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Tag: biogenerics

Biosimilars Legislation Introduced in House

Written by on Friday, March 20th, 2009

Two biosimilars bills have just been introduced in the House, each of which would establish regulatory path for biosimilars to be approved.

The first bill, HR 1427, the Promoting Innovation and Access to Life Saving Medicine Act, was introduced on March 11, 2009 by Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Nathan Deal (R-GA), and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO).

A second bill was introduced the following week. H.R. 1548, the Pathway to BioSimilars Act, was introduced on March 17, 2009 by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jay Inslee (D-WA), and Joe Barton (R-TX).

What are the key elements of each of the bills?

According to the HR 1427 Bill Summary, highlights of HR 1427 include as follows:

  • FDA authority to approve biosimilars;
  • approval process will require showing that (1) there are no clinically meaningful differences between the two products and (2) that the two products are highly similar in molecular structure and share the same mechanisms of action;
  • biosimilar may establish that it is “interchangeable” with the original product, and the first such biosimilar able to make such a showing will receive six months of exclusive marketing;
  • an original product with a novel molecular structure is entitled to five years of exclusive marketing, and a modification of a previously approved product is entitled to three years of exclusive marketing.  These periods can be extended by up to one year if it can be established that the product can be used for a new disease or that it conducts pediatric studies; and
  • a new procedure is established to resolve patent disputes prior to approval of the biosimilar, and penalties are put in place for failure to timely litigate such disputes.

In contrast, highlights of HR 1548 are as follows:

  • establishes safey standards for establishing interchangeability;
  • establishes exclusivity for the first  product found to be “interchangeable”  for a period of 24 months after the product has either been deemed to be interechangeable or goes on sale;
  • the reference product receives 12 years exclusivity, and that period of exclusivity will extend to 14 years in the event that a new indication is found for the product in the first 8 years after licensure;
  • an additional exclusivity period is also established for pediatric studies and use of product;

Which bill has been more widely received by the biotech industry?

Well, the biotech industry group BIO has indicated its preference for the second bill, according to reports by Fierce Biotech.    Fierce Biotech explained as follows:

For biotech companies, the difference between five years and 12 years of exclusivity could amount to billions of dollars.

In contrast, BIO did not have such a positive opinion of the first bill, stating in a press release as follows:

Unfortunately, the legislation introduced today would take patients and our industry down the wrong path – a path that jeopardizes the continued development of new breakthrough therapies and potential cures for debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s. . . .

“This bill seeks to cut prices but instead cuts corners.  This proposal leads us off the map as we seek an effective, fair and safe pathway to a biosimilars market.

“The legislation introduced today does not strike the necessary balance for patients or the economy.   Any biosimilars legislation must ensure safe and effective biosimilars, promote the continued development of new therapies and cures, and ensure the benefits of additional competition among biologics through the entry of biosimilars.

The California Biotech Law Blog will continue to follow this issue as debate on each of the proposed bills continues.

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FDA to Colloborate with Congress on Developing Follow-On Biologics Legislation

Written by on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Bioworld Today is reporting that the FDA and Congress will be joining forces to develop follow-on biologics legislation.

According to Bioworld Today, the Bush Administration indicated in the 2009 federal budget package released last week that “it would seek regulatory authority for the FDA to approve follow-on biologics, also called biosimilars or biogenerics, which would be financed through user fees. Currently, no such approval pathway exists for follow-on biologics.” Both the House and Senate had introduced follow-on biologics legislation last year, and planned to move the legislation forward in 2008.

What is the FDA’s current vision for the legislation?

Bioworld Today reported:

In a document titled “Other Legislative Items” that is part of the White House fiscal year 2009 budget, the administration said the follow-on biologic legislative proposal would include a “predictable and public guidance process for licensing follow-on protein products” under the Public Health Service Act.

“The proposal will prescribe the type of data required for FDA to review applications for follow-on protein products and will require labeling for the safety concerns related to the interchangeability of these products,” the Bush administration said.

The proposal also will include “adequate intellectual property protections to preserve continued robust research into new and innovative life-saving medications,” the document stated.

