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1.  Harmonization of Regulatory Approaches for Evaluating Therapeutic Equivalence and Interchangeability of Multisource Drug Products: Workshop Summary Report 
The AAPS Journal  2011;13(4):556-564.
Regulatory approaches for evaluating therapeutic equivalence of multisource (or generic) drug products vary among different countries and/or regions. Harmonization of these approaches may decrease the number of in vivo bioequivalence studies and avoid unnecessary drug exposure to humans. Global harmonization for regulatory requirements may be promoted by a better understanding of factors underlying product performance and expectations from different regulatory authorities. This workshop provided an opportunity for pharmaceutical scientists from academia, industry and regulatory agencies to have open discussions on current regulatory issues and industry practices, facilitating harmonization of regulatory approaches for establishing therapeutic equivalence and interchangeability of multisource drug products.
PMCID: PMC3231855  PMID: 21845486
bioequivalence; harmonization; interchangeability; regulatory standards; therapeutic equivalence
2.  Complaints, Complainants, and Rulings Regarding Drug Promotion in the United Kingdom and Sweden 2004–2012: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study of Pharmaceutical Industry Self-Regulation 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(2):e1001785.
In many European countries, medicines promotion is governed by voluntary codes of practice administered by the pharmaceutical industry under its own system of self-regulation. Involvement of industry organizations in policing promotion has been proposed to deter illicit conduct, but few detailed studies on self-regulation have been carried out to date. The objective of this study was to examine the evidence for promotion and self-regulation in the UK and Sweden, two countries frequently cited as examples of effective self-regulation.
Methods and Findings
We performed a qualitative content analysis of documents outlining the constitutions and procedures of these two systems. We also gathered data from self-regulatory bodies on complaints, complainants, and rulings for the period 2004–2012. The qualitative analysis revealed similarities and differences between the countries. For example, self-regulatory bodies in both countries are required to actively monitor promotional items and impose sanctions on violating companies, but the range of sanctions is greater in the UK where companies may, for instance, be audited or publicly reprimanded. In total, Swedish and UK bodies ruled that 536 and 597 cases, respectively, were in breach, equating to an average of more than one case/week for each country. In Sweden, 430 (47%) complaints resulted from active monitoring, compared with only two complaints (0.2%) in the UK. In both countries, a majority of violations concerned misleading promotion. Charges incurred on companies averaged €447,000 and €765,000 per year in Sweden and the UK, respectively, equivalent to about 0.014% and 0.0051% of annual sales revenues, respectively. One hundred cases in the UK (17% of total cases in breach) and 101 (19%) in Sweden were highlighted as particularly serious. A total of 46 companies were ruled in breach of code for a serious offence at least once in the two countries combined (n = 36 in the UK; n = 27 in Sweden); seven companies were in serious violation more than ten times each. A qualitative content analysis of serious violations pertaining to diabetes drugs (UK, n = 15; Sweden, n = 6; 10% of serious violations) and urologics (UK, n = 6; Sweden, n = 13; 9%) revealed various types of violations: misleading claims (n = 23; 58%); failure to comply with undertakings (n = 9; 23%); pre-licensing (n = 7; 18%) or off-label promotion (n = 2; 5%); and promotion of prescription drugs to the public (n = 6; 15%). Violations that go undetected or unpunished by self-regulatory bodies are the main limitation of this study, since they are likely to lead to an underestimate of industry misconduct.
The prevalence and severity of breaches testifies to a discrepancy between the ethical standard codified in industry Codes of Conduct and the actual conduct of the industry. We discuss regulatory reforms that may improve the quality of medicines information, such as pre-vetting and intensified active monitoring of promotion, along with larger fines, and giving greater publicity to rulings. But despite the importance of improving regulatory arrangements in an attempt to ensure unbiased medicines information, such efforts alone are insufficient because simply improving oversight and increasing penalties fail to address additional layers of industry bias.
In a document analysis, Shai Mulinari and colleagues examine the evidence for promotion and self-regulation by the pharmaceutical industry in the UK and Sweden.
