FDA approves first generic of Symbicort to treat asthma and COPD

FDAToday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first generic of Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate) Inhalation Aerosol for the treatment of two common pulmonary health conditions: asthma in patients six years of age and older; and the maintenance treatment of airflow obstruction and reducing exacerbations for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema. This complex generic drug-device combination product, which is a metered-dose inhaler, should not be used to treat acute asthma attacks.

"Today's approval of the first generic for one of the most commonly prescribed complex drug-device combination products to treat asthma and COPD is another step forward in our commitment to bring generic copies of complex drugs to the market, which can improve quality of life and help reduce the cost of treatment," said Sally Choe, Ph.D., director of the Office of Generic Drugs in the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "This reflects the FDA’s continued efforts to increase competition and access to quality, safe, effective and affordable medicines for patients and consumers."

Asthma impacts 25 million people, more than five million of whom are children, while COPD afflicts more than 16 million, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Asthma is a chronic, long-term condition that affects the airways in the lungs, which can be worsened by physical activity and most often starts during childhood. It can cause wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing), shortness of breath, and coughing. COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is a long-term, chronic disease that causes airflow blockage and makes it difficult to breathe.

This drug-device combination product is a metered-dose inhaler (MDI), which contains both budesonide (a corticosteroid that reduces inflammation) and formoterol (a long-acting bronchodilator that relaxes muscles in the airways to improve breathing). Two inhalations, two times a day (usually morning and night, about 12 hours apart), treat both diseases by preventing symptoms, such as wheezing for those with asthma, and by helping with better breathing, for those with COPD. The inhaler is approved for two strengths (160/4.5 mcg/actuation and 80/4.5 mcg/actuation).

The most common side effects associated with budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate oral inhalation aerosol for those with asthma are nasopharyngitis (swelling of nasal passages and back of throat), headache, upper respiratory tract infection, pharyngolaryngeal (nose and mouth) pain, sinusitis, influenza, back pain, nasal congestion, stomach discomfort, vomiting, and oral candidiasis (thrush). For those with COPD, the most common side effects are nasopharyngitis, oral candidiasis, bronchitis, sinusitis, and upper respiratory tract infection.

The FDA regularly takes steps to help guide industry through the development process for generic drug products, including combination products, such as MDIs, that consist of a drug and a device. To further facilitate generic drug development, and to assist the generic pharmaceutical industry in this process, the FDA publishes product-specific guidances (PSGs) describing the agency's current thinking and expectations on how to develop generic drug products that are therapeutically equivalent to their brand name counterparts. In June 2015, FDA published a PSG for budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate inhalation aerosol.

The FDA requires sponsors to submit appropriate data and information to demonstrate that complex generic drug-device combination products meet the agency’s rigorous approval standards. These standards ensure that generic drug products are as safe and effective as their brand name equivalents and meet the same high quality standards.

Complex products are medical products where uncertainty concerning the approval pathway or possible alternative approaches to product development can benefit from early scientific engagement, such as products with complex active ingredients and drug-device combination products. Since drug-device combination products can be more challenging to develop, fewer exist, resulting in less market competition. Addressing the challenges related to complex generics, and promoting more generic competition to these medicines, is a key part of the FDA’s Drug Competition Action Plan, and the agency’s efforts to promote patient access and more affordable medicines.

The FDA granted approval of this generic budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate inhalation aerosol to Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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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