Ovarian Cancer Survivor Seeks “Compassionate Use” Drug Exemption From BioMarin to Save Her Life

Andrea Sloan, a 7-year survivor of stage 3c ovarian cancer, is seeking a “compassionate use” exemption from pharmaceutical company BioMarin to save her life. Sloan is scheduled to start treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on September 5 and would like to obtain access to the “PARP 1/2 inhibitor” drug known as “BMN 673” by that time. A robust grassroots campaign in support of Sloan has emerged on social media and Change.org in an effort to get an affirmative response from BioMarin.

Andrea Sloan, a seven-year survivor of ovarian cancer, is seeking a compassionate use exemption from pharmaceutical company BioMarin to save her life. Sloan, the executive director of a non-profit that advocates for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, now finds herself forced to publicly advocate for herself in a last chance effort to get the cancer treatment she needs.

Andrea Sloan, a 7-year, stage 3c survivor of ovarian cancer, is seeking a “compassionate use” investigational cancer drug exemption from pharmaceutical company BioMarin to save her life. Sloan, the executive director of a non-profit that advocates for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, now finds herself forced to publicly advocate for herself in a last chance effort to get the cancer treatment she needs.

Drugs that are being tested but have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are called “investigational drugs.” These drugs are generally available only to people who are taking part in a clinical trial. The FDA “Expanded Access” protocol — sometimes referred to as a “compassionate use” exemption — involves the use of an investigational drug outside of a clinical trial to treat a patient with a serious or immediately life-threatening disease or condition, who has no comparable or satisfactory alternative treatment options.

FDA regulations allow access to investigational drugs for treatment purposes on a case-by-case basis for an individual patient, or for intermediate-size groups of patients with similar treatment needs who otherwise do not qualify to participate in a clinical trial. Before an investigational drug can qualify for compassionate use, the patient’s physician, the FDA, and the drug manufacturer must approve such use.

Unfortunately, drug manufacturers may not always be willing or able to provide access to a drug outside of their clinical trials. By law, drug companies are not required to make their drug available through the FDA expanded access protocol, or to make more of a drug for that purpose.

Andrea Sloan, a 7-year survivor of stage 3c ovarian cancer, is seeking a compassionate use exemption from pharmaceutical company BioMarin to save her life. Sloan is scheduled to start treatment at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on September 5, and she would like to obtain access to the “PARP 1/2 inhibitor” drug known as “BMN 673” by that time. A robust grassroots campaign in support of Sloan has emerged on social media and Change.org in an effort to get an affirmative response from BioMarin.

“BioMarin’s BMN 673 offers me the best chance at a long life,” said Sloan. “My doctors and the FDA agree that I am an excellent candidate for this drug and meet the criteria for compassionate use exemption. However, BioMarin’s lack of a policy on compassionate use is preventing me from gaining access to the drug I need to save my life. I respectfully implore them to reconsider and make the ethical decision to help me.” [Emphasis added]

Sloan has endured two full rounds of chemotherapy, five surgeries, and a stem cell transplant. While her cancer remains responsive to treatment, her bone marrow can no longer tolerate traditional therapies. Her world-class oncology team at M.D. Anderson believes that BioMarin’s PARP inhibitor BMN 673, which is currently being tested in a phase I solid tumor clinical trial, is the best option for Sloan’s BRCA-1 gene-mutated form of ovarian cancer.

Unfortunately, Sloan hit a barrier in gaining access to BMN 673. Further enrollment of ovarian cancer patients in the phase I solid tumor trial is now closed, and the publicly announced portion of the trial that will be entering phase III testing is only open to BRCA gene-mutated breast (but not ovarian) cancer patients. Therefore, Sloan is left with the compassionate use exemption as her only option to access the drug she needs to fight her cancer. Based on FDA requirements, Sloan qualifies for the compassionate use exemption. Data emerging from the phase I BMN 673 study suggest that the drug is a safe and effective treatment option for patients with BRCA gene-mutated ovarian cancer.

Moreover, on August 16, 2013, BioMarin announced that its medical study abstract, entitled “PARP inhibition with BMN 673 in ovarian and breast cancer patients with deleterious mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2,” has been selected as a “late breaking” abstract by the 17th ECCO — 38th ESMO — 32nd ESTRO European Cancer Congress, which will be held from September 27 through October 1, 2013 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. BioMarin’s oral presentation at the European Cancer Congress (scheduled for September 29, 2013) will include data presented from 28 ovarian cancer patients with deleterious germline (inherited) BRCA gene mutations, including 17 patients from the phase I BMN 673 trial dose escalation cohort (range 100 µg to 1100 µg) and 11 patients from the dose expansion cohort. Presumably, the most recent ovarian cancer patient data to be presented at the European Cancer Congress will expand upon the positive data presented by the company at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which indicate that positive RECIST (“Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors“) and/or CA-125 ovarian cancer patient responses occurred at BMN 673 drug doses ≥ 100 µg/d in 11 out of 17 (64%) BRCA gene-mutated ovarian and peritoneal cancer patients. The positive RECIST medical imaging findings and the CA-125 blood test results highlight the promising effectiveness of BMN 673, albeit among a small group of ovarian cancer patients.

