- Expanded access
Expanded access refers to the use of an investigational drug outside of a clinical trial by patients with serious or life-threatening conditions who do not meet the enrollment criteria for the clinical trial in progress. This type of access may be available, in accordance with United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, when it is clear that patients may benefit from the treatment, the therapy can be given safely outside the clinical trial setting, no other alternative therapy is available, and the drug developer agrees to provide access to the drug. The FDA refers to such a program as an expanded access program (EAP). EAPs can be leveraged in a wide range of therapeutic areas including HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, cancer, rare diseases, and cardiovascular diseases, to name a few.
There are several types of EAPs allowed in the United States. Treatment protocols and treatment INDs provide large numbers of patients access to investigational drugs. A single-patient IND is a request from a physician to the FDA that an individual patient be allowed access to an investigational drug on an emergency or compassionate use basis. When the FDA receives a significant number of requests (~10 to 100) for individual patient expanded access to an investigational drug for the same use, they may ask the trial sponsor to consolidate these requests, creating an intermediate-size group. “Compassionate use” is a more colloquial term that is not generally used by the FDA.
Since 1987, the FDA has had rules in place that have enabled patients, under specific circumstances, to access drugs or biologics that are still in development for treatment purposes. These expanded access program rules were amended in 2009 by the FDA to ensure “broad and equitable access to investigational drugs for treatment.”
The regulations include the following:
- Criteria that must be met in order to authorize the expanded access use
- Requirements for expanded access submissions
- Safeguards to protect patients and the clinical trial process
The regulations also include general criteria for granting expanded access:
- The patient must have a serious condition or disease for which there is no comparable alternative therapy available
- The patient must be unable to participate in a clinical trial
- The potential benefit must outweigh the potential risk of using the treatment
- There should be no impact on the completion of the clinical trial or the drug’s approval
Despite the updated regulations, debate remains over key elements of expanded access:
- Deciding at what point in the clinical trial process access should be given. Some stakeholders support expanded access programs after phase I testing in clinical trials, which establishes the drug’s safety. The FDA, however, believes that most drugs should not be eligible until some point during phase III when efficacy data have been obtained, unless compelling phase II data on safety and efficacy are available.
- Weighing risks to the patient against the potential benefits. The FDA requires that a physician and an institutional review board (IRB) determine that a treatment will not pose undue risk to the patient, relative to the condition he or she is suffering from. However, the FDA maintains the right to overrule the physician and IRB.
- Determining who should get access. The FDA states that expanded access should only be considered for patients with a serious disease or condition, but the FDA’s rules do not provide a definition of “serious”; instead it provides examples of diseases and conditions that fall into this category. In the case of a cancer drug, the sponsor of an expanded access program must define exactly which patients will get access. Most often, access is limited to those patients with the same type of cancer the drug is being tested for.
A number of challenges can exist when patients seek access to investigational drugs:
- Obtaining an IRB review. Finding time on an IRB’s schedule can be difficult, particularly for doctors who are not based at research centers where IRBs are readily available. The fee for the review may pose a problem as well. It may be unclear who is responsible for the cost of the IRB review, which can be as much as $2,000. Many IRBs conduct reviews pro bono but others that charge will often only wave their fees for research done in their hospital.
- Protecting physicians against liability risk. Currently, physicians may be concerned that they could face a liability risk for investigational drugs that they recommend to patients or help them gain access to, potentially discouraging them from doing so. The FDA does not have jurisdiction over this issue but there is a bill in Congress, the Compassionate Access Act of 2010 (H.R. 4732), that would address the situation.
- Paying for the drug. While the FDA allows drug companies to recover the costs of providing a treatment through an EAP, many companies may hesitate to do so because it requires disclosing the cost of their drug, which is often a closely guarded secret. In addition, many insurance companies won’t cover the costs of experimental treatment so access could be limited to patients with the means to pay for it.
- Assessing the potential impact of adverse events on drug development. Adverse events (AEs) that result from expanded access programs must be reported to the FDA in the same way AEs are reported in the case of a clinical trial. The FDA states that, to their knowledge, no drug candidate has been turned down for approval because of an adverse event that appeared in an expanded access program.
Outside the United States
Outside the U.S., programs that enable access to drugs in the pre-approval and pre-launch phase are referred to by a variety of names including “named patient programs,” “named patient supply” and “temporary authorization for use.” In the EU, named patient programs also allow patients to access drugs in the time period between centralized European Medicines Agency (EMEA) approval and launch in their home countries which can range from one year to eighteen months.
- ^ US National Cancer Institute - Access to Investigational Drugs accessed April 22, 2007
- ^ FDA Final Rules for Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs for Treatment Use and Charging for Investigational Drugs
- ^ a b c d e f Final FDA Rules on Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs for Treatment Use
- ^ a b FDA website
- ^ Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, January 15, 2010.
- ^ a b c d e Access to Investigational Drugs Remains Challenge Despite New FDA Rules ‘’The Pink Sheet’’
- ^ Managing Access to Drugs Prior to Approval and Launch ‘’Life Science Leader’’
- ^ a b c FDA webinar accessed May 5, 2010
- ^ FDA Law Blog accessed May 5, 2010
- ^ Helene S (2010). "EU Compassionate Use Programmes (CUPs): Regulatory Framework and Points to Consider before CUP Implementation". Pharm Med 24 (4): 223–229. http://adisonline.com/pharmaceuticalmedicine/Fulltext/2010/24040/EU_Compassionate_Use_Programmes__CUPs___Regulatory.4.aspx.
- ^ [Ericson, M., Harrison, K., Laure, N. & De Crémiers, F., Compassionate Use Requirements in the Enlarged European Union. RAJ Pharma, May 2005: 83.
- Early/Expanded access for medial devices from the US FDA
- Guidelines for Expanded Access Protocols from BC (Canada) Cancer Agency
- Preapproval Opportunities. Applied Clinical Trials, June 2008.
- Boundaries of Expanded Access. Pharmaceutical Executive, May 2008.
- A Time for Compassion. Applied Clinical Trials, September 2007.
- Cancer Patients Deserve Faster Access to Life-Saving Drugs. Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2009.
- Fighting for a Last Chance at Life. New York Times, May 16, 2009.
- Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, January 15, 2010.
- Meeting Global Demand for Investigational Drugs Life Science Leader, December 2009.
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