firm, Gartner Inc believes that the rapid development of bio-printing will spark calls to ban the technology for human and non-human tissue within two years.

A report released by Gartner predicts that the time is drawing near when 3D-bioprinted human organs will be readily available, causing widespread debate. They use an example of 3D printed liver tissue by a San Diego-based company named Organovo.

“At one university, they’re actually using cells from human and non-human organs,” said Pete Basiliere, a Gartner Research Director. “In this example, there was human amniotic fluid, canine smooth muscle cells, and bovine cells all being used. Some may feel those constructs are of concern.”

Bio-printing 

Bio-printing uses extruder needles or inkjet-like printers to lay down rows of living cells. Major challenges still face the technology, such as creating vascular structures to support tissue with oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, creating the connective tissue or scaffolding-like structures to support functional tissue is still a barrier that bio-printing will have to overcome.

Organovo has worked around a number of issues and they hope to print a fully functioning liver for pharmaceutical industry by the end of this year.  “We have achieved thicknesses of greater than 500 microns, and have maintained liver tissue in a fully functional state with native phenotypic behavior for at least 40 days,” said Mike Renard, Organovo’s executive vice president of commercial operations.

clinical trails and testing of organs could take over a decade in the U.S. This is because of the strict rules the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) places on any new technology. Bio-printing research could outplace regulatory agencies ability to keep up.

“What’s going to happen, in some respects, is the research going on worldwide is outpacing regulatory agencies ability to keep up,” Basiliere said. “3D bio-printing facilities with the ability to print human organs and tissue will advance far faster than general understanding and acceptance of the ramifications of this technology.”

Other companies have been successful with bio-printing as well. Munich-based EnvisionTEC is already selling a printer called a Bioplotter that sells for $188,000 and can print 3D pieces of human tissue. China’s Hangzhou Dianzi University has developed a printer called Regenovo, which printed a small working kidney that lasted four months.

“These initiatives are well-intentioned, but raise a number of questions that remain unanswered. What happens when complex enhanced organs involving nonhuman cells are made? Who will control the ability to produce them? Who will ensure the quality of the resulting organs?” Basiliere said.

Gartner believes demand for bio-printing will explode in 2015, due to a burgeoning population and insufficient levels of healthcare in emerging markets. “The overall success rates of 3D printing use cases in emerging regions will escalate for three main reasons: the increasing ease of access and commoditization of the technology; ROI; and because it simplifies supply chain issues with getting medical devices to these regions,” Basiliere said. “Other primary drivers are a large population base with inadequate access to healthcare in regions often marred by internal conflicts, wars or terrorism.”

It’s interesting to hear Gartner’s bold predictions for bio-printing. Some of the experts we have talked to seem to think bio-printing is further off than many expect, possibly even 20 or 30 years away for fully functioning organs used in transplants on humans. However, less complicated bio-printing procedures and tissue is only a few years away.

 

FDA examining regulations for 3‑D printed medical devices

Renee Eaton Monday, October 27, 2014

fdalogo

The official purpose of a recent FDA-sponsored workshop was “to provide a forum for FDA, medical device manufacturers, additive manufacturing companies and academia to discuss technical challenges and solutions of 3-D printing.” The FDA wants “input to help it determine technical assessments that should be considered for additively manufactured devices to provide a transparent evaluation process for future submissions.”

Simply put, the FDA is trying to stay current with advanced manufacturing technologies that are revolutionizing patient care and, in some cases, democratizing its availability. When a next-door neighbor can print a medical device in his or her basement, it clearly has many positive and negative implications that need to be considered.

Ignoring the regulatory implications for a moment, the presentations at the workshop were fascinating.

STERIS representative Dr. Bill Brodbeck cautioned that the complex designs and materials now being created with additive manufacturing make sterilization practices challenging. For example, how will the manufacturer know if the implant is sterile or if the agent has been adequately removed? Also, some materials and designs cannot tolerate acids, heat or pressure, making sterilization more difficult.

Dr. Thomas Boland from the University of Texas at El Paso shared his team’s work on 3-D-printed tissues. Using inkjet technology, the researchers are evaluating the variables involved in successfully printing skin. Another bio-printing project being undertaken at Wake Forest by Dr. James Yoo involves constructing bladder-shaped prints using bladder cell biopsies and scaffolding.

Dr. Peter Liacouras at Walter Reed discussed his institution’s practice of using 3-D printing to create surgical guides and custom implants. In another biomedical project, work done at Children’s National Hospital by Drs. Axel Krieger and Laura Olivieri involves the physicians using printed cardiac models to “inform clinical decisions,” i.e. evaluate conditions, plan surgeries and reduce operating time.

As interesting as the presentations were, the subsequent discussions were arguably more important. In an attempt to identify and address all significant impacts of additive manufacturing on medical device production, the subject was organized into preprinting (input), printing (process) and post-printing (output) considerations. Panelists and other stakeholders shared their concerns and viewpoints on each topic in an attempt to inform and persuade FDA decision-makers.

An interesting (but expected) outcome was the relative positions of the various stakeholders. Well-established and large manufacturers proposed validation procedures: material testing, process operating guidelines, quality control, traceability programs, etc. Independent makers argued that this approach would impede, if not eliminate, their ability to provide low-cost prosthetic devices.

Comparing practices to the highly regulated food industry, one can understand and accept the need to adopt similar measures for some additively manufactured medical devices. An implant is going into someone’s body, so the manufacturer needs to evaluate and assure the quality of raw materials, processing procedures and finished product.