BMN 673 is a targeted therapy designed to disrupt the tumor without traditional chemotherapy drug side effects, thereby making it an optimal treatment for Sloan.

Despite Sloan’s best efforts, she has been unable to convince BioMarin to allow compassionate use of BMN 673. BioMarin, according to Sloan, has not been cooperative, merely citing their lack of a policy on the issue. Sloan, the executive director of a non-profit that advocates for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, now finds herself forced to publicly advocate for herself in a last chance effort to save her life. Sloan is committed to advocating for meaningful reform on this topic and hopes BioMarin will lead by example in starting a national dialogue.

If you would like to help Andrea Sloan obtain compassionate use of BMN 673, please click on this picture and sign her petition at Change.org.

If you would like to help Andrea Sloan obtain compassionate use of BMN 673, please click on this picture and sign her petition at Change.org.

For those interested in supporting Andrea Sloan, please sign her petition on Change.org that urges BioMarin to grant her a compassionate use investigational cancer drug exemption for BMN 673. Also, you can follow Andrea on Twitter at @andi_sloan.

Update:

Yesterday, BioMarin issued a statement to KXAN, an Austin, Texas local affilate of NBC, in response to a in-depth news story that KXAN aired tonight regarding Andrea Sloan’s dire situation. Effectively, BioMarin rejected Andrea Sloan’s request for compassionate use of BMN 673, although its statement was worded as a general drug “expanded access” policy explanation.

BioMarin acknowledged that it allowed preapproved expanded access to one of its investigational drugs which completed phase III clinical testing last year. In terms of general guidelines for its expanded access programs, the company stated:

“We implement these [expanded access] programs when we have sufficient scientific evidence to support both the safety and the efficacy of a product for an indication. Additionally, we implement these programs only when we can ensure that access will be provided equitably, ensuring that the process is appropriately blinded, and when we are confident that the expanded access will not inhibit our clinical trial plans or clinical trials for a disease generally.”

In terms of Andrea Sloan’s specific case, BioMarin stated that it does not comment on the status of individual patients. Apparently in a refusal to grant expanded access to any preapproved patient who requests compassionate use of BMN 673 prior to completion of phase III drug testing, the company stated:

“… However, we note that, although the current data [for BMN 673] that we have looks promising, there is no data at this point to support anything beyond dosing and some preliminary safety. It is too early to know if the experimental therapy is safe or effective, or will even prolong life, until we conduct the appropriate Phase 3 trials. The data that we have is from an ongoing early stage clinical trial, and it is the first trial that we have ever done with this therapy in humans.”

Accordingly, it appears that BioMarin’s current expanded access policy for its investigational drugs, such as BMN 673, will only extend to drugs that have already completed phase III clinical trial testing.

Sources:

  • Ovarian Cancer Survivor Andrea Sloan Seeks Compassionate Use Exemption From BioMarin to Save Her Life, Press Release, Digital Journal, August 29, 2013.
  • BioMarin Provides BMN 673 Program Update, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc, Press Release, July 25, 2013.
  • Shen Y. et al.  BMN 673, a novel and highly potent PARP-1/2 inhibitor for the treatment of human cancers with DNA repair deficiencyClin Cancer Res. 2013 Jul 23. PMID: 23881923 [Epub ahead of print]
  • A Phase 1, First in Human, Single-arm, Open-label Study of Once a Day, Orally Administered BMN 673 in Patients With Advanced or Recurrent Solid Tumors. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01286987.
  • Advocate for others needs help in a fight for her life, by Shannon Wolfson & Joe Ellis, In-Depth Investigation, KXAN News, August 29, 2013.
  • BioMarin Announces Oral Presentation of BMN 673 Most Recent Data on Breast and Ovarian Cancers at the European Cancer Congress 2013, Press Release, August 16, 2013.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration Acts to Bolster Supply of Critically Needed Cancer Drugs Including Doxil

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a series of steps to (i) increase the supply of critically needed cancer drugs, and (ii) build upon President Obama’s Executive Order to help prevent future drug shortages.  To alleviate the Doxil cancer drug shortage, the FDA approved  the temporary importation of a replacement drug named “Lipodox” (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection), with the expectation of  ending the U.S. shortage and fully meeting patient needs in the coming weeks. Doxil is an important weapon in the fight against recurrent ovarian cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a series of steps designed to increase the supply of critically needed cancer drugs, and build upon President Obama’s Executive Order, dated October 31, 2011 (No. 13588), in an attempt to prevent future drug shortages.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food & Drug Administration

“A drug shortage can be a frightening prospect for patients and President Obama made it clear that preventing these shortages from happening is a top priority of his administration,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Through the collaborative work of the FDA, industry, and other stakeholders, patients and families waiting for these products or anxious about their availability should now be able to get the medication they need.”

In response to the critical shortage of the cancer drug Doxil (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection) and rapidly declining supplies of methotrexate, the FDA took proactive steps needed to increase available supply for patients in the U.S.

