Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FDA regulation of “combination” products

by Dr. Ray Nims

The FDA’s Office of Combination Products (OCP) was established in 2002 to shepherd combination products, those comprised of a combination of drug, biological, and/or device, through the review and regulation process. An example of a combination product is the drug-releasing stent (see figure below). The OCP does not conduct the reviews, but is responsible for: assigning the product to the appropriate FDA center; coordinating reviews involving more than one center; and working with agency centers to develop guidance and regulations to make the regulation of combination products “as clear, consistent and predictable as possible”. 

An example of a drug-releasing stent.

The complexity of combination products arises because the efficacy and safety of the individual constituent components (i.e., the drug, biologic, or device) must be considered alone, as well as within the context of the combination product. Because of this complexity, there is no single development paradigm for all combination products. The guidance recommends that combination product developers consider any prior approval/clearance of the constituent parts, as well as how their testing may be influenced by the interaction of the components. Factors that should be considered (from the guidance) include:

• Are the constituent parts already approved for an indication?
• Is the indication for a given constituent part similar to that proposed for the combination product?
• Does the combination product broaden the indication or intended target population beyond that of the approved constituent part?
• Does the combination product expose the patient to a new route of administration or a new local or systemic exposure profile for an existing indication?
• Is the drug formulation different than that used in the already approved drug?
• Does the device design need to be modified for the new use?
• Is the device constituent used in an area of the body that is different than its existing approval?
• Are the device and drug constituents chemically, physically, or otherwise combined into a single entity?
• Does the device function as a delivery system, a method to prepare a final dosage form, and/or does it provide active therapeutic benefit?
• Is there any other change in design or formulation that may affect the safety/effectiveness of any existing constituent part or the combination product as a whole?
• Is a marketed device being proposed for use with a drug constituent that is a new molecular entity?
• Is a marketed drug being proposed for use with a complex new device?

As with individual constituent drugs, biologics, and devices, the FDA will require that the combination products be manufactured according to current good manufacturing practices. In most cases, a single investigational application (IND or IDE) is submitted to enable the clinical trials planned for the combination product. The science and technology associated with the combination products should drive the selection of statistical approaches, sample sizes, study endpoints, and methods for active principle measurement and for evaluating possible interactions between components. It may be best to involve the FDA in these decisions.

Complexity for the regulation of combination products also stems from the fact that separate manufacturing processes may exist for the various constituent parts. Potential changes in any of the component manufacturing processes, subsequent to initiating clinical trials or post-market, will need to be evaluated for possible effects on the safety and efficacy of the combination product.

Combination products represent therapeutic modalities with great promise for advancing health care. We expect to see more and more pharmaceutical activity in this area going forward.

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