But, as in the food industry, this means the producer needs to know the composition of materials. Suppliers cannot hide behind proprietary formulations. If manufacturers are expected to certify that a device is safe, they need to know what ingredients are in the materials they are using.

Many in the industry are also lobbying the FDA to agree that manufacturers should be expected to certify the components and not the additive manufacturing process itself. They argue that what matters is whether the device is safe, not what process was used to make it.

Another distinction should be the product’s risk level. Devices should continue to be classified as I, II or III and that classification, not the process used, should determine its level of regulation.

 

 

Will the FDA Regulate Bioprinting?

Published by Sandra Helsel, May 21, 2014 10:20 am

(3DPrintingChannel) The FDA currently assesses 3D printed medical devices and conventionally made products under the same guidelines, despite the different manufacturing methods involved. To receive device approval, manufacturers must prove that the device is equivalent to a product already on the market for the same use, or the device must undergo the process of attaining pre-market approval. However, the approval process for 3D printed devices could become complicated because the devices are manufactured differently and can be customizable. Two teams at the agency are now trying to determine how approval process should be tweaked to account for the changes.

3D Printing and 3D Bioprinting – Will the FDA Regulate Bioprinting?

This entry was posted by Bill Decker on May 20, 2014 at 8:52 am

3dprintedskin

 

 

 

 

 

VIEW VIDEO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KY-JZCXKXQ#action=share

 

The 3d printing revolution came to medicine and is making people happy while scaring them at the same time!

3-D printing—the process of making a solid object of any shape from a digital model—has grown increasingly common in recent years, allowing doctors to craft customized devices like hearing aids, dental implants, and surgical instruments. For example, University of Michigan researchers last year used a 3-D laser printer to create an airway splint out of plastic particles. In another case, a patient had 75% of his skull replaced with a 3-D printed implant customized to fit his head. The 3d printing revolution came to medicine and is making people happy while scaring them at the same time!

Printed hearts? Doctors are getting there
FDA currently treats assesses 3-D printed medical devices and conventionally made products under the same guidelines, despite the different manufacturing methods involved. To receive device approval, manufacturers must prove that the device is equivalent to a product already on the market for the same use, or the device must undergo the process of attaining pre-market approval.

“We evaluate all devices, including any that utilize 3-D printing technology, for safety and effectiveness, and appropriate benefit and risk determination, regardless of the manufacturing technologies used,” FDA spokesperson Susan Laine said.
However, the approval process for 3-D printed devices could become complicated because the devices are manufactured differently and can be customizable. Two teams at the agency now are trying to determine how approval process should be tweaked to account for the changes:

http://product-liability.weil.com/news/the-stuff-of-innovation-3d-bioprinting-and-fdas-possible-reorganization/

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The Stuff of Innovation – 3D Bioprinting and FDA’s Possible Reorganization

Weil Product Liability Monitor on September 10, 2013 ·

Posted in News

Contributing Author: Meghan A. McCaffrey

With 3D printers, what used to exist only in the realm of science fiction — who doesn’t remember the Star Trek food replicator that could materialize a drink or meal with the mere press of a button — is now becoming more widely available with  food on demand, prosthetic devices, tracheal splintsskull implants, and even liver tissue all having recently been printed, used, implanted or consumed.  3D printing, while exciting, also presents a unique hybrid of technology and biology, making it a potentially unique and difficult area to regulate and oversee.  With all of the recent technological advances surround 3D printer technology, the FDA recently announced in a blog post that it too was going 3D, using it to “expand our research efforts and expand our capabilities to review innovative medical products.”  In addition, the agency will be investigating how 3D printing technology impacts medical devices and manufacturing processes.  This will, in turn, raise the additional question of how such technology — one of the goals of which, at least in the medical world,  is to create unique and custom printed devices, tissue and other living organs for use in medical procedures — can be properly evaluated, regulated and monitored.
In medicine, 3D printing is known as “bioprinting,” where so-called bioprinters print cells in liquid or gel format in an attempt to engineer cartilage, bone, skin, blood vessels, and even small pieces of liver and other human tissues [see a recent New York Times article here].  Not to overstate the obvious, but this is truly cutting edge science that could have significant health and safety ramifications for end users.  And more importantly for regulatory purposes, such bioprinting does not fit within the traditional category of a “device” or a “biologic.”  As was noted in Forbes, “more of the products that FDA is tasked with regulating don’t fit into the traditional categories in which FDA has historically divided its work.  Many new medical products transcend boundaries between drugs, devices, and biologics…In such a world, the boundaries between FDA’s different centers may no longer make as much sense.”  To that end, Forbes reported that FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg announced Friday the formation of a “Program Alignment Group” at the FDA whose goal is to identify and develop plans “to best adapt to the ongoing rapid changes in the regulatory environment, driven by scientific innovation, globalization, the increasing complexity of regulated products, new legal authorities and additional user fee programs.”

It will be interesting to see if the FDA can retool the agency to make it a more flexible, responsive, and function-specific organization.  In the short term, the FDA has tasked two laboratories in the Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories with investigating how the new 3D technology can impact the safety and efficacy of devices and materials manufactured using the technology.  The Functional Performance and Device Use Laboratory is evaluating “the effect of design changes on the safety and performance of devices when used in different patient populations” while the Laboratory for Solid Mechanics is assessing “how different printing techniques and processes affect the strength and durability of the materials used in medical devices.”  Presumably, all of this information will help the FDA evaluate at some point in the future whether a 3D printed heart is safe and effective for use in the patient population.