Editors' Summary
Making and selling medicines is big business. In 2013, the global revenue of pharmaceutical companies was nearly US$1 trillion. And every year, a large proportion of this revenue—maybe as much as one-third—is spent on drug promotion. The pharmaceutical companies claim that drug promotion (for example, advertisements in journals and visits from pharmaceutical sales representatives) helps to inform and educate health care professionals about the risks and benefits of medicines. However, drug promotion also has the potential to encourage health care professionals to prescribe inappropriate or needlessly expensive drugs and to encourage the public to buy unnecessary over-the-counter (OTC) drugs (medicines that, unlike prescription drugs, can be bought without a written instruction from a physician or other licensed health care professional). In many countries, including the US, government bodies regulate the promotion of medicines but in other countries, including many in Europe, the pharmaceutical industry self-regulates medicines promotion through voluntary codes of practice.
Why Was This Study Done?
Over the past decade, several whistleblower cases have spotlighted the illicit marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies in the US but relatively few similar cases have been brought in Europe. The reason for this discrepancy is unclear but one possibility is that the wider use of self-regulation in Europe encourages the industry to comply with drug promotion rules and deters illicit conduct. To date, however, self-regulation of medicines promotion has been poorly studied. Here, the researchers undertake a quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (descriptive) study of pharmaceutical self-regulation in the UK and Sweden, two countries often cited as places where self-regulation is effective. In both countries, the rules on medicines promotion are codified in the Code of Practice of the national industry trade group and are overseen by self-regulatory bodies that operate independently of the trade groups; the Swedish code applies to the promotion of both prescription and OTC drugs whereas the UK code applies only to the promotion of prescription drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first undertook a qualitative content analysis of the documents outlining the rules and procedures governing the self-regulatory bodies overseeing medicines promotion in the two countries. Both bodies, they report, are required to actively monitor promotional items and to impose sanctions on companies that violate the rules. However, a wider range of sanctions, which includes the audit and public reprimand of offending companies in addition to economic sanctions, can be imposed in the UK than in Sweden. Analysis of numerical data collected by the self-regulatory bodies on complaints, complainants, and rulings revealed that between 2004 and 2012 the Swedish and UK bodies ruled that 536 and 597 cases, respectively, were in breach of the country’s rules on medicines promotion; many of the violations in both countries concerned misleading claims about a drug’s effects. In Sweden, nearly half the complaints resulted from active monitoring of promotional items compared to only 0.2% in the UK. Charges incurred by companies because of violations of the medicines promotion code were equivalent to about 0.014% and 0.0051% of annual sales revenue in Sweden and the UK, respectively. Notably, nearly 20% of the cases in breach of the code of practice in both countries were serious breaches, and seven companies were in serious violation more than ten times each in the two countries combined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, between 2004 and 2012, there were numerous violations of the pharmaceutical industry codes regulating medicines promotion in both the UK and Sweden. That is, there was a clear discrepancy between the ethical standard codified in the pharmaceutical industry Codes of Practice in these two countries and the actual conduct of the industry. Importantly, the discrepancy may be larger than reported here because the researchers only considered violations that were detected and punished by the self-regulatory bodies in their analysis; some violations that occurred during the study period probably went undetected or unpunished. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that regulatory reforms, including pre-vetting of promotional materials, intensified active monitoring of promotion, larger fines, and the introduction of other sanctions such as greater publicity following rulings, may help to improve the quality of medicines information for health care professionals and the public in Sweden, the UK, and other countries where the pharmaceutical industry self-regulates drug promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia provides information on pharmaceutical marketing (mainly in the US) (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US Food and Drug Administration Office of Prescription Drug Promotion aims to protect the public health by assuring prescription drug information is truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated; the FDA’s Bad Ad Program aims to educate health care professionals about the role they can play in ensuring that drug advertising and promotion is truthful and not misleading
Information on the UK regulatory framework is available from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA); the MHRA website also includes information on MHRA vetting of advertising material.
Information on the UK self-regulatory body, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), is available; the PMCPA website includes information about the UK Code of Practice for medicines promotion
Details of the Swedish Code are also available; codes for other European countries are provided by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations
Healthy Skepticism is an international non-profit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
The World Health Organization provides information about drug promotion and attitudes to it in “Drug Promotion—What We Know, What We Have Yet to Learn—Reviews of Materials in the WHO/HAI Database on Drug Promotion”
PMCID: PMC4331559  PMID: 25689460
3.  Assuring quality and performance of sustained and controlled release parenterals: EUFEPS workshop report 
AAPS PharmSci  2004;6(1):100-111.
