It Feels Like the First Time: FDA’s First Competitive Generic Therapy Approval

August 9, 2018By Sara W. Koblitz & Kurt R. Karst

Well, we haven’t quite waited the lifetime that Foreigner did, but it’s exciting nonetheless. Only about one year after signing the provisions into law, FDA announced the approval of the first generic drug with a Competitive Generic Therapy (“CGT”) designation: ANDA 211067 for potassium chloride oral solution in 20 and 40 MEQ/15 mL strengths. Created to expedite the development and approval of generic drugs for reference products that lack significant competition, a CGT designation offers applicants benefits, like enhanced communications with FDA officials, expedited ANDA review, and potential eligibility for CGT exclusivity. A reference product that lacks significant competition is one for which there is no more than one approved ANDA for a specific reference product listed in the Orange Book.

In announcing the approval of Apotex ANDA 211067, FDA Commissioner Gottlieb touted the effectiveness of the Agency’s new Drug Competition Action Plan, explaining that the product was approved in its first cycle of review. Potassium chloride oral solution is intended for the treatment and prevention of hypokalemia (low potassium blood levels) in patients on diuretics when dietary management with potassium-rich foods is insufficient or diuretic dose reduction is not possible.

We haven’t yet seen the ANDA Approval Letter or any approval materials, and there are several Potassium Chloride products listed in the Orange Book. Only one of the Potassium Chloride products is included on the current List of Off-Patent, Off-Exclusivity Drugs, FDA’s “hit list” for generic manufacturers, published in December 2017 (another Potassium Chloride product was included on the original June 2017 list, but because an ANDA referencing the NDA has been approved since the previous list publication, it was moved to the Appendix). By deductive reasoning, the Reference Listed Drug (“RLD”) for Apotex’s ANDA is Potassium Chloride approved under NDA 206814 in December 2014. Apotex’s version is the second approved generic drug referencing NDA 206814, with another generic drug manufacturer receiving approval of ANDA 210041 without CGT status on July 19, 2018.

Apotex’s CGT-designated ANDA additionally received CGT exclusivity, which provides a “first approved applicant” for a product with “inadequate generic competition” with 180 days of exclusivity. A “first approved applicant” is defined in the statute as (1) any applicant with an ANDA approved on the first day that any ANDA for a designated CGT is approved; (2) that is not eligible for Paragraph IV 180-day exclusivity; and (3) is not a drug for which all drug versions have forfeited eligibility for 180-day exclusivity. 21 U.S.C. § 355(j)(5)(B)(v)(III)(bb). “Inadequate generic competition” is defined as a drug for which there is no more than one approved ANDA for the corresponding reference product. 21 U.S.C. § 356h(e)(2). Assuming Apotex starts commercially marketing within 75 days of approval, a subsequent generic will not be approved to market for 180 days after launch. However, this exclusivity will not preclude the marketing under ANDA 210041, which received approval prior to the Apotex even though Apotex is technically the “first approved applicant.” This is because “first approved applicant” applies only to CGT-designated applicants.

Apotex has only 75 days to start commercially marketing to block the approval of other applicants for 180 days, but nothing in the statutory language precludes FDA from approving other applicants prior to Apotex’s commercial launch (and the triggering of CGT 180-day exclusivity). The statute prohibits FDA from approving subsequent applicants only if the first approved applicant has commenced commercial marketing. And applicants approved prior to Apotex’s commercial launch wouldn’t be blocked from marketing during Apotex’s 180- day exclusivity period because the statute blocks only the approval of a subsequent applicant for 180 days after commercial launch – not the marketing. Contrast this with Paragraph IV 180-day exclusivity, which blocks the approval of a subsequent applicant after a first applicant has submitted an application containing a Paragraph IV certification thereby preserving the first applicant’s exclusivity until commercial launch or forfeiture.

Once Apotex actually starts commercially marketing, the CGT exclusivity will block the approval of all applications for the RLD. This too differs from 180-day exclusivity for Paragraph IV filers, which blocks approval of only ANDAs containing Paragraph IV certifications.

Apotex has significant incentive to start commercial marketing as soon as possible, but it will be interesting to see how all of these potential scenarios play out if Apotex delays.

We talked to our friend, Terri Stewart of Abraxeolus Consulting (and former VP of Global Regulatory Policy, Intelligence & Compliance at Teva Pharmaceuticals) about how the CGT program came about. Terri is credited with developing the CGT pathway (and therefore, we’ll say she’s the Mother of the CGT Program). Here’s what Terri had to say:

In 2015, Congress began paying very close attention to rising prices of several older medicines. After oversight hearings to examine the steep price increases of medicines such as Daraprim, Epipen, Nitropress, and Isuprel, they passed legislation that would impose an additional rebate or consumer price index (CPI) penalty on generic medicines that increase their prices beyond the rate of inflation. However, this did little to solve the underlying problem, due in large part to the fact that these medicines, while on the market for decades, were brand drugs. Generic manufactures had either not targeted or not successfully gotten approval for these medicines, the step the health system relies upon to decrease prices. When the FDARA legislation presented an opportunity to once again address the issue and create a way to insert competition into the market it was the Schrader and Bilirakis offices that sought the advice of the pharmaceutical industry to find a new policy. I worked closely with their staff to develop what is today the Competitive Generic Therapy exclusivity, an incentive not for the filing of an ANDA for one of these older medicines but a benefit that is bestowed upon approval. Since passage of the legislation, I have discussed with many in the industry the impact that this has had on product selection and in may ways the return for these medicines of the promise of generic drugs – to insert competition into the market.  We often take for granted the impact that generics have for patients until we see these instances where they are not present within the life cycle of a medicine. With today’s first approval under the new pathway, I am hopeful that our efforts to solve one of the key drug pricing issues of today will continue to be successful.

Thanks Terri! We look forward to seeing additional CGT approvals and what new and interesting 180-day exclusivity issues might arise.