In any case, this type of hybrid technology can present a risk for companies and manufacturers creating and using such devices.  It remains to be seen what sort of regulations will be put in place to determine, for example, what types of clinical trials and information will have to be provided before a 3D printer capable of printing a human heart is approved for use by the FDA.  Or even on a different scale, what regulatory hurdles (and on-going monitoring, reporting, and studies) will be required before bioprinted cartilage can be implanted in a patient’s knee.  Are food replicators and holodecks far behind?

http://www.raps.org/regulatory-focus/news/2014/05/19000/FDA-3D-Printing-Guidance-and-Meeting/

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FDA Plans Meeting to Explore Regulation, Medical Uses of 3D Printing Technology

Posted 16 May 2014 By Alexander Gaffney, RAC

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to soon hold a meeting to discuss the future of regulating medical products made using 3D printing techniques, it has announced.

fdaplanstomeetbioprinting

Background

3D printing is a manufacturing process which layers printed materials on top of one another, creating three-dimensional parts (as opposed to injection molding or routing materials).

The manufacturing method has recently come into vogue with hobbyists, who have been driven by several factors only likely to accelerate in the near future:

  • The cost of 3D printers has come down considerably.
  • Electronic files which automate the printing process are shareable over the Internet, allowing anyone with the sufficient raw materials to build a part.
  • The technology behind 3D printing is becoming more advanced, allowing for the manufacture of increasingly durable parts.

While the technology has some alarming components—the manufacture of untraceable weapons, for example—it’s increasingly being looked at as the future source of medical product innovation, and in particular for medical devices like prosthetics.

Promise and Problems

But while 3D printing holds promise for patients, it poses immense challenges for regulators, who must assess how to—or whether to—regulate the burgeoning sector.

In a recent FDA Voice blog posting, FDA regulators noted that 3D-printed medical devices have already been used in FDA-cleared clinical interventions, and that it expects more devices to emerge in the future.

Already, FDA’s Office of Science and Engineering laboratories are working to investigate how the technology will affect the future of device manufacturing, and CDRH’s Functional Performance and Device Use Laboratory is developing and adapting computer modeling methods to help determine how small design changes could affect the safety of a device. And at the Laboratory for Solid Mechanics, FDA said it is investigating the materials used in the printing process and how those might affect durability and strength of building materials.

And as Focus noted in August 2013, there are myriad regulatory challenges to confront as well. For example: If a 3D printer makes a medical device, will that device be considered adulterated since it was not manufactured under Quality System Regulation-compliant conditions? Would each device be required to be registered with FDA? And would FDA treat shared design files as unauthorized promotion if they failed to make proper note of the device’s benefits and risks? What happens if a device was never cleared or approved by FDA?

The difficulties for FDA are seemingly endless.

Plans for a Guidance Document

But there have been indications that FDA has been thinking about this issue extensively.

In September 2013, Focus first reported that CDRH Director Jeffery Shuren was planning to release a guidance on 3D printing in “less than two years.”

Responding to Focus, Shuren said the guidance would be primarily focused on the “manufacturing side,” and probably on how 3D printing occurs and the materials used rather than some of the loftier questions posed above.

“What you’re making, and how you’re making it, may have implications for how safe and effective that device is,” he said, explaining how various methods of building materials can lead to various weaknesses or problems.

“Those are the kinds of things we’re working through. ‘What are the considerations to take into account?'”

“We’re not looking to get in the way of 3D printing,” Shuren continued, noting the parallel between 3D printing and personalized medicine. “We’d love to see that.”

Guidance Coming ‘Soon’

In recent weeks there have been indications that the guidance could soon see a public release. Plastics News reported that CDRH’s Benita Dair, deputy director of the Division of Chemistry and Materials Science, said the 3D printing guidance would be announced “soon.”

“In terms of 3-D printing, I think we will soon put out a communication to the public about FDA’s thoughts,” Dair said, according to Plastics News. “We hope to help the market bring new devices to patients and bring them to the United States first. And we hope to play an integral part in that.”

Public Meeting

But FDA has now announced that it may be awaiting public input before it puts out that guidance document. In a 16 May 2014 Federal Register announcement, the agency said it will hold a meeting in October 2014 on the “technical considerations of 3D printing.”

“The purpose of this workshop is to provide a forum for FDA, medical device manufacturers, additive manufacturing companies, and academia to discuss technical challenges and solutions of 3-D printing. The Agency would like input regarding technical assessments that should be considered for additively manufactured devices to provide a transparent evaluation process for future submissions.”

That language—”transparent evaluation process for future submissions”—indicates that at least one level, FDA plans to treat 3D printing no differently than any other medical device, subjecting the products to the same rigorous premarket assessments that many devices now undergo.

FDA’s notice seems to focus on industrial applications for the technology—not individual ones. The agency notes that it has already “begun to receive submissions using additive manufacturing for both traditional and patient-matched devices,” and says it sees “many more on the horizon.”

Among FDA’s chief concerns, it said, are process verification and validation, which are both key parts of the medical device quality manufacturing regulations.

But the notice also indicates that existing guidance documents, such as those specific to medical device types, will still be in effect regardless of the 3D printing guidance.