This is a summary report of the workshop, organized by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Scientists in association with the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products, the European Pharmacopoeia, the US Food and Drug Administration and the United States Pharmacopoeia, on “Assuring Quality and Performance of Sustained and Controlled Release Parenterals” held in Basel, Switzerland, February 2003. Experts from the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory authorities and academia participated in this workshop to review, discuss and debate formulation, processing and manufacture of sustained and controlled release parenterals, and identify critical process parameters and their control. This workshop was a follow-up workshop to a previous workshop on Assuring Quality and Performance of Sustained and Controlled Release Parenterals that was held in Washington, DC in April 2001. This report reflects the outcome of the Basel 2003 meeting and the advances in the field since the Washington, DC meeting in 2001. As necessary, the reader is referred to the report on the 2001 meeting. Areas were identified at the 2003 Basel meeting where research is needed in order to understand the performance of these drug delivery systems and to assist in the development of appropriate testing procedures. Recommendations were made for future workshops and meetings.
PMCID: PMC2750946  PMID: 18465263
4.  Tobacco Company Efforts to Influence the Food and Drug Administration-Commissioned Institute of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001450.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues investigate efforts by tobacco companies to influence Clearing the Smoke, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report on harm reduction tobacco products.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction,” leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Up to half of tobacco users will die of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or another tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes and other tobacco products cause disease because they expose their users to nicotine and numerous other toxic chemicals. Tobacco companies have been working to develop a “safe” cigarette for more than half a century. Initially, their attention focused on cigarettes that produced lower tar and nicotine yields in machine-smoking tests. These products were perceived as “safer” products by the public and scientists for many years, but it is now known that the use of low-yield cigarettes can actually expose smokers to higher levels of toxins than standard cigarettes. More recently, the tobacco companies have developed other products (for example, products that heat aerosols of nicotine, rather than burning the tobacco) that claim to reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease, but they can only market these modified risk tobacco products in the US after obtaining Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In 1999, the FDA commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM, an influential source of independent expert advice on medical issues) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction.” In 2001, the IOM published its report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm and Reduction, which, although controversial, set the tone for the development and regulation of tobacco products in the US, particularly those claiming to be less dangerous, in subsequent years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Tobacco companies have a long history of working to shape scientific discussions and agendas. For example, they have produced research results designed to “create controversy” about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers investigate how tobacco companies organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the Clearing the Smoke report on modified risk tobacco products by analyzing tobacco industry and IOM documents.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) for documents outlining how tobacco companies tried to influence the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction and created a timeline of events from the 1,000 or so documents they retrieved. They confirmed and supplemented this timeline using information in 80 files that detailed written interactions between the tobacco companies and the IOM committee, which they obtained through a public records access request. Analysis of these documents indicates that the tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have important regulatory implications, that they developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings, and that tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and regulatory staff shaped presentations to the IOM committee by company scientists on various aspects of tobacco harm reduction products. The analysis also shows that tobacco companies were pleased with the final report, particularly its recommendation that tobacco products can be marketed with exposure or risk reduction claims provided the products substantially reduce exposure and provided the behavioral and health consequences of these products are determined in post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological studies (“tiered testing”) and its recommendation that, provided no claim of reduced exposure or risk is made, new products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) can be marketed without prior regulatory approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tobacco companies used their legal and regulatory staff to access the IOM committee that advised the FDA on modified risk tobacco products and that they used this access to deliver specific, carefully formulated messages designed to serve their business interests. Although these findings provide no evidence that the efforts of tobacco companies influenced the IOM committee in any way, they show that the companies were satisfied with the final IOM report and its recommendations, some of which have policy implications that continue to reverberate today. The researchers therefore call for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to remember that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public when assessing the information presented by tobacco companies as part of the regulatory process and to actively protect their public-health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Thomas Novotny
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages); for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Heide Weishaar and colleagues describes tobacco company efforts to undermine the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control
Wikipedia has a page on tobacco harm reduction (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The IOM report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction is available to read online
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is the focal point for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists in disciplines ranging from the molecular biology of nicotine addiction through political science who combine their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco and tobacco-induced cancer and other diseases worldwide
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3665841  PMID: 23723740
5.  Guidelines, Editors, Pharma And The Biological Paradigm Shift 
Mens Sana Monographs  2007;5(1):27-30.