For Doxil, there will be temporary importation of a replacement drug named “LipoDox” (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection), which is expected to end the shortage and fully meet patient needs in the coming weeks.

For methotrexate, in addition to already announced actions, the FDA approved a new manufacturer of preservative-free formulation of methotrexate that is expected to further bolster supply and help avert a shortage of this lifesaving medicine. the FDA expedited review of the application to help address this potential shortage.

In response to President Obama’s Executive Order #13588 regarding prescription drug shortages, the FDA today issued draft guidance to industry which provides detailed requirements for both mandatory and voluntary notifications to the FDA of issues that could result in a drug shortage or supply disruption. Because of President Obama’s Executive Order #13588 and the FDA’s letter to manufacturers on the same day, increased awareness of the importance of early notification has resulted in a sixfold increase in voluntary notifications by industry of potential shortages. In 2011, there were a total of 195 drug shortages prevented. Since the issuance of Presidential Executive Order #13588, the FDA has prevented 114 drug shortages.

Under the FDA’s exercise of enforcement discretion, the chemotherapeutic drug LipoDox will be imported as an alternative to Doxil. Doxil is used in multiple treatment regimens, including treatment of ovarian cancer after failure of platinum-based chemotherapy (e.g., carboplatin or cisplatin). The drug is also indicated for use in AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma and multiple myeloma. The FDA anticipates that the incoming supply of LipoDox will be able to fully meet patient needs.

The FDA’s exercise of enforcement discretion for Lipodox is a temporary, limited arrangement specific to Sun Pharma Global FZE (a United Arab Emirates entity) and its authorized distributor, Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd. (a U.S. subsidiary of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., a leading Indian pharmaceutical company).

Temporary importation of unapproved foreign drugs is considered in rare cases when there is a shortage of an approved drug that is critical to patients and the shortage cannot be resolved in a timely fashion with FDA-approved drugs.

When a company is identified that is willing and able to import the needed drug product, the FDA evaluates the foreign-approved drug to ensure that it is of adequate quality and that the drug does not pose significant risks for U.S. patients. Only after successful evaluation of these factors does the FDA exercise its enforcement discretion for the temporary importation of an overseas drug into the U.S. market.

Methotrexate is a drug that is needed for the treatment of many forms of cancer and other serious diseases. For example, preservative-free methotrexate is needed for the intrathecal (injection into the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord) treatment of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), as well as high-dose therapy of osteosarcoma.

To alleviate the shortage of methotrexate, the FDA has successfully engaged several firms to assist in maintaining supplies to meet all patient needs. First, the FDA has prioritized the review and approval of a preservative-free methotrexate generic drug manufactured by APP Pharmaceuticals (APP) and expects that product to become available in March 2012 and continue indefinitely. Second, Hospira expedited release of additional methotrexate supplies, resulting in 31,000 vials of new product – enough for more than one month’s worth of demand – being shipped to hundreds of U.S. hospitals and treatment centers today. The FDA is actively working with other manufacturers of methotrexate who have also stepped up to increase drug production for the purpose of meeting patient needs, including Mylan and Sandoz Pharmaceuticals.

APP’s application for preservative-free methotrexate is a supplement to its already approved generic drug application that the firm had previously discontinued. When the FDA became aware of potential problems with the supply of the drug (attributable to the voluntary plant closing of the largest methotrexate manufacturer, Ben Venue Laboratories), the agency reached out to other firms to see how the FDA could assist to meet the shortfall.

Prior to the approval of APP’s application, and the subsequent Ben Venue Laboratories’ voluntary shutdown, the FDA worked with Ben Venue on release of already manufactured preservative-free methotrexate, following its confirmation of the safety of remaining drug inventory. This supply is available already and will provide emergency supplies as the other firms also work to increase production of methotrexate in response to requests by the FDA and the public.

On October 31, 2011, the Obama Administration also announced its support for bipartisan legislation that would (i) require all prescription drug shortages to be reported to the FDA, and (ii) give the FDA new authority to enforce these requirements. While additional manufacturing capacity is necessary to fully address the drug shortage problem, additional early notification to the FDA can have a significant, positive impact on addressing the incidence and duration of drug shortages.

For more FDA information relating to the U.S. drug shortage, please click on the topics listed below:

Drug Shortages

Drug Shortage Guidance (“Guidance for Industry — Notification to FDA of Issues that May Result in a Prescription Drug or Biological Product Shortage – Draft Guidance,” dated February 2012)

Labeling for Doxil (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection)

Letter from Sun Pharma Global FZE to healthcare professionals regarding doxorubicin, dated January 27, 2012.

FDA letter to Industry regarding drug shortage, dated October 31, 2011.

Labeling for methotrexate

Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

About the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The FDA is also responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Source: FDA acts to bolster supply of critically needed cancer drugs, FDA News Release, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, February 21, 2012.

Can Iran Solve the Current U.S. Doxil/Caelyx Cancer Drug Shortage?

Iran expects to bring a  cancer nanodrug called “Sinadoxosome” to market next month. Sinadoxosome is apparently similiar to pegylated liposomal doxorubicin which is marketed under the brand name “Doxil” in the U.S. and “Caelyx” in Europe. Doxil/Caelyx has been in extreme short supply in the U.S. and Europe, thereby causing potential detriment to many ovarian cancer patients.