Discussion Points

FDA’s proposed list of discussion topics include:

  • Preprinting considerations, including but not limited to:
    • material chemistry
    • physical properties
    • recyclability
    • part reproducibility
    • process validation
  • Printing considerations, including but not limited to:
    • printing process characterization
    • software used in the process
    • post-processing steps (hot isostatic pressing, curing)
    • additional machining
  • Post-printing considerations, including but not limited to:
    • cleaning/excess material removal
    • effect of complexity on sterilization and biocompatibility
    • final device mechanics
    • design envelope
    • verification

– See more at: http://www.raps.org/regulatory-focus/news/2014/05/19000/FDA-3D-Printing-Guidance-and-Meeting/#sthash.cDg4Utln.dpuf

 

FDA examining regulations for 3‑D printed medical devices

 

Renee Eaton Monday, October 27, 2014

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The official purpose of a recent FDA-sponsored workshop was “to provide a forum for FDA, medical device manufacturers, additive manufacturing companies and academia to discuss technical challenges and solutions of 3-D printing.” The FDA wants “input to help it determine technical assessments that should be considered for additively manufactured devices to provide a transparent evaluation process for future submissions.”

Simply put, the FDA is trying to stay current with advanced manufacturing technologies that are revolutionizing patient care and, in some cases, democratizing its availability. When a next-door neighbor can print a medical device in his or her basement, it clearly has many positive and negative implications that need to be considered.

Ignoring the regulatory implications for a moment, the presentations at the workshop were fascinating.

STERIS representative Dr. Bill Brodbeck cautioned that the complex designs and materials now being created with additive manufacturing make sterilization practices challenging. For example, how will the manufacturer know if the implant is sterile or if the agent has been adequately removed? Also, some materials and designs cannot tolerate acids, heat or pressure, making sterilization more difficult.

Dr. Thomas Boland from the University of Texas at El Paso shared his team’s work on 3-D-printed tissues. Using inkjet technology, the researchers are evaluating the variables involved in successfully printing skin. Another bio-printing project being undertaken at Wake Forest by Dr. James Yoo involves constructing bladder-shaped prints using bladder cell biopsies and scaffolding.

Dr. Peter Liacouras at Walter Reed discussed his institution’s practice of using 3-D printing to create surgical guides and custom implants. In another biomedical project, work done at Children’s National Hospital by Drs. Axel Krieger and Laura Olivieri involves the physicians using printed cardiac models to “inform clinical decisions,” i.e. evaluate conditions, plan surgeries and reduce operating time.

As interesting as the presentations were, the subsequent discussions were arguably more important. In an attempt to identify and address all significant impacts of additive manufacturing on medical device production, the subject was organized into preprinting (input), printing (process) and post-printing (output) considerations. Panelists and other stakeholders shared their concerns and viewpoints on each topic in an attempt to inform and persuade FDA decision-makers.

An interesting (but expected) outcome was the relative positions of the various stakeholders. Well-established and large manufacturers proposed validation procedures: material testing, process operating guidelines, quality control, traceability programs, etc. Independent makers argued that this approach would impede, if not eliminate, their ability to provide low-cost prosthetic devices.

Comparing practices to the highly regulated food industry, one can understand and accept the need to adopt similar measures for some additively manufactured medical devices. An implant is going into someone’s body, so the manufacturer needs to evaluate and assure the quality of raw materials, processing procedures and finished product.

But, as in the food industry, this means the producer needs to know the composition of materials. Suppliers cannot hide behind proprietary formulations. If manufacturers are expected to certify that a device is safe, they need to know what ingredients are in the materials they are using.

Many in the industry are also lobbying the FDA to agree that manufacturers should be expected to certify the components and not the additive manufacturing process itself. They argue that what matters is whether the device is safe, not what process was used to make it.

Another distinction should be the product’s risk level. Devices should continue to be classified as I, II or III and that classification, not the process used, should determine its level of regulation.

If you are interested in submitting comments to the FDA on this topic, post them by Nov. 10.

FDA Guidance Summary on 3D BioPrinting

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Human Factor Engineering: New Regulations Impact Drug Delivery, Device Design And Human Interaction

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Institute of Medicine report brought medical errors to the forefront of healthcare and the American public (Kohn, Corrigan, & Donaldson, 1999) and  estimated that between

44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors

An obstetric nurse connects a bag of pain medication intended for an epidural catheter to the mother’s intravenous (IV) line, resulting in a fatal cardiac arrest. Newborns in a neonatal intensive care unit are given full-dose heparin instead of low-dose flushes, leading to threedeaths from intracranial bleeding. An elderly man experiences cardiac arrest while hospitalized, but when the code blue team arrives, they are unable to administer a potentially life-saving shock because the defibrillator pads and the defibrillator itself cannot be physically connected.

Human factors engineering is the discipline that attempts to identify and address these issues. It is the discipline that takes into account human strengths and limitations in the design of interactive systems that involve people, tools and technology, and work environments to ensure safety, effectiveness, and ease of use.

