The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advanced multiple proposals to promote biomedical innovation by making new drugs available more quickly but with shorter, smaller, and more selective clinical trials and less rigorous end points.
To inform the debate about appropriate standards, we studied the development times, clinical testing, postmarket follow-up, and safety risks for the new drugs approved by the FDA in 2008, when most provisions of current law, regulation, and policies were in effect.
Descriptive study of the drugs classified as new molecular entities using preapproval FDA evaluation documents, agency drug information databases, prescribing information, and other primary data sources.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Comparison of drugs that received standard review and those deemed sufficiently innovative to receive expedited review with regard to clinical development and FDA review time, the size and duration of efficacy trials, safety issues, and postmarket follow-up.
In 2008, the FDA approved 20 therapeutic drugs, 8 with expedited review and 12 with standard review. The expedited drugs took a median of 5.1 years (range, 1.6-10.6 years) of clinical development to obtain marketing approval compared with 7.5 years (range, 4.7-19.4 years) for the standard review drugs (P = .05). The expedited drugs were tested for efficacy in a median of 104 patients receiving the active drug (range, 23-599), compared with a median of 580 patients (range, 75-1207) for standard review drugs (P = .003). Nonclinical testing showed that 6 therapeutic drugs were animal carcinogens, 5 were in vitro mutagens, and 14 were animal teratogens. Other safety concerns resulted in 5 Boxed Warnings; 8 drugs required risk management plans. The FDA required 85 postmarket commitments. By 2013, 5 drugs acquired a new or expanded Boxed Warning; 26 of 85 (31%) of the postmarketing study commitments had been fulfilled, and 8 (9%) had been submitted for agency review.
Conclusions and Relevance
For new drugs approved by the FDA in 2008, those that received expedited review were approved more rapidly than those that received standard review. However, considerably fewer patients were studied prior to approval, and many safety questions remained unanswered. By 2013, many postmarketing studies had not been completed.