Iran inaugurated the production line of an anti-cancer nanodrug under the name “Sinadoxosome” in the Northern city of Rasht, and the medicine will soon come to market.

In addition to producing the amount of nanodrug required by Iran, the new drug production line makes possible the exportation of the drug to other countries. The drug acquired the necessary certificates from Nanotechnology Committee of the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education in November 2011.

Dr. Mahmoud Reza Ja’fari, the Managing Director of Exir Nano Sina Company, told the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council’s reporter that the anti-cancer drug Sinadoxosome would be presented to the market next month.

“This product has been produced by the knowledge-based company Exir Nano Sina in association with Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council. It has acquired the production certificate from the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education,” Dr. Ja’fari added.

Pointing to the fact that the production of this medicine had been “monopolized” by European countries (under the “Caelyx” brand name) and by the United States (under the “Doxil” brand name), the Head of Nanotechnology Research Centre of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences said: “The importation of this medicine cost [sic] $5 mln annually. However, this medicine will be presented to the patients at one-third of the price of the foreign drug after the establishment of Sinadoxosome production line.”

Sinadoxosome contains nano liposomes that contain doxorubicin anti-cancer medicine. It targets the tumor tissue and boosts the effect of the medicine but decreases its side effects. The medicine has applications in the treatment of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of soft tissue cancer).

The production line involving the Sinadoxosome anti-cancer drug was established on February 8, 2012, in the presence of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council’s authorities and the managing director and researchers of the Sobhan Oncology Pharmaceutical Company.

*          *          *

In the YouTube video presented below, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, delivered the opening statement at a 2011 committee hearing examining the impact of drug shortages in America.

Source: Iran to Present New Anti-Cancer Nanodrug to Market Soon, Iran Nano-Technology Initiative Council, February 15, 2012.

Additional Doxil & Drug Shortage Information:

FDA Revokes Approval of Avastin Use For Metastatic Breast Cancer; Major U.S. Ovarian Cancer Advocacy Organization Concerned

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Hamburg revoked approval of Avastin for treatment of metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. The decision does not impact Avastin’s availability for its approved uses for other cancer types in the U.S. A major U.S. ovarian cancer advocacy organization is concerned that the FDA decision will make it more difficult for ovarian cancer patients to gain access to Avastin.

FDA Revocation of Avastin Approval For Metastatic Breast Cancer

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said today she is revoking the agency’s approval of the breast cancer indication for Avastin® (bevacizumab) after concluding that the drug has not been shown to be safe and effective for that use.

Avastin will still remain on the market as an approved treatment for certain types of colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme).

“This was a difficult decision. FDA recognizes how hard it is for patients and their families to cope with metastatic breast cancer and how great a need there is for more effective treatments. But patients must have confidence that the drugs they take are both safe and effective for their intended use,” Dr. Hamburg said. “After reviewing the available studies it is clear that women who take Avastin for metastatic breast cancer risk potentially life-threatening side effects without proof that the use of Avastin will provide a benefit, in terms of delay in tumor growth, that would justify those risks. Nor is there evidence that use of Avastin will either help them live longer or improve their quality of life.”

Avastin’s risks include severe high blood pressure; bleeding and hemorrhaging; heart attack or heart failure; and the development of perforations in different parts of the body such as the nose, stomach, and intestines.

Today’s decision, outlined in Dr. Hamburg’s 69-page opinion, involves Avastin used in combination with the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol) for those patients who have not been treated with chemotherapy for their form of metastatic breast cancer known as “HER-2 negative.” This indication must now be removed from Avastin’s product labeling.

Dr. Hamburg’s decision is based on an extensive record, which includes thousands of pages submitted to a public docket, data from several clinical trials, and the record from a two-day hearing held in June, 2011.

Avastin was approved for metastatic breast cancer in February 2008 under the FDA’s accelerated approval program, which allows a drug to be approved based on data that are not sufficiently complete to permit full approval. The accelerated approval program provides earlier patient access to promising new drugs to treat serious or life-threatening conditions while confirmatory clinical trials are conducted. If the clinical trials do not justify the continued approval of the drug or a specific drug indication, the agency may revoke its approval. In this case, the accelerated approval was based on promising results from one study that suggested that the drug could provide a meaningful increase in the amount of time from when treatment is started until the tumor grows or the death of the patient.

After the accelerated approval of Avastin for breast cancer, the drug’s sponsor, Genentech (a member of the Roche Group) completed two additional clinical trials and submitted the data from those studies to the FDA. These data showed only a small effect on tumor growth without evidence that patients lived any longer or had a better quality of life compared to taking standard chemotherapy alone – not enough to outweigh the risk of taking the drug.

The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), which is responsible for the approval of this drug, ultimately concluded that the results of these additional studies did not justify continued approval and notified Genentech that it was proposing to withdraw approval of the indication.