Private investment in biomedical research has increased over the last few decades. At most places it has been welcomed as the next best thing to technology itself. Much of the intellectual talent from academic institutions is getting absorbed in lucrative positions in industry. Applied research finds willing collaborators in venture capital funded industry, so a symbiotic growth is ensured for both.
There are significant costs involved too. As academia interacts with industry, major areas of conflict of interest especially applicable to biomedical research have arisen. They are related to disputes over patents and royalty, hostile encounters between academia and industry, as also between public and private enterprise, legal tangles, research misconduct of various types, antagonistic press and patient-advocate lobbies and a general atmosphere in which commercial interest get precedence over patient welfare.
Pharma image stinks because of a number of errors of omission and commission. A recent example is suppression of negative findings about Bayer's Trasylol (Aprotinin) and the marketing maneuvers of Eli Lilly's Xigris (rhAPC). Whenever there is a conflict between patient vulnerability and profit motives, pharma often tends to tilt towards the latter. Moreover there are documents that bring to light how companies frequently cross the line between patient welfare and profit seeking behaviour.
A voluntary moratorium over pharma spending to pamper drug prescribers is necessary. A code of conduct adopted recently by OPPI in India to limit pharma company expenses over junkets and trinkets is a welcome step.
Clinical practice guidelines (CPG) are considered important as they guide the diagnostic/therapeutic regimen of a large number of medical professionals and hospitals and provide recommendations on drugs, their dosages and criteria for selection. Along with clinical trials, they are another area of growing influence by the pharmaceutical industry. For example, in a relatively recent survey of 2002, it was found that about 60% of 192 authors of clinical practice guidelines reported they had financial connections with the companies whose drugs were under consideration. There is a strong case for making CPGs based not just on effectivity but cost effectivity. The various ramifications of this need to be spelt out. Work of bodies like the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) Collaboration and Guidelines Advisory Committee (GAC) are also worth a close look.
Even the actions of Foundations that work for disease amelioration have come under scrutiny. The process of setting up ‘Best Practices’ Guidelines for interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians has already begun and can have important consequences for patient care. Similarly, Good Publication Practice (GPP) for pharmaceutical companies have also been set up aimed at improving the behaviour of drug companies while reporting drug trials
The rapidly increasing trend toward influence and control by industry has become a concern for many. It is of such importance that the Association of American Medical Colleges has issued two relatively new documents - one, in 2001, on how to deal with individual conflicts of interest; and the other, in 2002, on how to deal with institutional conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical research. Academic Medical Centers (AMCs), as also medical education and research institutions at other places, have to adopt means that minimize their conflicts of interest.
Both medical associations and research journal editors are getting concerned with individual and institutional conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical research and documents are now available which address these issues. The 2001 ICMJE revision calls for full disclosure of the sponsor's role in research, as well as assurance that the investigators are independent of the sponsor, are fully accountable for the design and conduct of the trial, have independent access to all trial data and control all editorial and publication decisions. However the findings of a 2002 study suggest that academic institutions routinely participate in clinical research that does not adhere to ICMJE standards of accountability, access to data and control of publication.
There is an inevitable slant to produce not necessarily useful but marketable products which ensure the profitability of industry and research grants outflow to academia. Industry supports new, not traditional, therapies, irrespective of what is effective. Whatever traditional therapy is supported is most probably because the company concerned has a product with a big stake there, which has remained a ‘gold standard’ or which that player thinks has still some ‘juice’ left.
Industry sponsorship is mainly for potential medications, not for trying to determine whether there may be non-pharmacological interventions that may be equally good, if not better. In the paradigm shift towards biological psychiatry, the role of industry sponsorship is not overt but probably more pervasive than many have realised, or the right thinking may consider good, for the health of the branch in the long run.
