There would seem to be a momentum for new approvals brought on by a number of circumstances, not the least of which is the fact that last year saw a record number (47) of approvals for new molecular entities (NMEs), but also for generic approvals (1027). And among those approvals, there were a number of “firsts” – such as first gene therapy and the first CAR-T therapies. In addition there were a significant number of approvals in oncology. A lot happened last year. That means a lot of eyes turn to this year to see what kind of year it is going to be in 2018.
So how are we doing? There are a few places to look when you are making that assessment that are kind of surrogate markers to tell us how things are going. First, of course, there would be the NME approvals. By the end of February this year, FDA had approved only 4 NMEs, which might sound discouraging, but in fact, it is only one less than was approved by the same time last year. There is still a lot of time for a lot to happen in 2018.
Another place to look is at PDUFA dates, and in doing so there is perhaps reason for cheer. During January and February there were 15 PDUFA dates, 3 of which resulted in Complete Response Letters and 12 of which were approvals, some of which not only occurred early, but very early. At least three of these were approved in December 2017, two months before the PDUFA date. Of the approvals during the first two months, 9 of them were NDAs and 6 were sNDAs.
And finally, if we take into consideration the activity among advisory committees – last year there was only 1 advisory committee meeting held during the January/February period to consider an NDA for a new drug. During the entire year by my count there were 23 such meetings. By contrast, during the January/February time period this year there were 5 advisory committee meetings held to consider NDAs and there have been 10 meetings scheduled so far this year, with more surely to come, particularly with the increase of drugs that have priority review.
Back to PDUFA, for the future, right now by my count, I am currently counting 60 more decision dates for 2018, 41 of which are for NDAs and the balance are sNDAs, and of course, there are more to come. Five of these involve product NDAs in oncology, two of which FDA have already acted upon away before their actual PDUFA dates. There are also five in cardiovascular, two in antimicrobial and six in pain.
In short, at this early juncture, judging by a look at these “surrogate endpoints” it would seem that there is a good chance this year will not be a slacker in terms of progress in approvals overall or in advances in major disease areas.
(The figures on advisory committees and PDUFA dates come from separate databases I maintain on each topic, not from any official sources.)