The news was viewed as a promising development  by both Sen. Charles Shumer (D-N.Y.) and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, both of which were interviewed by Bioworld Today.  Similarly, Jim Greenwood, CEO of the BIO industry organization indicated his support for the FDA approach, as well as Kathleen Jaeger, CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), who also expressed her approval for the development.  Having said this, the Bio Job Blog took issue with the FDA’s decision, stating:

I don’t think that Congress’s involvement is a good idea given the political wrangling, deal-making and concessions that must be made in order to get legislation passed.

Is the Bio Job Blog right to express concern about how this new joint effort will pan out?

Well, there is no doubt that the legislative process is time-consuming and is inevitably intertwined with politics and political compromises.  However, it is also true that a collaborative effort can greatly speed up the process, and having the administration on board means that any agreed-upon legislation is unlikely to end up with the words “vetoed” stamped on its front.  I would have to say that on the whole the development is a positive one, and suggests that we are one step closer to voting into law follow-on biologics legislation, which even Bio Job Blog concedes is likely, stating:

It looks as though follow-on biologics may become a reality in the US. . .  . I don’t think Americans will see follow-on biologics on the market before 2010 or 2011. That said, it gives us Americans something to look forward to!

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Biogenerics Legislation To Be Tabled in 2007

Written by on Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Biogenerics legislation will likely be tabled until 2008, reported the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report.

According to the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in a speech before the Generic Pharmaceutical Association on Thursday said legislation (HR 1038) that would allow FDA to approve generic versions of biotechnology drugs is unlikely to reach the House floor this year. . . .

Waxman said that although “enormous strides” have been made since he introduced the measure in February, scheduling issues would prevent the bill from being included in House legislation (HR 2900) that would overhaul FDA and reauthorize prescription drug user fees. Waxman tried to attach the generic biotech measure to the FDA overhaul bill in July but was unsuccessful.

The biotech industry can breathe a sigh of relief.  With the battle over patent reform legislation looming ahead this fall, biogenerics is one fight that the industry will not have to take on this year.

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Biotech Takes Steps to Fight Generic Threat

Written by on Monday, August 13th, 2007

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an interesting article last week on the steps that the biotech industry is taking to protect itself against the threat of generic copies, as patents run out and the threat of biogenerics legislation looms ahead.

The Chronicle reported on the issue as follows:

Whether many biotech companies will be able to beat the generic threat through innovation is an open question. But many will try. . . .

Traditional pharmaceutical companies, whose pills and tablets have been vulnerable to generic competition since 1984, have struggled to roll out significantly improved medicines before patents expired. Revenues for drugs such as the antidepressant Zoloft and the sleeping pill Ambien are plunging as generic sales rise.

“It remains to be seen if the same thing will happen in biotech,” Citigroup analyst Yaron Werber said. Some of the signs for biotech are favorable. “The industry continues to be a leader in innovation,” he said. That capacity for innovation is a significant added business risk for generic manufacturers who venture into the biotech realm, Werber said.

So what is the industry doing to prepare?

According to the Chronicle, Genentech is putting brand-names of its drugs on the market to compete with the drugs that are about to lose protection, and is also putting next-generation versions of its own drugs on the market.

In contrast, the Chronicle reported that other companies are racing to develop improved generic versions of the brand name drug.  The Chronicle stated as follows:

Two Bay Area companies, Affymax Inc. of Palo Alto and FibroGen Inc. of South San Francisco, are among the manufacturers working on next-generation drugs they hope will capture market share from Epogen and similar branded drugs. Affymax’s experimental compound Hematide requires less-frequent dosing. Theoretically, it could help patients avoid a very rare side effect associated with Epogen-like drugs.

All in all, the Chronicle put a positive spin on the issue, emphasizing that the industry was not concerned, arguing that the threat of biogenerics and the impending loss of patent protection just encouraged the industry to move forward with the development of more innovations.

Is this media spin or an accurate reflection of the mood of the industry?  My guess is that it is a little of both.  Smart industry players have to think ahead on how they will survive if biogenerics legislation becomes a reality, but one cannot help but question whether they are really as unconcerned as the Chronicle suggests.

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Genzyme’s Example of Myozyme: A Case Study for Why Biogenerics Legislation is a Bad Idea?

Written by on Monday, August 13th, 2007

Rebecca Zacks in XConomy provided an excellent overview of a blogosphere controversy that erupted last week over biogenerics legislation, in response to an article run by the Wall Street Journal on Genzyme’s recent difficulties in manufacturing the drug Myozyme at a second plant.

