FDA Credits Recent Drug Approval to Patient Community Engagement; We Applaud the Agency for the Recognition and Its Legacy of PFDD

December 3, 2020By Frank J. Sasinowski & James E. Valentine & Larry J. Bauer, Senior Regulatory Drug Expert

On November 23, 2020, the FDA announced that it had approved Alnylam Pharmaceuticals’ Oxlumo (lumasiran) as the first treatment for primary hyperoxaluria 1 (PH1), a rare metabolic disorder that causes recurrent kidney stones and loss of kidney function.  In the Agency’s press release, it credited the approval as the “cumulation of the work of experts and community members coordinated by the Oxalosis & Hyperoxaluria Foundation and the Kidney Health Initiative.”   More specifically, the press release quotes the Director of the Division of Cardiology and Nephrology, Dr. Norman Stockbridge:

The approval of Oxlumo represents a great triumph of community involvement to address a rare disease. It is a result of input from patients, treating physicians, experts and sponsors at a patient-focused drug development meeting and through other collaborative efforts.

As mentioned by Dr. Stockbridge, this approval comes on the heels of a recent Externally-Led Patient-Focused Drug Development (EL-PFDD) meeting for primary hyperoxaluria held virtually on October 5, 2020. HP&M’s James Valentine and Larry Bauer helped in the planning and moderation of this meeting which was sponsored by the Oxalosis & Hyperoxaluria Foundation. Benefit-risk assessment is the foundation for FDA’s regulatory review of human drugs and biologics; input from PFDD meetings can provide important data obtained directly from patients and caregivers, which we applaud FDA for acknowledging so prominently with this approval.

Building on a Legacy of Over 70 PFDD Meetings

This expression of FDA’s appreciation for PFDD meetings and the value of patient and caregiver input builds on a more than 8-year legacy of the PFDD initiative, including 29 FDA-led and 43 externally-led meetings to date. These meetings were established in 2012 as part of PDUFA V to more systematically collect patient and caregiver experiences and perspectives about the symptoms most impacting daily life, assessments of available treatments, and preferences for future treatments. This input was intended to inform the “clinical context” for benefit-risk decision-making, although it has much broader application (e.g., informing selection and development of clinical outcome assessments).

To supplement those meetings that FDA organizes, in 2015 the Agency broadened the program by allowing externally-led PFDD meetings, which are supported by FDA but sponsored by patient groups.  Each group has been responsible for organizing the meeting, speakers, and all aspects of the meeting. The FDA Patient-Focused Drug Development Program Staff review Letters of Intent for new meetings and provide guidance to advocacy groups planning meetings.

Other Examples of When PFDD Meetings Informed Regulatory Decision-Making

PFDD meetings have had an impact on several key FDA decisions and initiatives. As one example, an externally-led PFDD meeting for the rare skin disorder, epidermolysis bullosa (EB), was held on April 6, 2018, and sponsored by the advocacy group the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America (Debra of America). This meeting highlighted the devastating physical and emotional impacts of EB. Prior to this meeting, FDA directed drug developers to its “burn wounds” guidance as that reflected the most analogous clinical experience, despite the stark difference in etiology and chronicity to EB wounds. This guidance focused primarily on endpoints of complete wound healing, highlighting its clinical meaningfulness.

On its face this may seem reasonable, as EB is characterized by multiple open wounds all over the body. However, short of a cure, complete wound healing would not be expected due to the ever-present genetic defect in the skin cells. Yet, FDA requires a treatment effect that is “clinically meaningful,” so the Agency needed information that would enable it to calibrate its bar for drugs to treat EB. The EB EL-PFDD meeting highlighted the great unmet medical need in EB patients and their desire for treatments that might help shrink wounds or treat other symptoms, even if 100% wound healing was not possible.  For example, if a wound was made smaller, that might represent less overall pain a child with EB may experience each night during excruciatingly painful bandage changes that are required to keep the wounds clean. In response, just one month after that meeting, FDA on its own initiative (that is, no patient explicitly asked FDA to issue a new guidance) issued a disease-specific guidance.  This guidance focuses on drug development specific to the treatment of EB, including FDA’s thinking on trial endpoints. In it, FDA expresses that trial endpoints for new EB therapies can include effects on patients’ symptoms, such as pain, as well as on wound healing, although not establishing a 100% healing threshold.

Like PH1, other patient communities’ investments in EL-PFDD meetings have resulted in the first-ever approved drugs for their conditions or major advances in treatments over approved therapies.  This includes multiple products for forms of amyloidosis following the Amyloidosis Research Consortium’s November 16, 2015, EL-PFDD meeting, and the first-ever systemic gene therapy following CureSMA’s April 18, 2017, EL-PFDD meeting.

While these represent just a couple of examples of the lasting impact of PFDD meetings, we have seen impacts large and small across the EL-PFDD meetings we have had an active role in helping plan and moderated. HP&M has aided 31 of the 43 (72%) EL-PFDD meetings held to date.  Here are some examples of recent meetings we have helped plan:

EL-PFDD Meetings HPM Helped Plan and Moderated (Since November 2018)

DiseasePatient OrganizationMeeting Date
Mitochondrial DiseasesUnited Mitochondrial Disease FoundationMarch 29, 2019
IgA NephropathyNational Kidney FoundationAugust 19, 2019
Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN)MPN Research FoundationSeptember 16, 2019
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD)NORDSeptember 20, 2019
Atopic DermatitisNational Eczema Association

Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America

September 23, 2019
CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder (CDD)LouLou FoundationNovember 1, 2019
PancreatitisNational Pancreas FoundationMarch 3, 2020
Hepatitis B*Hepatitis B FoundationJune 9, 2020
Adult Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathies*Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy AssociationJune 26, 2020
FSHD*FSH SocietyJune 29, 2020
Pompe Disease*Muscular Dystrophy AssociationJuly 13, 2020
FSGS*National Kidney FoundationAugust 28, 2020
Spinocerebellar Ataxia/DRPLA*Natl Ataxia Foundation/CureDRPLASeptember 25, 2020
Primary Hyperoxaluria*Oxalosis and Hyperoxaluria FoundationOctober 5, 2020
Syngap 1*Bridge the GapNovember 19, 2020

* Fully virtual meetings; more information on the virtual EL-PFDD meeting can be found here.

FDA continues to show its support for EL-PFDD meetings and the value of learning from patients and caregivers about what matters most. We applaud the Agency’s efforts to continue to include the voices of patients in drug development and regulatory decisions. After all, the patients are the true experts.