Genentech did not agree with CDER’s evaluation of the data and, following the procedures set out in FDA regulations, requested a hearing on CDER’s withdrawal proposal, with a decision to be made by the FDA Commissioner. That two-day hearing, which took place June 28-29, 2011, included recommendations from the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC), voting 6-0 in favor of withdrawing approval of Avastin’s breast cancer indication. After the hearing, the public docket remained open until August 4, 2011. In an earlier meeting of the ODAC, that committee had voted 12-1 in favor of the removal of the breast cancer indication from the Avastin label.

“FDA is committed to working with sponsors to bring promising cancer drugs to market as quickly as possible using tools like accelerated approval,” Dr. Hamburg said. “I encourage Genentech to consider additional studies to identify if there are select subgroups of women suffering from breast cancer who might benefit from this drug.”

Genentech Response

In a press release issued earlier today, Genentech’s Hal Barron, M.D., chief medical officer and head, Global Product Development, stated:

“We are disappointed with the outcome. We remain committed to the many women with this incurable disease and will continue to provide help through our patient support programs to those who may be facing obstacles to receiving their treatment in the United States. Despite today’s action, we will start a new Phase III study of Avastin in combination with paclitaxel in previously untreated metastatic breast cancer and will evaluate a potential biomarker that may help identify which people might derive a more substantial benefit from Avastin.”

Genentech emphasizes the following points in its press release:

  • The FDA Commissioner revoked approval of Avastin for treatment of metastatic breast cancer in the U.S.
  • The FDA’s action concludes its review of Avastin’s use for metastatic breast cancer.
  • The FDA decision does not impact Avastin’s approved uses for other cancer types in the U.S. or other countries.
  • The FDA decision does not impact the approval of Avastin for metastatic breast cancer in more than 80 foreign countries.
  • Roche will initiate a new clinical trial of Avastin plus paclitaxel in metastatic breast cancer.
  • Genentech will issue a letter to healthcare providers and will also provide them with a letter to distribute to their patients. Both letters will be made available on Genentech’s website.
  • Patients with questions or concerns about insurance coverage, or doctors with questions about reimbursement, can call Genentech’s Access Solutions Group at (866)-4- ACCESS.
  • Doctors with questions about Avastin can call Genentech’s Medical Communications group at (800) 821-8590.
  • The FDA’s action does not impact ongoing clinical trials with Avastin in breast cancer. For more information, please call Genentech’s Trial Information Support Line at (888) 662-6728 or visit clinicaltrials.gov.

Major U.S. Ovarian Cancer Advocacy Organization Concerned About Future Impact of FDA Decision

Karen Orloff Kaplan, MSW, MPH, ScD, Chief Executive Officer, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

Karen Orloff Kaplan, MSW, MPH, ScD, the Chief Executive Officer for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA), expressed concern that the removal of metastatic breast cancer from the Avastin label could negatively affect women with ovarian cancer, for whom the drug is used “off-label.”  OCNA is one of the most influential advocates for women with ovarian cancer in the United States.

Dr. Kaplan stated:

“Results from three Phase III clinical studies show that Avastin is beneficial for some women with ovarian cancer. We are deeply concerned that the Food and Drug Administration’s decision regarding metastatic breast cancer will make it difficult for women with ovarian cancer to access Avastin, and that patients could be denied insurance coverage for this treatment. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance will continue our work to ensure that drugs that are useful and medically appropriate are available to women with this disease.”

In the FDA report accompanying her decision, Commissioner Hamburg cited a lack of evidence that Avastin improved overall survival for women with metastatic breast cancer in its decision. “Given how difficult it is to measure overall survival in ovarian cancer clinical trials, we are concerned that today’s ruling may set an unfortunate precedent,” said Dr. Kaplan.

Currently, various national cancer treatment guidelines, such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Compendium™, include Avastin as a treatment for ovarian cancer. Despite that fact, the FDA’s decision could prompt a reexamination of industry treatment guidelines by various groups, including the NCCN. The NCCN  is a nonprofit alliance which consists of 21 leading U.S. cancer centers.

Specifically, OCNA is concerned that the FDA Avastin label change, mandated by today’s FDA decision, will lead to restrictions by third party payers, including the U.S. Medicare federal insurance program, who generally reimburse for Avastin when a woman’s cancer has returned. OCNA’s concern may be warranted because Reuters reported earlier today that some healthcare insurers have already started pulling back on Avastin reimbursement coverage for breast cancer.

As of now, according to Reuters, Medicare will continue to pay for Avastin used in the treatment of breast cancer, despite  the FDA’s revocation decision. “Medicare will continue to cover Avastin,” said Don McLeod, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). “CMS will monitor the issue and evaluate coverage options as a result of action by the FDA but has no immediate plans to change coverage policies.” The CMS statement may mitigate concerns that patients using the drug would lose critical drug reimbursement insurance coverage in the future.

