If a product candidate receives regulatory approval, the approval may be significantly limited to specific diseases and dosages or the indications for use may otherwise be limited. Further, the FDA may require that certain contraindications, warnings or precautions be included in the product labeling. The FDA may impose restrictions and conditions on product distribution, prescribing or dispensing in the form of a REMS, or otherwise limit the scope of any approval. In addition, the FDA may require post‑marketing clinical trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, designed to further assess a biologic product’s safety and effectiveness, and testing and surveillance programs to monitor the safety of approved products that have been commercialized.
The FDA has agreed to specified performance goals in the review of BLAs under the PDUFA. One such goal is to review standard BLAs in ten months after the FDA accepts the BLA for filing, and priority BLAs in six months, whereupon a review decision is to be made. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs and its review goals are subject to change from time to time. The review process and the PDUFA goal date may be extended by three months if the FDA requests or the BLA sponsor otherwise provides additional information or clarification regarding information already provided in the submission within the last three months before the PDUFA goal date.
Orphan Drug Designation
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a biologic product as an “orphan drug” if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition (generally meaning that it affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more in cases in which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making a biologic product available in the United States for treatment of the disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product). Orphan product designation must be requested before submitting a BLA. After the FDA grants orphan product designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan product designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
If a product with orphan status receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan product exclusivity, meaning that the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same drug or biologic product for the same indication for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan exclusivity or if the party holding the exclusivity fails to assure the availability of sufficient quantities of the drug to meet the needs of patients with the disease or condition for which the drug was designated. Competitors, however, may receive approval of different products for the same indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity or obtain approval for the same product but for a different indication for which the orphan product has exclusivity. Orphan medicinal product status in the European Union has similar, but not identical, benefits. For example, the European Union grants 10 years of product exclusivity for orphan medicinal products.
Expedited Development and Review Programs
The FDA is authorized to expedite the review of BLAs in several ways. Under the Fast Track program, the sponsor of a biologic product candidate may request the FDA to designate the product for a specific indication as a Fast Track product concurrent with or after the filing of the IND. Biologic products are eligible for Fast Track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life‑threatening condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Fast Track designation applies to the combination of the product candidate and the specific indication for which it is being studied. In addition to other benefits, such as the ability to have greater interactions with the FDA, the FDA may initiate review of sections of a Fast Track BLA before the application is complete, a process known as rolling review.
Any product submitted to the FDA for marketing, including under a Fast Track program, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite development and review, such as breakthrough therapy designation, priority review and accelerated approval.