FDA Standardizes Drug Applications Response Process

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is revising the way it communicates to drug companies when a marketing application cannot be approved as submitted. Under new regulations that govern the drug approval process, FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) will no longer issue "approvable" or "not approvable" letters when a drug application is not approved. Instead, CDER will issue a "complete response" letter at the end of the review period to let a drug company know of the agency's decision on the application.

"These new regulations will help the FDA adopt a more consistent and neutral way of conveying information to a company when we cannot approve a drug application in its present form," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., CDER director. "Thorough and timely review of drug applications is a priority of the FDA, and these new processes will make our communications with sponsors of applications more consistent."

The letter will describe specific deficiencies and, when possible, will outline recommended actions the applicant might take to get the application ready for approval.

Currently, when assessing new drug applications, FDA can respond to a sponsor in one of three types of letters: an "approval" letter, meaning the drug has met agency standards for safety and efficacy and the drug can be marketed for sale in the United States; an "approvable" letter, which generally indicates that the drug can probably be approved at a later date provided that the applicant provides certain additional information or makes specified changes (such as to labeling); or a "not approvable" letter, meaning the application has deficiencies generally requiring the submission of substantial additional data before the application can be approved.

"Complete response" letters are already used to respond to companies that submit biologic license applications. The process for drugs and biologics will be consistent under the new regulations.

FDA said the revision should not affect the overall time it takes the agency to review new or generic drug applications or biologic license applications. These changes, which will become effective on Aug. 11, 2008, are not expected to directly affect consumers.

In July 2004, FDA issued a proposed rule on these topics. At that time the agency asked for comments on the proposal. The final rule addresses comments submitted to the agency. For more information, view the Complete Response Final Rule and the Drug Approval Process Page.

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