An issue of major concern is protection of the interests of research subjects. Patients agree to become research subjects not only for personal medical benefit but, as an extension, to benefit the rest of the patient population and also advance medical research.
We all accept that industry profits have to be made, and investment in research and development by the pharma industry is massive. However, we must also accept there is a fundamental difference between marketing strategies for other entities and those for drugs.
The ultimate barometer is patient welfare and no drug that compromises it can stand the test of time. So, how does it make even commercial sense in the long term to market substandard products? The greatest mistake long-term players in industry may make is try to adopt the shady techniques of the upstart new entrant. Secrecy of marketing/sales tactics, of the process of manufacture, of other strategies and plans of business expansion, of strategies to tackle competition are fine business tactics. But it is critical that secrecy as a tactic not extend to reporting of research findings, especially those contrary to one's product.
Pharma has no option but to make a quality product, do comprehensive adverse reaction profiles, and market it only if it passes both tests.
Why does pharma adopt questionable tactics? The reasons are essentially two:
What with all the constraints, a drug comes to the pharmacy after huge investments. There are crippling overheads and infrastructure costs to be recovered. And there are massive profit margins to be maintained. If these were to be dependent only on genuine drug discoveries, that would be taking too great a risk.Industry players have to strike the right balance between profit making and credibility. In profit making, the marketing champions play their role. In credibility ratings, researchers and paid spokes-persons play their role. All is hunky dory till marketing is based on credibility. When there is nothing available to make for credibility, something is projected as one and marketing carried out, in the calculated hope that profits can accrue, since profit making must continue endlessly. That is what makes pharma adopt even questionable means to make profits.
Essentially, there are four types of drugs. First, drugs that work and have minimal side-effects; second, drugs which work but have serious side-effects; third, drugs that do not work and have minimal side-effects; and fourth, drugs which work minimally but have serious side-effects. It is the second and fourth types that create major hassles for industry. Often, industry may try to project the fourth type as the second to escape censure.
The major cat and mouse game being played by conscientious researchers is in exposing the third and fourth for what they are and not allowing industry to palm them off as the first and second type respectively. The other major game is in preventing the second type from being projected as the first. The third type are essentially harmless, so they attract censure all right and some merriment at the antics to market them. But they escape anything more than a light rap on the knuckles, except when they are projected as the first type.
What is necessary for industry captains and long-term players is to realise:
Their major propelling force can only be producing the first type. 2. They accept the second type only till they can lay their hands on the first. 3. The third type can be occasionally played around with to shore up profits, but never by projecting them as the first type. 4. The fourth type are the laggards, real threat to credibility and therefore do not deserve any market hype or promotion.
In finding out why most pharma indulges in questionable tactics, we are lead to some interesting solutions to prevent such tactics with the least amount of hassles for all concerned, even as both profits and credibility are kept intact.
PMCID: PMC3192391  PMID: 22058616
Academia; Pharmaceutical Industry; Clinical Practice Guidelines; Best Practice Guidelines; Academic Medical Centers; Medical Associations; Research Journals; Clinical Research; Public Welfare; Pharma Image; Corporate Welfare; Biological Psychiatry; Law Suits Against Industry
6.  Summary Report of PQRI Workshop on Nanomaterial in Drug Products: Current Experience and Management of Potential Risks 
The AAPS Journal  2014;17(1):44-64.
At the Product Quality Research Institute (PQRI) Workshop held last January 14–15, 2014, participants from academia, industry, and governmental agencies involved in the development and regulation of nanomedicines discussed the current state of characterization, formulation development, manufacturing, and nonclinical safety evaluation of nanomaterial-containing drug products for human use. The workshop discussions identified areas where additional understanding of material attributes, absorption, biodistribution, cellular and tissue uptake, and disposition of nanosized particles would continue to inform their safe use in drug products. Analytical techniques and methods used for in vitro characterization and stability testing of formulations containing nanomaterials were discussed, along with their advantages and limitations. Areas where additional regulatory guidance and material characterization standards would help in the development and approval of nanomedicines were explored. Representatives from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), Health Canada, and European Medicines Agency (EMA) presented information about the diversity of nanomaterials in approved and newly developed drug products. USFDA, Health Canada, and EMA regulators discussed the applicability of current regulatory policies in presentations and open discussion. Information contained in several of the recent EMA reflection papers was discussed in detail, along with their scope and intent to enhance scientific understanding about disposition, efficacy, and safety of nanomaterials introduced in vivo and regulatory requirements for testing and market authorization. Opportunities for interaction with regulatory agencies during the lifecycle of nanomedicines were also addressed at the meeting. This is a summary of the workshop presentations and discussions, including considerations for future regulatory guidance on drug products containing nanomaterials.