 

FDA says drug delivery devices need human factors validation testing

Several drug delivery devices are on a draft list of med tech that will be subject to a final guidance calling for the application of human factors and usability engineering to medical devices. The guidance calls called for validation testing of devices, to be collected through interviews, observation, knowledge testing, and in some cases, usability testing of a device under actual conditions of use. The drug delivery devices on the list include anesthesia machines, autoinjectors, dialysis systems, infusion pumps (including implanted ones), hemodialysis systems, insulin pumps and negative pressure wound therapy devices intended for home use. Studieshave consistently shown that patients struggle to properly use drug delivery devices such as autoinjectors, which are becoming increasingly prevalent due to the rise of self-administered injectable biologics. The trend toward home healthcare is another driver of usability issues on the patient side, while professionals sometimes struggle with unclear interfaces or instructions for use.

 

Humanfactors engineering, also called ergonomics, or human engineering, science dealing with the application of information on physical and psychological characteristics to the design of devices and systems for human use. ( for more detail see source@ Britannica.com)

The term human-factors engineering is used to designate equally a body of knowledge, a process, and a profession. As a body of knowledge, human-factors engineering is a collection of data and principles about human characteristics, capabilities, and limitations in relation to machines, jobs, and environments. As a process, it refers to the design of machines, machine systems, work methods, and environments to take into account the safety, comfort, and productiveness of human users and operators. As a profession, human-factors engineering includes a range of scientists and engineers from several disciplines that are concerned with individuals and small groups at work.

The terms human-factors engineering and human engineering are used interchangeably on the North American continent. In Europe, Japan, and most of the rest of the world the prevalent term is ergonomics, a word made up of the Greek words, ergon, meaning “work,” and nomos, meaning “law.” Despite minor differences in emphasis, the terms human-factors engineering and ergonomics may be considered synonymous. Human factors and human engineering were used in the 1920s and ’30s to refer to problems of human relations in industry, an older connotation that has gradually dropped out of use. Some small specialized groups prefer such labels as bioastronautics, biodynamics, bioengineering, and manned-systems technology; these represent special emphases whose differences are much smaller than the similarities in their aims and goals.

The data and principles of human-factors engineering are concerned with human performance, behaviour, and training in man-machine systems; the design and development of man-machine systems; and systems-related biological or medical research. Because of its broad scope, human-factors engineering draws upon parts of such social or physiological sciences as anatomy, anthropometry, applied physiology, environmental medicine, psychology, sociology, and toxicology, as well as parts of engineering, industrial design, and operations research.

source@ Britannica.com

The human-factors approach to design

Two general premises characterize the approach of the human-factors engineer in practical design work. The first is that the engineer must solve the problems of integrating humans into machine systems by rigorous scientific methods and not rely on logic, intuition, or common sense. In the past the typical engineer tended either to ignore the complex and unpredictable nature of human behaviour or to deal with it summarily with educated guesses. Human-factors engineers have tried to show that with appropriate techniques it is possible to identify man-machine mismatches and that it is usually possible to find workable solutions to these mismatches through the use of methods developed in the behavioral sciences.

The second important premise of the human-factors approach is that, typically, design decisions cannot be made without a great deal of trial and error. There are only a few thousand human-factors engineers out of the thousands of thousands of engineers in the world who are designing novel machines, machine systems, and environments much faster than behavioral scientists can accumulate data on how humans will respond to them. More problems, therefore, are created than there are ready answers for them, and the human-factors specialist is almost invariably forced to resort to trying things out with various degrees of rigour to find solutions. Thus, while human-factors engineering aims at substituting scientific method for guesswork, its specific techniques are usually empirical rather than theoretical.

HFgeneralpic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man-Machine Model: Human-factors engineers regard humans as an element in systems

The simple man-machine model provides a convenient way for organizing some of the major concerns of human engineering: the selection and design of machine displays and controls; the layout and design of workplaces; design for maintainability; and the work environment.

Components of the Man-Machine Model

  1. human operator first has to sense what is referred to as a machine display, a signal that tells him something about the condition or the functioning of the machine
  2. Having sensed the display, the operator interprets it, perhaps performs some computation, and reaches a decision. In so doing, the worker may use a number of human abilities, Psychologists commonly refer to these activities as higher mental functions; human-factors engineers generally refer to them as information processing.
  3. Having reached a decision, the human operator normally takes some action. This action is usually exercised on some kind of a control—a pushbutton, lever, crank, pedal, switch, or handle.
  4. action upon one or more of these controls exerts an influence on the machine and on its output, which in turn changes the display, so that the cycle is continuously repeated

 

Driving an automobile is a familiar example of a simple man-machine system. In driving, the operator receives inputs from outside the vehicle (sounds and visual cues from traffic, obstructions, and signals) and from displays inside the vehicle (such as the speedometer, fuel indicator, and temperature gauge). The driver continually evaluates this information, decides on courses of action, and translates those decisions into actions upon the vehicle’s controls—principally the accelerator, steering wheel, and brake. Finally, the driver is influenced by such environmental factors as noise, fumes, and temperature.

 

hfactorconsideroutcomes

How BD Uses Human Factors to Design Drug-Delivery Systems

Posted in Design Services by Jamie Hartford on August 30, 2013

 Human factors testing has been vital to the success of the company’s BD Physioject Disposable Autoinjector.

Improving the administration and compliance of drug delivery is a common lifecycle strategy employed to enhance short- and long-term product adoption in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. With increased competition in the industry and heightened regulatory requirements for end-user safety, significant advances in product improvements have been achieved in the injectable market, for both healthcare professionals and patients. Injection devices that facilitate preparation, ease administration, and ensure safety are increasingly prevalent in the marketplace.

