Magazine article FDA Consumer

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

Magazine article FDA Consumer

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

Article excerpt

This is one series of article on FDA activities and concerns.

The Food and Drug Administration's approval of the new AIDS drug Crixivan (indinavir) in just 42 days made news nationwide. While the evaluation of new drugs is the best known responsibility of the agency's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), the center also promotes the public health by regulating the manufacture, labeling and advertising of drug products.

CDER is the largest of FDA's five centers, with a staff of about 1,800. It has responsibility for both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Other centers have responsibility for medical and radiological devices, food, cosmetics, biologics, and veterinary drugs.

High-Quality Reviews

The center's job is to ensure that drugs are safe and effective. (See "Benefit Vs. Risk: How FDA Approves New Drugs" in the December 1987-January 1988 FDA Consumer) CDER doesn't test drugs, although the center's Office of Testing and Research does conduct limited research in the areas of drug quality, safety and effectiveness.

It is the responsibility of the company seeking to market a drug to test it and submit evidence that it's safe and effective. (See "Testing Drugs in People" in the July-August 1994 FDA Consumer) A team of CDER physicians, statisticians, chemists, pharmacologists, and other scientists reviews the sponsor's new drug application (NDA) containing the data and proposed labeling.

The 13 NDA reviewing divisions in CDER are grouped into five Offices of Drug Evaluation. Each office oversees drugs for certain medical conditions. The Office of Drug Evaluation 1, for example, is responsible for neuropharmacological (relating to the nervous system), oncologic (involving tumors), and cardiorenal (relating to the heart or kidneys) drug products. Over-the-counter drugs are reviewed by the Office of Drug Evaluation V. The review divisions work side by side with reviewers in the Office of New Drug Chemistry, the Office of Clinical Pharmacology and Biopharmaceutics, and the Office of Epidemiology and Biostatistics to evaluate a drug's safety and effectiveness. In some cases, FDA seeks the recommendations of advisory committees made up of outside experts. (See "Getting Outside Advice for `Close Calls'" in the December 1987-January 1988 FDA Consumer.)

Murray M. Lumpkin, M.D., CDER's deputy director for review management, is in charge of the review process (except for the review of generic drugs) and the 900 reviewers who make up about half the center's work force. A good drug review process must be predictable and thorough, according to Lumpkin. Predictability means timeliness, he says. "It used to be that people would ask, `Do you want it right, or do you want it on time?' To get it right, reviewers often had to ignore the clock."

To get reviews done both right and on time, FDA needed additional financial resources. To meet this need, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 1992, which requires drug companies to pay fees when submitting NDA's to the agency and in some other instances provides FDA funds to hire more reviewers. (See "User Fees to Fund Faster Reviews" in the October 1993 FDA Consumer.)

Consumers, Congress and government and industry experts agreed on time frames for FDA's completion of reviews of drug applications covered by user fees. CDER's top priority, according to center director Janet Woodcock, M.D., is to exceed these user fee time frames while maintaining the high quality of reviews. (See "The CDER Director." In 1994, CDER reviewed 96 percent of new drug applications within the 12-month performance goals, far surpassing the agency's 1994 goal of 55 percent.

User fees do not apply to generic copies of brand-name drugs because generics involve the review of different kinds of data. Once CDER approves a brand-name drug and any patent for that drug expires, CDER'S Office of Generic Drugs can approve another product as a generic copy if it's shown to be equivalent to the brand-name drug. …

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