PMCID: PMC4287304  PMID: 25421459
nanomaterials; nanomedicine; nanotechnology; PQRI; risk management; USFDA
7.  Antibody biosimilars: Fears or opportunities? 
mAbs  2014;6(4):805-809.
The annual “LabEx MAbImprove industrial workshops” are primarily intended to provide scientists involved in therapeutic antibodies, a comprehensive view about topics of interest for the pharmaceutical industry. They are organized by the “LabEx MAbImprove industrial committee”, for this first edition especially in partnership with ARITT, the regional agency for innovation and technology transfer which operates in the French Région Centre, the 1st French region for pharmaceutical production. The 2013 edition, held May 28 at the Vinci Center of Tours, was dedicated to antibody biosimilars. Depending on opinions, the impending expiry of antibody patents and the imminent marketing approval of competitors to blockbusters can be perceived as good or bad things. Fears or opportunities? Risks for patients? Breath of fresh air for the health systems? Opportunity for re-industrializing France? In this context, it is necessary for people to form a fair and informed opinion on the current landscape of antibody biosimilars. In particular, this is especially important for scientists from the academic world, from the industry or from the regulation agencies, for pharmacists, for pharmacovigilance specialists, for health authorities, and staff from health insurance and decision makers. The first session was devoted to market and regulatory issues, and included both an overview of the evolution of the patent landscape and a description of biosimilars regulation in the European Union (EU). This session was closed by a talk on manufacturing processes for biosimilars. In the next session, quality control attributes of biosimilars were discussed and compared with the consistent quality of biotechnology products to raise the question: “How close is close enough?” In vitro assays for evaluating the Fc function of therapeutic antibodies were also discussed. The third session focused on development of biosimilars and primarily on the stepwise process for introducing an antibody biosimilar on the EU market, and included a presentation of the ongoing clinical evaluation of an infliximab biosimilar. The session concluded with a rich debate on the indication extrapolation of a biosimilar compared to the originator. The last session was dedicated to societal issues and focused on two aspects: (1) the need of biosimilars for EU health economy; and (2) last but not least, the ethical issues about clinical evaluation of biosimilars. All speakers and attendees enjoyed this very stimulating and rewarding meeting, which gathered many people with divergent scientific backgrounds from the academic or industrial world.
PMCID: PMC4171015  PMID: 24714167
Therapeutic Antibodies; Biosimilars; Biopharmaceuticals; Regulatory issues; Societal issues
8.  Power, expertise and the limits of representative democracy: genetics as scientific progress or political legitimation in carcinogenic risk assessment of pharmaceuticals? 
Journal of Community Genetics  2011;3(2):91-103.
In modern ‘representative’ democratic states, the legitimacy of governments’ actions rests on their publicly declared commitment to protect the interests of their citizens. Regarding the pharmaceutical sector in most democracies, new drug products are developed and marketed by a capitalist industry, whose member firms, via shareholders, have commercial interests in expanding product sales. In those democracies, states have established government agencies to regulate the pharmaceutical industry on behalf of citizens. State legislatures, such as the US Congress and European Parliaments, have charged government drug regulatory agencies with the legal responsibility to protect public health. Yet, this paper argues that government drug regulatory agencies in the EU, Japan, and USA have permitted the pharmaceutical industry to reshape the regulatory guidance for carcinogenic risk assessment of pharmaceuticals in ways that are not techno-scientifically defensible as bases for improved, or even equivalent, protection of public health, compared with the previous techno-regulatory standards. By adopting the industry’s agenda of streamlining carcinogenicity testing in order to accelerate drug development and regulatory review, it is contended that these regulatory agencies have allowed the techno-regulatory standards for carcinogenic risk assessment to be loosened in ways that are presented as scientific progress resulting from new genetics, but for which there is little evidence of progress in public health protection.