Sources:

Addtional Information:

FDA Grants Paclical “Orphan Drug” Designation

“Oasmia Pharmaceutical, Uppsala, Sweden, has been granted Orphan Drug designation by the USA FDA of Paclical® for the treatment of ovarian cancer. Orphan Drug designation can entail additional assistance from FDA to expedite and optimize drug development and upon approval a seven year market exclusivity is granted. …”

“Oasmia: FDA grants Paclical® Orphan Drug Designation for ovarian cancer in the USA

Julian Aleksov, CEO, Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB

Julian Aleksov, CEO, Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB

Oasmia Pharmaceutical, Uppsala, Sweden, has been granted Orphan Drug designation by the USA FDA of Paclical® for the treatment of ovarian cancer. Orphan Drug designation can entail additional assistance from FDA to expedite and optimize drug development and upon approval a seven year market exclusivity is granted.

Orphan drug designation is intended to support the clinical development of new drugs in diseases affecting less than 200,000 people. This provides Oasmia with seven year market exclusivity on the indication when the pharmaceutical is approved. There is no direct generic competition during the period and FDA often provides technical and financial assistance to expedite and optimize drug development.

The designation is based on the hypothesis that Paclitaxel is safer than Taxol®. Oasmia Pharmaceutical is conducting a Phase III study comparing the use of Paclical to Taxol® in patients with ovarian cancer. A safety objective is to show the superiority of hypersensitivity reactions.

This designation shows that the FDA has a great confidence in the company and our product. The United States is one of the most important markets for Paclical®. This decision improves the possibilities for the product, says Julian Aleksov, CEO of Oasmia in a comment.

About Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is a disease with few and unspecific symptoms at its early stages, and is difficult to detect. The numbers of patients that are diagnosed are increasing on a yearly basis. Ovarian cancer is most often diagnosed in women over 50 years of age, but younger women are also affected. The annual incidence of new diagnosed cases is approximately 125,000 women in EU [European Union] alone. In the USA ovarian cancer accounts for 3 % of all cancer cases and is the fifth leading cause of cancer related deaths in the US.

About Paclical®
With the retinoid based unique platform XR-17, Oasmia has managed to produce a water soluble formulation of Paclitaxel (Paclical®), that does not require premedication and without the severe Cremophor® EL related side effects. The main indication is ovarian cancer. Other planned indications are malignant melanoma and lung cancer (NSCLC).

About Oasmia
Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB develops second and third generation cancer drugs based on nanotechnology for human and veterinary use. The broad portfolio is focused on oncology and contains several promising products in clinical and pre-clinical phase. Oasmia cooperates with leading universities and other biotech companies to discover and optimize substances with a favourable safety profile and better efficacy. The company was founded in 1998 and is based in Uppsala, Sweden. …”

Source: Oasmia: FDA grants Paclical® Orphan Drug Designation for ovarian cancer in the USA, Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB, April 14, 2009.

FDA Issues a Warning Letter to LabCorp Regarding The Illegal Marketing of The OvaSure™ Test

On September 29, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety (OIVD), Center for Devices and Radiological Health, issued a warning letter (FDA Warning Letter) to the Chief Executive Officer of the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) regarding the illegal marketing of the OvaSure™ ovarian cancer early detection diagnostic test. …Steven Gutman, M.D., M.B.A., the OIVD Director, informed David P. King, President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp, that his company was in serious violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) involving the illegal marketing of the OvaSureTM test and asked that the violations be promptly corrected to avoid initiation of regulatory action by the FDA.

On September 29, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety (OIVD), Center for Devices and Radiological Health, issued a warning letter (the FDA Warning Letter) to the Chief Executive Officer of the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) regarding the illegal marketing of the OvaSure™ ovarian cancer early detection diagnostic test.

In the September 29th FDA Warning Letter, Steven Gutman, M.D., M.B.A., the OIVD Director, informed David P. King, President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp, that his company was in serious violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) involving the illegal marketing of the OvaSureTM test and asked that the violations be promptly corrected to avoid initiation of regulatory action by the FDA. The FDA Warning Letter was issued to LapCorp after review of information obtained from LabCorp’s website including a press release and a technical bulletin, as well as information provided by LabCorp in a face-to-face meeting with the FDA on September 5, 2008.

The FDA Warning Letter to LapCorp states that the OvaSure™ test is a “device” under the FDCA because it is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, treatment, prevention, or mitigation of disease. Once classified as a “device” under the FDCA (assuming non-applicability of select exemption criteria), LapCorp is required by law to obtain marketing approval or clearance for the OvaSure™ test from the FDA prior to its sale to the public. This FDA finding, in theory, helps protect the public health by ensuring that new devices are shown to be both safe and effective or substantially equivalent to other devices already legally marketed in this country for which approval is not required.

Based upon OIVD’s findings, the FDA concluded that LapCorp did not obtain FDA marketing approval or clearance for the OvaSure™ test and is in violation of Federal law. Specifically, the FDA describes LapCorp’s violations of, and the required corrective action under, the FDCA as follows:

“… The device [i.e., OvaSure™] is adulterated under section 501(f)(1)(B) of the [Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act, 21 U.S.C. 351(f)(1)(B), because you do not have an approved application for premarket approval (PMA) in effect pursuant to section 515(a) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. 360e(a), or an approved application for an investigational device exemption (IDE) under section 520(g) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. 360j(g). The device is also misbranded under section 502(o) [of] the Act, 21 U.S.C. 352(o), because you did not notify the agency [i.e., the FDA] of your intent to introduce the device into commercial distribution, as required by section 510(k) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. 360(k). For a product requiring premarket approval before marketing, the notification required by section 510(k) of the act is deemed to be satisfied when a premarket approval application (PMA) is pending before the agency. 21 CFR §807.81(b). …

… You should take prompt action to correct these violations. Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in regulatory action being initiated by the FDA without further notice. These actions include, but are not limited to, seizure, injunction, and/or civil money penalties.”