Zacks provided some background to the issue:

Myozyme, approved by the FDA last year for the treatment of an inherited muscle disorder called Pompe disease, could be a big source of revenue for Genzyme—the drug can cost more than $300,000 per year for an adult patient, according to the Journal article. But Genzyme has been unable to scale up production of the drug because the FDA has so far declined to approve a Boston plant meant to be its main source. While the company waits for that approval, it is providing some U.S. patients with free doses from a different plant in Framingham, MA—the one that produced the drug for the clinical trials—on an experimental basis. (The Framingham product is already approved for sale in other countries, but not the U.S.)

What’s stalling approval of the new factory, according the article, is a chemical difference between the Myozyme produced in Framingham and that produced in Boston.

Zack cited Wall Street Journal’s David Armstrong, who followed up on the Journal’s article with the following explanation:

Genzyme is having trouble persuading the FDA to sign off on Myozyme made in big batches. The agency wants to be sure the drug produced in large tanks is the same as the stuff Genzyme made successfully on a smaller scale.

Making biologics is complicated work, and that’s one reason the biotech industry has voiced caution about legislation to allow generic versions of the medicines.

In the case of Myozyme, billions of cells from hamster ovaries growing in large stainless steel tanks produce the enzyme Pompe patients lack. The fact that Genzyme, which has loads of biotech experience, is having such difficulty ramping up production of its own drug heightens worries about the ability of generic manufacturers to accurately copy brand-name biotech drugs.

Even small differences in these drugs could affect patients. Myozyme made in the big tanks contains less of a key carbohydrate that is believed to help certain muscle cells absorb the drug. Less absorption could reduce the drug’s effectiveness.

However, Zacks acknowledged that not all the bloggers give any real credence to the biotech’s industry’s position or to the argument that Myozeme should be a case study for why biogenerics legislation is a bad idea, citing Venture Beat’s David Hamilton, who had his own take on the controversy, arguing that the Wall Street Journal “missed a much more important point about biogenerics: [t]he double standard that the biotech industry holds” on determining the equivalence of different batches of drugs.  Hamilton wrote as follows:

The first issue here is that there’s nothing new about biotechs finding that new production batches of a complicated protein differ in certain ways from older batches. . . . Sometimes these differences are serious; more often, they’re not. . . .

The second issue — and those of you who’ve followed these debates can probably see where I’m going — is that the biotech industry wants to have it both ways when it comes to the “complicated work” of making biologics. Where biogenerics are concerned, the industry insists that copycat versions of biotech drugs must undergo those expensive and lengthy clinical trials in the interests of “patient safety.” When it comes to their own drugs, however, biotech companies are perfectly willing to rely on a battery of simpler tests to ensure that a new production batch is equivalent to an old one, and only run clinical trials as a last resort (and when forced to by the FDA).

All of which suggests that it would probably suffice to subject any would-be copycat drug to the same set of tests that biotech manufacturers themselves must meet for a new production facility. If it passes, it’s approved. If not, then it’s time to consider clinical trials. In fact, this is pretty much the “case-by-case” strategy adopted by the House and Senate biogenerics bills — ones that I’m pretty sure the Biotechnology Industry Organization opposed. In any event, it doesn’t seem too much to ask that journalists covering these debates realize that the case against biogenerics is a lot weaker than the industry would like us to think.

All in all, Zacks effectively captured a very interesting blogosphere debate on yet another aspect of the biogenerics controversy.  As you know if you follow this blog, I have indicated repeatedly in prior blogposts my view that biogenerics legislation is going to have a negative impact on the biotech industry.  I think I would agree with Venture Beat that this is the principal problem with biogenerics legislation, and that the argument that biogenerics legislation will somehow lead to dangerous copies of drugs being on the market is a fairly weak attempt at scaring the public and/or legislators into voting against such legislation.  There is already a mechanism in place to regulate drugs on the market–the FDA regulatory powers.  The much larger issue is what biogenerics legislation will do to discourage biotech innovations that should be a concern to all of us out there.  We all want to be able to afford to buy the drugs we need, but at the same time, we also want access to medications that will make us well when we come down with a horrible illness.  We should not lose sight that without a profit incentive to developing those medications, they won’t be available when we need them.

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