The FDA is following through on plans to issue a proposed rule to revise regulations to allow generic drugmakers to update labeling. The rule would update current regulations that prevent generic drugmakers from doing so, even if they become aware of a potential risk not mentioned in labeling. By contrast, brand-name drugamkers can update warnings and precautions on labeling before obtaining FDA approval. Additionally, Merck won an important court ruling for the entire pharmaceutical industry. A federal court decided that, under certain circumstances, drugmakers may defend themselves against product liability lawsuits by citing preemption.
The summer may be in full swing, but the torrent pace of news and interesting developments has not subsided at all. Hot days simply yield hot stories. Unarguably, the most sensational item over the past few weeks has been the GlaxoSmithKline bribery scandal unfolding in China. As of mid-July, four Glaxo executives, all of whom are Chinese nationals, were detained and authorities hinted that other drugmakers may be examined as they review records held by travel agencies implicated in the drama.
After years of debate and controversy, the US Supreme Court ruled that drugmakers can face lawsuits over so-called pay-to-delay patent settlements, but that such deals should not necessarily be assumed to be illegal. The decision largely vindicates the position held by the Federal Trade Commission, which argued the deals are anti-competitive because generic drugmakers are given incentive to file lawsuits against brand-name rivals and then settle for a quick profit, rather than challenge a patent in court. The FTC calculated the reverse settlments, as some call them, cost consumers $3.5 billion annually.
Once again, a plethora of interesting events has occurred since the last time we stopped by. What was the biggest headline? That decision may be up for grabs, but certainly, the $500 million penalty paid by Ranbaxy Laboratories is high on the list. In other news, yet another Johnson & Johnson manufacturing scandal has erupted, this time in South Korea, where the authorities plan to bring criminal charges against its Janssen unit and ban production of five products – notably, a type of Children’s Tylenol. A non-profit group put Bayer on notice that a lawsuit will be filed charging the drugmaker with making “unsubstantiated and illegal claims” about the ability of its One-A-Day vitamin to prevent various disease, such as breast cancer, bolster physical energy and improve immunity, among other things.
Since my last article here on IPWatchdog.com, the pharmaceutical industry has been simply overflowing with interesting developments, including the US Supreme Court hearing arguments concerning three significant cases. The first case argued at the Supreme Court will determine whether generic drugmakers can be sued for alleged flaws in the design of their medications. Another argument before the Supreme Court was about pay-to-delay deals in which a brand-name drugmaker agrees to pay a settlement to a generic rival in exchange for ending patent litigation and launching a copycat medicine at a future date. The Court also heard arguments about a case that raises crucial questions about whether human genes can be patented. And the outcome may well reset the boundaries and direction of medical research in the US, which of course has tremendous implications for investments made by the biopharmaceutical industry and the battle against many diseases, notably cancer.
In response to the scandal over a fungal meningitis outbreak, the FDA has begun a crackdown on compounding pharmacies and targeting about 30 ‘high risk’ operations in nearly a dozen states. San Francisco officials approved a referendum that will allow residents to decide whether to require city officials to hold talks with drug makers about pricing for ‘essential medicines.’ A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of a former biotech chief executive, who argued that federal prosecutors violated his First Amendment and commercial speech rights. The Federal Trade Commission filed a brief siding with generic drug makers in dispute with brand-name drug makers. At issue is whether a brand-name drug maker should be required to sell samples of its medicine to an aspiring generic rival when its medicine was approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy.
The FDA decided not to pursue a re-hearing before a federal appeals court that recently ruled the federal government could not prosecute a sales rep who promoted off-label uses of a medicine because his speech was not false and misleading. Meanwhile, Congress delayed Medicare price restraints on a group of medications that will benefit Amgen while costing taxpayers up to $500 million over two years. Still further, after a federal court judge decided that the Bristol-Myers patent on the Baraclude hepatitis B treatment was invalid, some analysts are saying the ruling may prompt greater scrutiny of so-called composition of matter patents.
Not surprisingly, 2013 began with a predictable rush of interesting news. So here are some of the most recent highlights, from court rulings and medical study findings to FDA doings and steps taken to developed new parameters for prescribing and clinical trials in various places. The Obama administration again missed a deadline for releasing much-anticipated Sunshine guidelines for industry transparency. The year also began with the usual anticipation surrounding the annual JP Morgan Healthcare conference. Meanwhile, a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine caused a stir after finding that 43 percent of doctors in practice more than 30 years acknowledged they sometimes or often acquiesce to patients who pester them for – or even demand – brand-name drugs.