Generic-drug companies, led by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, would face fewer factory inspections and save as much as a year developing products in exchange for paying fees for the first time under a Food and Drug Administration proposal.
The plan grew out of talks between the FDA and drug makers to speed reviews of low-cost copies of medicines, according to Russell Wesdyk, scientific coordinator in the FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Science.
Generic-drug reviews take 15 months longer on average than evaluations of brand-name products, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a Washington lobbying group. Inspections take as many as 12 months to complete, especially for products made outside the U.S., said Richard Stec, vice president of global regulatory affairs with Perrigo Co., an Allergan, Mich.-based member of the trade group.
“Getting the inspection scheduled in a timely manner is probably the biggest challenge both for FDA and for industry,” Mr. Stec said.
The FDA may waive “preapproval inspections” done after companies submit generic-drug applications, Mr. Wesdyk said last Thursday. Instead, it would rely on periodic inspections that focus on firms’ broader manufacturing practices.
The agency would still carry out preapproval inspections under the proposal when drugs are made with untested technologies or produced at a site the FDA hasn’t inspected.
More generic-drug companies are moving operations outside the U.S., making it harder for the FDA to keep pace, Janet Woodcock, director of the agency’s Drug Center, said during a September meeting to discuss the fees. The FDA inspects U.S. plants once every 30 months, compared with once every nine years for foreign plants, a September Government Accountability Office report states.
The FDA receives 800 to 900 generic-drug applications each year, compared with about 100 applications for new brand-name drugs, Mr. Wesdyk said.
The volume of work means “even with additional resources, it would be very difficult to do the number of preapproval inspections,” said Peter Beckerman, a senior adviser in the FDA’s Office of Policy, who is leading the generic-drug user fee negotiations for the agency.
Brand-name drug makers have paid the FDA fees since 1992 to help fund faster reviews.
The FDA hasn’t presented the proposal to generic-drug companies, Mr. Stec said. In addition to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, groups involved in the fee talks include the Generic User Fee Coalition — consisting of Perrigo; Teva, Hospira of Lake Forest, Ill.; and Apotex of Toronto — and Mylan, which developed its own fee proposal.
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the User Fee Coalition have agreed on a system that would set targets for drug reviews and deal with the backlog of applications through separate funding, Mr. Stec said. He declined to discuss other details.
Mylan, based in Canonsburg, has pressed for a plan in which manufacturers and suppliers of active ingredients pay inspection fees in addition to fees for new applications. Mylan President Heather Bresch said her company’s proposal would generate $30 million for the FDA to standardize the frequency of inspections in the U.S. and overseas.
“You’ve got to level the playing field,” Ms. Bresch said in an interview in Washington last month. “I’m just realistic about the economic situation. Our industry is going to have to subsidize the globalization of the FDA.”
The generic-drug association and the user-fee coalition are considering Mylan’s proposal and want to reach a consensus early next year, Mr. Stec said.
The FDA plans to begin discussions with the industry early next year, Mr. Wesdyk said. Any agreement would have to be approved by Congress.