Traditionally, human factors engineering addresses individualized aspects of development for each self-injection device, including the following:

  • Task analysis and design.
  • Device evaluation and usability.
  • Patient acceptance, compliance, and concurrence.
  • Anticipated training and education requirements.
  • System resilience and failure.

To achieve this, human factors scientists and engineers study the disease, patient, and desired outcome across multiple domains, including cognitive and organizational psychology, industrial and systems engineering, human performance, and economic theory—including formative usability testing that starts with the exploratory stage of the device and continues through all stages of conceptual design. Validation testing performed with real users is conducted as the final stage of the process.

To design the BD Physioject Disposable Autoinjector System , BD conducted multiple human factors studies and clinical studies to assess all aspects of performance safety, efficiency, patient acceptance, and ease of use, including pain perception compared with prefilled syringes.5 The studies provided essential insights regarding the overall user-product interface and highlighted that patients had a strong and positive response to both the product design and the user experience.

As a result of human factors testing, the BD Physioject Disposable Autoinjector System provides multiple features designed to aide in patient safety and ease of use, allowing the patient to control the start of the injection once the autoinjector is placed on the skin and the cap is removed. Specific design features included in the BD Physioject Disposable Autoinjector System include the following:

  • Ergonomic design that is easy to handle and use, especially in patients with limited dexterity.
  • A 360° view of the drug and injection process, allowing the patient to confirm full dose delivery.
  • A simple, one-touch injection button for activation.
  • A hidden needle before and during injection to reduce needle-stick anxiety.
  • A protected needle before and after injection to reduce the risk of needle stick injury.

 

YouTube VIDEO: Integrating Human Factors Engineering (HFE) into Drug Delivery

 

Notes:

 

 

The following is a slideshare presentation on Parental Drug Delivery Issues in the Future

 The Dangers of Medical Devices

The FDA receives on average 100,000 medical device incident reports per year, and more than a third involve user error.

In an FDA recall study, 44% of medical device recalls are due to design problems, and user error is often linked to the poor design of a product.

Drug developers need to take safe drug dosage into consideration, and this consideration requires the application of thorough processes for Risk Management and Human Factors Engineering (HFE).

Although unintended, medical devices can sometimes harm patients or the people administering the healthcare. The potential harm arises from two main sources:

  1. failure of the device and
  2. actions of the user or user-related errors. A number of factors can lead to these user-induced errors, including medical devices are often used under stressful conditions and users may think differently than the device designer.

Human Factors: Identifying the Root Causes of Use Errors

Instead of blaming test participants for use errors, look more carefully at your device’s design.

Great posting on reasons typical design flaws creep up in medical devices and where a company should integrate fixes in product design.
Posted in Design Services by Jamie Hartford on July 8, 2013

 

 

YouTube VIDEO: Integrating Human Factors Engineering into Medical Devices

 

 

Notes:

 

 Regulatory Considerations

  • Unlike other medication dosage forms, combination products require user interaction
  •  Combination products are unique in that their safety profile and product efficacy depends on user interaction
Human Factors Review: FDA Outlines Highest Priority Devices

Posted 02 February 2016By Zachary Brennan on http://www.raps.org/Regulatory-Focus/News/2016/02/02/24233/Human-Factors-Review-FDA-Outlines-Highest-Priority-Devices/ 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday released new draft guidance to inform medical device manufacturers which device types should have human factors data included in premarket submissions, as well final guidance from 2011 on applying human factors and usability engineering to medical devices.

FDA said it believes these device types have “clear potential for serious harm resulting from use error and that review of human factors data in premarket submissions will help FDA evaluate the safety and effectiveness and substantial equivalence of these devices.”

Manufacturers should provide FDA with a report that summarizes the human factors or usability engineering processes they have followed, including any preliminary analyses and evaluations and human factors validation testing, results and conclusions, FDA says.

The list was based on knowledge obtained through Medical Device Reporting (MDRs) and recall data, and includes:

  • Ablation generators (associated with ablation systems, e.g., LPB, OAD, OAE, OCM, OCL)
  • Anesthesia machines (e.g., BSZ)
  • Artificial pancreas systems (e.g., OZO, OZP, OZQ)
  • Auto injectors (when CDRH is lead Center; e.g., KZE, KZH, NSC )
  • Automated external defibrillators
  • Duodenoscopes (on the reprocessing; e.g., FDT) with elevator channels
  • Gastroenterology-urology endoscopic ultrasound systems (on the reprocessing; e.g., ODG) with elevator channels
  • Hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis systems (e.g., FKP, FKT, FKX, KDI, KPF ODX, ONW)
  • Implanted infusion pumps (e.g., LKK, MDY)
  • Infusion pumps (e.g., FRN, LZH, MEA, MRZ )
  • Insulin delivery systems (e.g., LZG, OPP)
  • Negative-pressure wound therapy (e.g., OKO, OMP) intended for home use
  • Robotic catheter manipulation systems (e.g., DXX)
  • Robotic surgery devices (e.g., NAY)
  • Ventilators (e.g., CBK, NOU, ONZ)
  • Ventricular assist devices (e.g., DSQ, PCK)

Final Guidance

In addition to the draft list, FDA finalized guidance from 2011 on applying human factors and usability engineering to medical devices.

The agency said it received over 600 comments on the draft guidance, which deals mostly with design and user interface, “which were generally supportive of the draft guidance document, but requested clarification in a number of areas. The most frequent types of comments requested revisions to the language or structure of the document, or clarification on risk mitigation and human factors testing methods, user populations for testing, training of test participants, determining the appropriate sample size in human factors testing, reporting of testing results in premarket submissions, and collecting human factors data as part of a clinical study.”

