FDA takes steps to foster greater efficiency in biosimilar development by reconsidering draft guidance on evaluating analytical studies

FDAToday, the agency withdrew the draft guidance, "Statistical Approaches to Evaluate Analytical Similarity," issued in September 2017. The draft guidance, if finalized as written, was intended to provide advice for sponsors developing biosimilar products regarding the evaluation of analytical similarity between a proposed biosimilar product and a reference product. After considering public comments that the agency received about the draft guidance, the FDA determined it would withdraw the draft guidance as it gives further consideration to the scientific and regulatory issues involved.

"Biosimilars foster competition and can lower the cost of biologic treatments for patients, yet the market for these products is not advancing as quickly as I hoped. I believe that the FDA can do more to support the development of biosimilars, as well as promote the market acceptance of these products. As the cost to develop a single biosimilar product can reach hundreds of millions of dollars, it's important that we advance policies that help make the development of biosimilar products more efficient, and patient and provider acceptance more certain," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "One of the central aspects of biosimilar development and approval is the analytical studies performed to demonstrate that a biosimilar is highly similar to the reference product. We're taking a fresh look at our draft recommendations for evaluating analytical studies in order to ensure our guidance takes into consideration the most current and relevant science. We'll continue to work directly with biosimilar developers on their programs as we develop new draft guidance in this area. By supporting the more efficient development of biosimilars over the long term and helping reduce barriers to bringing these products to market, we can help ensure patients get access to affordable, safe and effective treatment options."

Comments submitted to the docket addressed a range of issues that could impact the cost and efficiency of biosimilar development, including the number of reference product lots the draft guidance would recommend biosimilar developers sample in their evaluation of high similarity and the statistical methods for this evaluation. The FDA believes that in better addressing these issues in the future, the agency can advance principles that can promote a more efficient pathway for the development of biosimilar products.

The agency intends to issue future draft guidance that will reflect state-of-the-art techniques in the evaluation of analytical data to support a demonstration that a proposed biosimilar product is highly similar to a reference product. The goal is for future draft guidance to address potential challenges faced by biosimilar sponsors in designing studies that are intended to demonstrate that a proposed biosimilar product is highly similar to a reference product, including consideration of appropriate methods to analyze analytical data to account for potential lot-to-lot variability of the reference product. Future draft guidance also will focus on providing appropriate flexibility for sponsors in order to help spur the efficient development of biosimilars without compromising the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for evaluating marketing applications for biosimilars.

The FDA continues to encourage sponsors of proposed biosimilar products to discuss product development plans with the agency, including the evaluation of analytical data intended to support a demonstration that the proposed biosimilar product is highly similar to a reference product. The FDA will continue to provide development-stage advice to sponsors of proposed biosimilar products or proposed interchangeable products through formal meetings and other interactions with sponsors.

The FDA will communicate publicly when new draft guidance is issued in relation to the evaluation of analytical data between a proposed biosimilar product and a reference product.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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