The FDA Warning Letter provides LapCorp with 15 working days to correct its violations under the FDCA as noted above, and to explain how such violations will be prevented in the future. The FDA requests LapCorp to notify the agency if such corrective action cannot be taken within the specified 15 working day time frame.

Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ covered the initial marketing release of LabCorp’s OvaSure™ test and the FDA’s initial inquiry into the clinical validation support underlying the marketing of that test on June 23, 2008 and August 23, 2008, respectively.

Source: FDA Issued a Warning Letter to the CEO of LabCorp Regarding The Illegal Marketing of The OvaSureTM Test, Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration. September 29, 2008.

Lost In Translation? FDA Believes That LabCorp’s Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Test (OvaSure) Lacks Adequate Clinical Validation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) on August 7, 2008, stating that it believes the Yale ovarian cancer early detection test (marketed by LabCorp under the name OvaSure™) ” … has not received adequate clinical validation, and may harm the public health.” In that letter, the FDA invites LabCorp to discuss all validation studies that support the marketing of the OvaSure™ test.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) on August 7, 2008, stating that it believes the Yale ovarian cancer early detection test (marketed by LabCorp under the name OvaSure™) “… has not received adequate clinical validation, and may harm the public health.” In the letter, the FDA invites LabCorp to discuss all validation studies that support the marketing of the OvaSure™ test. The August 7 FDA letter appears to reflect a previously announced, yet controversial, change in FDA policy. Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ reported previously on the development of the Yale ovarian cancer early detection test [March 14, 2008], and LabCorp’s subsequent market release of that test under the name OvaSure™ [June 23, 2008].

On August 19, 2008, the Oncology STAT™ news service reported that the August 7 FDA letter was posted on the website of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety (OIVD) on August 15, but was removed from the site a few days later. On August 22, 2008, we identified the “cached” copy of the August 7 FDA letter on the OIVD website. The August 7 FDA letter is provided below in its entirety.

The August 7 FDA letter was issued by OIVD and informs LabCorp that “[i]t appears that you are marketing the Ovasure™ Test with performance characteristics (specifically, 95.3% sensitivity and 99.4% specificity) that are identical to those reported in a research study published by Visintin, I. et al., in the February 15 edition of Clinical Cancer Research (Visintin, I. et al., Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Feb 15;14(4):1065-72.).” The OIVD Director, Steven Gutman, M.D., M.B.A., states that the Visintin, I. et. al ” … research was carried out, and performance derived, on two populations that are strongly clinically biased for being healthy and normal, and for having already experienced ovarian cancer.” Based upon this rationale, the OIVD concludes that it does not believe “… the scientific community would consider the reported study sufficient to establish performance characteristics of a test in high risk women who might have ovarian cancer, i.e., in a clinical setting, as claimed in your intended use and promotional materials.”

Historical FDA Policy Regarding Laboratory-Developed (“Home Brew”) Tests

Based upon historical FDA policy, LapCorp would not be required to obtain FDA premarket or postmarket approval for the OvaSure™ test because the early detection test would be categorized as a “laboratory-developed test” (also referred to as a “home brew” test) under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA). In general, the CLIA establishes quality standards for all laboratory testing to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of patient test results regardless of where the test is performed.

Prior to 2006, the FDA did not exercise its authority to regulate home brew tests, which are developed by a laboratory for in-house use as a test service. The reasons are likely twofold. First, the FDA believed that the regulatory oversight exercised by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with respect to the laboratories (under CMS jurisdiction pursuant to CLIA), ensured that such laboratories were competent to properly manufacture and use home brew tests without additional FDA intervention. Second, the FDA possessed regulatory authority to review the primary ingredients or components in the home-brew tests (known as “analyte specific reagents” (ASRs)), and did not believe that further test regulation was necessary.

Announcement of FDA Policy Change For Select In Vitro Diagnostic Assays

In 2006, and again in 2007, the FDA issued draft guidance (entitled, Draft Guidance for Industry, Clinical Laboratories, and FDA Staff: In Vitro Diagnostic Multivariate Index Assays) in which, for the first time, the agency exercised its authority to regulate select in vitro diagnostic multivariate index assays (“IVDMIAs”) that are developed and manufactured by clinical laboratories for their own use (i.e., laboratory-developed tests/home brew tests). An IVDMIA is a diagnostic laboratory assay or test that utilizes mathematical formulae to interpret genetic and protein data required for the generation of information used to make critical diagnosis and treatment decisions for patients. IVDMIAs, for FDA regulatory purposes, are classified as medical devices under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA), and therefore, can be subject to premarket and postmarket regulation. IVDMIAs developed and manufactured by commercial, non-laboratory-based companies are currently regulated by the FDA. The majority of IVDMIAs, however, are developed and manufactured by laboratories for their own use as home brew tests.