In response to these comments, FDA said it revised the guidance, which supersedes guidance from 2000 entitled “Medical Device Use-Safety: Incorporating Human Factors Engineering into Risk Management,” to clarify “the points identified and restructured the information for better readability and comprehension.”

Details

The goal of the guidance, according to FDA, is to ensure that the device user interface has been designed such that use errors that occur during use of the device that could cause harm or degrade medical treatment are either eliminated or reduced to the extent possible.

FDA said the most effective strategies to employ during device design to reduce or eliminate use-related hazards involve modifications to the device user interface, which should be logical and intuitive.

In its conclusion, FDA also outlined the ways that device manufacturers were able to save money through the use of human factors engineering (HFE) and usability engineering (UE).

– See more at: http://www.raps.org/Regulatory-Focus/News/2016/02/02/24233/Human-Factors-Review-FDA-Outlines-Highest-Priority-Devices/#sthash.cDTr9INl.dpuf

 

Please see an FDA PowerPoint on Human Factors Regulatory Issues for Combination Drug/Device Products here: MFStory_RAPS 2011 – HF of ComboProds_v4

 

 

 

 

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Obesity Pharmaceutics

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Battling the Bulge

Weight-loss drugs that target newly characterized obesity-related receptors and pathways could finally offer truly effective fat control.

By Bob Grant | November 1, 2015

http://www.the-scientist.com//?articles.view/articleNo/44322/title/Battling-the-Bulge/

http://www.the-scientist.com/November2015/NovBioBiz2_640px.jpg

Several years ago, antiobesity drug development was not looking so hot. In 2007, Sanofi-Aventis failed to win US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for rimonabant—a pill that successfully helped people shed pounds—because the drug carried risks of depression and suicidal thoughts. Then, in 2008, Merck pulled the plug on its Phase 3 trials of taranabant because it also engendered suicidal thoughts and neurological effects in some participants. And a decade before those late-stage disappointments, a couple of FDA-approved weight-loss drugs were making headlines for carrying dangerous side effects. In 1997, the FDA pulled the obesity medications fenfluramine (of the wildly popular fen-phen drug combination) and dexfenfluramine (Redux) off the market after research turned up evidence of heart valve damage in people taking the drugs.

By 2009, Big Pharma was backing out of the weight-loss market, with Merck and Pfizer abandoning their programs to develop drugs similar to rimonabant and taranabant, which block cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Although the antiobesity drug market was big—according to CDC estimates, about 35 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese—a blockbuster weight-loss pill that didn’t have serious side effects was proving elusive.

But a few firms, including several small biotechs, decided to stick with it. “Some of the prior experience with drugs on the market, like fen-phen and Redux, have likely led large pharma to view the therapeutic space with some conservatism,” says Preston Klassen, executive vice president and head of global development at Orexigen Therapeutics, a small, California-based firm. “And generally, when you have that situation, smaller companies will step into that void when the science makes sense.” And their perseverance is starting to pay off. After a years-long drought in approvals for antiobesity medications, in the past few years the FDA has approved four new drugs specifically for general obesity: Belviq and Qsymia in 2012, and Contrave and Saxenda in late 2014. Three of these four were developed by small companies whose success hinges on one or a few compounds aimed directly at treating general obesity.

The recent burst of antiobesity drug approvals reflects an evolving appreciation for the molecular intricacies of this multifaceted, chronic disease. Today’s antiobesity drugs—including the four recent approvals and several more in development—have traded the blunt cudgel of appetite suppression for more precise targeting of pathways known to play roles in obesity. “With our understanding of the complex biology of obesity and all of the different molecules and receptors involved in the process, we’re much better able to target those molecules and receptors,” says Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta in Canada. “These are very specific agents that are designed for very specific actions. There is renewed enthusiasm in this field.”

Looking to combos

In the mid-20th century, the FDA approved several weight-loss drugs, starting with the appetite suppressant desoxyephedrine (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in 1947. Like the other appetite-suppressing drugs the FDA later approved through the 1950s and ’60s, desoxyephedrine accomplished short-term weight loss, but the transient benefit did not justify the side effects of long-term use, such as addiction, psychosis, and violent behavior. In 1973, as the nation voiced concern about the overuse of amphetamines, the FDA decreed that all obesity drugs were approved only for short-term use. The most recently approved obesity drugs, on the other hand, all have the FDA’s okay for long-term weight management.

Three of the newly approved drugs, Contrave, Belviq, and Qsymia, also aim to suppress appetite, and like many previous weight-loss therapies, all do so by targeting the hypothalamus, the brain region thought to be the seat of appetite control. Although the precise mechanism of Belviq, which is manufactured by San Diego–based Arena Pharmaceuticals, is unknown, researchers think that the key is its activation of serotonin-binding 5-HT2C receptors in proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the hypothalamus. When activated, these neurons reduce appetite and increase energy expenditure, according to Orexigen’s Klassen. His company’s Contrave also activates POMC neurons in the hypothalamus, while at the same time inhibiting opioid receptors, which would otherwise work to shut down POMC neuron firing, in the brain’s mesolimbic reward pathway. Contrave achieves this one-two punch because it is a combination therapy, incorporating two different compounds into a single weight-loss pill.