PMCID: PMC3312948  PMID: 22109906
9.  FDA Critical Path Initiatives: Opportunities for Generic Drug Development 
The AAPS Journal  2008;10(1):103-109.
FDA’s critical path initiative documents have focused on the challenges involved in the development of new drugs. Some of the focus areas identified apply equally to the production of generic drugs. However, there are scientific challenges unique to the development of generic drugs as well. In May 2007, FDA released a document “Critical Path Opportunities for Generic Drugs” that identified some of the specific challenges in the development of generic drugs. The key steps in generic product development are usually characterization of the reference product, design of a pharmaceutically equivalent and bioequivalent product, design of a consistent manufacturing process and conduct of the pivotal bioequivalence study. There are several areas of opportunity where scientific progress could accelerate the development and approval of generic products and expand the range of products for which generic versions are available, while maintaining high standards for quality, safety, and efficacy. These areas include the use of quality by design to develop bioequivalent products, more efficient bioequivalence methods for systemically acting drugs (expansion of BCS waivers, highly variable drugs), and development of new bioequivalence methods for locally acting drugs.
PMCID: PMC2751455  PMID: 18446510
bioequivalence; critical path initiative; generic drugs
10.  Use of Fixed Dose Combination (FDC) Drugs in India: Central Regulatory Approval and Sales of FDCs Containing Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), Metformin, or Psychotropic Drugs 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(5):e1001826.
In 2012, an Indian parliamentary committee reported that manufacturing licenses for large numbers of fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs had been issued by state authorities without prior approval of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in violation of rules, and considered that some ambiguity until 1 May 2002 about states’ powers might have contributed. To our knowledge, no systematic enquiry has been undertaken to determine if evidence existed to support these findings. We investigated CDSCO approvals for and availability of oral FDC drugs in four therapeutic areas: analgesia (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs]), diabetes (metformin), depression/anxiety (anti-depressants/benzodiazepines), and psychosis (anti-psychotics).
Methods and Findings
This was an ecologic study with a time-trend analysis of FDC sales volumes (2007–2012) and a cross-sectional examination of 2011–2012 data to establish the numbers of formulations on the market with and without a record of CDSCO approval (“approved” and “unapproved”), their branded products, and sales volumes. Data from the CDSCO on approved FDC formulations were compared with sales data from PharmaTrac, a database of national drug sales. We determined the proportions of FDC sales volumes (2011–2012) arising from centrally approved and unapproved formulations and from formulations including drugs banned/restricted internationally. We also determined the proportions of centrally approved and unapproved formulations marketed before and after 1 May 2002, when amendments were made to the drug rules. FDC approvals in India, the United Kingdom (UK), and United States of America (US) were compared.
For NSAID FDCs, 124 formulations were marketed, of which 34 (27%) were centrally approved and 90 (73%) were unapproved; metformin: 25 formulations, 20 (80%) approved, five (20%) unapproved; anti-depressants/benzodiazepines: 16 formulations, three (19%) approved, 13 (81%) unapproved; anti-psychotics: ten formulations, three (30%) approved, seven (70%) unapproved. After 1 May 2002, the proportions of approved FDC formulations increased for NSAIDs (26%/28%) and anti-psychotics (0%/38%) and decreased for metformin (100%/75%) and anti-depressants/benzodiazepines (20%/18%), and the overall proportion approved remained similar before and after that date.
FDC formulations gave rise to multiple branded products, ranging from 211 anti-psychotic FDC products from ten formulations to 2,739 NSAID FDC products from 124 formulations. The proportions of FDC sales volumes arising from unapproved formulations were as follows: anti-depressants/benzodiazepines, 69%; anti-psychotics, 43%; NSAIDs, 28%; and metformin, 0.4%. Formulations including drugs banned/restricted internationally comprised over 12% of NSAID FDC sales and 53% of anti-psychotic FDC sales. Across the four therapeutic areas, 14 FDC formulations were approved in the UK and 22 in the US.