Under the FDA draft guidance, home brew IVDMIAs would in many cases require 510(k) pre-market clearance or Pre-Market Approval (PMA). In addition, these same IVDMIAs would have to comply with “device” post-market manufacturing and reporting requirements. The August 7 FDA letter does not state that a 510(k) pre-market clearance or Pre-Market Approval is required; rather OIVD invites LabCorp to discuss any “validation strategies” undertaken beyond the research results reported by Visintin, I. et. al. LabCorp is not the only company affected by the FDA policy change. The FDA also used its change in regulatory policy to prevent Correlogic Systems, Inc. from marketing its ovarian cancer early detection test, known as OvaCheck®, without prior FDA approval. Arguably, the FDA is placing the OvaSure™ and OvaCheck® ovarian cancer early detection tests on equal regulatory footing.

Ever-Increasing Sophistication of Genetic and Proteomic Assay Technology

The emergence and increased use of IVDMIAs using novel technology (e.g., proteomics) as an integral part of patient diagnosis and treatment, and their direct advertisement to consumers, may have influenced the FDA to conclude more recently that the current level of oversight with respect to genetic and proteomic testing by laboratories was inadequate. Assuming the FDA position is correct, inadequate federal oversight could lead to significant issues related to the quality and validity of IVDMIAs.

LabCorp Amendment of OvaSure™ “Use” Information

LabCorp recently amended its intended use and promotional materials to provide that the OvaSure™ test cannot be used by a woman who has had both ovaries removed (i.e., a woman who previously had a bilateral oophorectomy). Specifically, LabCorp intends that the OvaSure™ test be used to identify a woman who is at “high-risk” for ovarian cancer; however, an ovarian cancer survivor who is currently in remission, cannot use the OvaSure™ test to screen for a recurrence of the disease if her ovaries were removed as part of her first-line treatment after the initial ovarian cancer diagnosis. CLICK HERE to view Libby’s H*O*P*E* post (with updates) dated June 23, 2008, regarding the OvaSure™ test use and limitation information as amended.

Letter to the President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp

August 7, 2008
Via FedEx

David P. King
President and Chief Executive Officer
Laboratory Corporation of America
430 South Spring Street
Burlington, North Carolina 27215

Dear Mr. King:

It has come to our attention that you are currently marketing the OvaSure™ Yale Ovarian Cancer Test, also advertised as the OvaSure™ For Women at High-Risk for Ovarian Cancer, and OvaSure™ For Women at High-Risk for Ovarian Cancer, (Serial Monitor), (collectively referred to hereafter as the OvaSure™ Test) which is intended to be used as a tool to identify high-risk women who might have ovarian carcinoma. It appears that you are marketing the OvaSure™ Test with performance characteristics (specifically, 95.3% sensitivity and 99.4% specificity) that are identical to those reported in a research study published by Visintin, I., et al., in the February 15 edition of Clinical Cancer Research (Visintin, I. et al., Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Feb 15;14(4):1065-72.). We note that this research was carried out, and performance derived, on two populations that are strongly clinically biased for being healthy and normal, and for having already experienced ovarian cancer. Based on the available information, we do not believe the scientific community would consider the reported study sufficient to establish performance characteristics of a test in high risk women who might have ovarian cancer, i.e., in a clinical setting, as claimed in your intended use and promotional materials.

Based on our review of your promotional materials and the research publication cited above, we believe you are offering a high risk test that has not received adequate clinical validation, and may harm the public health. We would like to discuss with you your offer of this test, and any validation strategies you have undertaken beyond those reported in the publication cited above.

We look forward to discussing this with you, and are committed to working with you as we strive to protect the public health without unnecessarily imposing regulatory burdens on the marketing of products of potential clinical importance.

Sincerely yours,

/S/

Steven I. Gutman, M.D., M.B.A.
Office Director
Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety
Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Comments:

  • The corporate and governmental intrigue surrounding the FDA regulatory issues with respect to the OvaSure™ and OvaCheck® ovarian cancer early detection tests would make for a thrilling Hollywood screenplay, except for the catastrophic fact that approximately 15,000 U.S. women die annually from ovarian cancer due to the lack of a reliable early detection test. Because of the latter, approximately 80 percent of women are not diagnosed until they are in advance stages of the disease.
  • The FDA’s current – and still evolving – policy signals a strong possibility that previously unregulated diagnostics could require FDA approval or clearance prior to marketing as well as being subject to other medical device requirements under the FDCA.
  • It is critical for the FDA to take whatever action is necessary to protect U.S. public health. It is also essential that ovarian cancer survivors, clinicians and all affected corporate entities receive clear, consistent regulatory guidance and prompt action from the FDA with respect to this potential life-saving matter.

Sources:

Updates:

  • September 9, 2008: The FDA recently reposted on its website, a copy of the August 7th letter to the President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp regarding OvaSure™. To view a copy of the letter, CLICK HERE.