“The concept of a silver or magic bullet whereby one drug meets all of the needs within the obesity space has thus far proven to be inadequate,” says Klassen. “Right now I think the predominant opinion is that combination therapy is an appropriate way to go.”

Vivus’s Qsymia is also a combination drug, composed of phentermine—the other half of fen-phen and an activator of a G protein–coupled receptor called TAAR1—and an extended-release form of topiramate, an anticonvulsant with weight-loss side effects. Novo Nordisk—one of the few Big Pharma firms that stayed in the obesity game as others fled—is also turning its attention to combo therapies, testing its pipeline of investigational weight-loss compounds with Saxenda, its recently approved medicine that mimics glucagon peptide-1 (GLP-1), an appetite and calorie-intake regulator in the brain. “You need to combine at least two molecules to get the optimum effect,” says Novo Nordisk executive vice president and chief scientific officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen. The company has five other weight-loss compounds in development, and “we’re actually combining Saxenda with all of these new molecules,” he adds.

The University of Alberta’s Sharma agrees that combination therapies are a smart approach for attacking the multilayered mechanisms at play in obesity. “You’re dealing with a system that is very complex and very redundant. When you block one, other molecules or other parallel systems kick in,” he says. “My prediction for the future is that in order to get good results, one will have to move toward combinations . . . of more-specific and more-novel agents.”

On the horizon

On the heels of the recent FDA approvals, several new compounds with novel mechanisms of action are making their way through the drug-development pipeline. While most antiobesity drugs to date have aimed to suppress appetite by targeting brain regions involved in feelings of hunger and satiety, Boston-based Zafgen (for which Sharma serves as a paid advisor) is going after methionine aminopeptidase 2 (MetAP2) receptors in the liver and adipose tissue. “We’ve been one of the first ones to show that there is a significant and major weight-regulation center that the body has that exists outside the hypothalamus,” says Zafgen chief medical officer Dennis Kim. “Our drug [beloranib] is tapping into that mechanism.”

 

Zafgen researchers are investigating beloranib’s mechanism of action in patients that became very obese after their hypothalamus was damaged or removed as a result of craniopharyngioma, a type of brain cancer. “In about half of these cases, patients wake up hungry after surgery and it’s unrelenting, and they become morbidly obese very rapidly,” Kim says. Because the hypothalamus is damaged or missing, antiobesity drugs that target this brain region are ineffective. But beloranib “works just as well in these patients compared to patients with intact hypothalamus,” Kim says. As a result, beloranib may work in isolation without the need to combine different compounds, he adds. “If you can target a nodal point that’s much more upstream of simple circuitry-controlled hunger in the hypothalamus, you have the potential to reset the entire system.”

Meanwhile, another Boston-based firm, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, is conducting clinical trials on obese patients with rare genetic disorders that compromise the melanocortin-4 (MC4) pathway, known to be involved in body weight regulation. Rhythm’s setmelanotide (RM-493) is a first-in-class drug that activates the MC4 pathway. And several companies, including the Japanese pharma firm Shionogi, are developing compounds that block the receptor of a neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y, which plays a role in appetite stimulation and meal initiation.

Other new antiobesity targets include cyclic nucleotides, second messengers in signaling cascades such as the 3′-5′-cyclic guanosine monophosphate pathway, which conveys feelings of satiety and ramps up thermogenesis; amylin, a peptide hormone that slows gastric emptying and promotes satiety; ghrelin, a gut hormone that stimulates food intake; and a handful of pathways that affect nutrient absorption and metabolism. As more of obesity’s molecular complexities are sorted out, even more new drug targets will present themselves.

“I think we are on the verge of understanding obesity and the mechanisms underlying obesity,” says Novo Nordisk’s Thomsen. “That means that there is going to be a lot of good news for obesity going forward.”

 

WEIGHT-LOSS DRUG APPROVAL

© ISTOCK.COM/QUISP65Getting a weight-loss treatment approved by the FDA is a little different than the regulatory path taken by other drugs. To earn approval, companies must demonstrate that their drugs afford at least a 5 percent reduction in body weight over a year. And after a therapy reaches the market, companies have to conduct more research, specifically, into the drugs’ safety. Contrave, for example, which was approved in September 2014, is currently subject to rigorous post-marketing surveillance concerning evidence that the drug may lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Other recently approved antiobesity drugs are under similar surveillance regimens.

The FDA also requires companies to test some approved weight-loss drugs specifically for their cardiovascular side effects. “Serious safety concerns have arisen with several obesity drugs in the past, which have informed our approach to drug development,” FDA spokesperson Eric Pahon wrote in an email to The Scientist. “All drugs approved for chronic weight management since 2012 have either had a cardiovascular outcome trial (CVOT) underway at the time of approval or have been required to initiate a CVOT as a post-marketing requirement.”

This additional testing, however, may scare off some drug developers from entering the antiobesity arena, Vivus spokesperson Dana Shinbaum wrote in an email to The Scientist. “The hurdles remain high . . . [and] may discourage innovation in this area.”

But even with the significant regulatory hurdles, it’s tough to deny the potential that exists in the antiobesity drug market. “We view obesity as one of the few remaining untapped therapeutic areas within primary care,” says Preston Klassen of Orexigen Therapeutics. “We think it’s tremendously important from a medical perspective, and we think it’s been well documented that even small reductions in body weight have meaningful and sustained impact on improved health.”

 

 

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