There was evidence supporting concerns about FDCs. Metformin excepted, substantial numbers of centrally unapproved formulations for NSAID, anti-depressant/benzodiazepine, and anti-psychotic FDCs were marketed; sales volumes were high. The legal need for central approval of new drugs before manufacture has been in place continuously since 1961, including for FDCs meeting the applicable legal test. Proportions of centrally unapproved formulations after 1 May 2002 did not decrease overall, and no ambiguity was found about states’ licensing powers. Unapproved formulations should be banned immediately, prioritising those withdrawn/banned internationally and undertaking a review of benefits and risks for patients in ceasing or switching to other medicines. Drug laws need to be amended to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medicines marketed in India.
Patricia McGettigan and colleagues investigated approval for and availability of oral fixed-dose-combination drugs from four therapeutic areas in India.
Editors' Summary
Patients who are prescribed several different tablets to treat a single condition or multiple coexisting conditions often find it hard to take all their drugs correctly. For some conditions, clinicians can improve medication compliance by prescribing a fixed dose combination (FDC) product, a drug formulation containing two or more active drugs combined in a fixed ratio of doses that are usually available only in a single dosage form. FDCs, which are sometimes called “polypills,” are particularly useful in situations where both the drug combination and the doses needed to treat patients are standardized and stable, such as in the management of HIV/AIDS. FDCs can also be cheaper to manufacture and easier to distribute than single drug formulations, but they nevertheless have some disadvantages over such formulations. For example, the risks of adverse effects can be compounded by including multiple drugs from the same therapeutic group in a single FDC. Thus, to prevent patients being given unsafe or dangerous formulations, many countries regulate the development and marketing of FDCs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Concerns have been expressed internationally about the regulation of medicinal drugs in India, where thousands of FDCs are available. In response to these concerns, in 2011, an Indian parliamentary standing committee closely examined the Indian national drug regulator—the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO). The committee’s report, released in 2012, highlighted multiple deficiencies in the approval processes of the CDSCO, including a failure to test the efficacy and safety of many of the FDCs available in India, but provided no systematic evidence to support its concerns about FDCs. Here, the researchers undertake a time-trend analysis of the sales volumes of oral FDCs for pain relief (analgesia; formulations of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs), diabetes (metformin formulations), depression/anxiety (anti-depressant/benzodiazepine formulations), and psychosis (anti-psychotic formulations) in India between 2007 and 2012. In addition, they undertake a cross-sectional examination of data from 2011–2012 to determine the contributions to FDC product numbers and sales volumes of formulations with a known record of CDSCO approval (referred to as “approved”) and those for which such a record could not be found (referred to as “unapproved”).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained information on FDC formulations approved between 1961 and 2013 in each therapeutic area from the CDSCO, and FDC sales data from 2007 to 2012 from PharmaTrac, a database of drug sales in India. Of the 175 FDC formulations marketed in India in the therapeutic areas studied, only 60 (34%) were approved. Although 80% of 25 marketed metformin FDC formulations were approved, only 27% of 124 NSAID FDC formulations, 19% of 16 anti-depressant/benzodiazepine FDC formulations, and 30% of ten anti-psychotic FDC formulations were approved. Over the five years included in the time-trend analysis, FDCs accounted for an increasing proportion of total sales volumes. By 2011–2012, FDCs accounted for more than half of all NSAID and oral anti-diabetic drug sales, and one-third and one-fifth of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant/benzodiazepine sales, respectively. Moreover, in 2011–2012, the proportion of FDC sales volumes arising from unapproved formulations was 43% for anti-psychotics, 69% for anti-depressants/benzodiazapines, 28% for NSAIDs, and 0.4% for metformin; formulations including drugs of which use is banned or restricted internationally accounted for 13.6% and 53% of NSAID and anti-psychotic FDC sales, respectively. While “ambiguity” in the rules prior to 2002 was advanced as a reason for some FDCs having been marketed without a record of central approval, the researchers identified no ambiguity, and in fact, following an amendment to the rules in May 2002 that extended the requirements on approval applicants, new FDCs continued to be marketed without a record of central approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the accuracy of these findings is likely to be limited by the use of publicly available records of drug approvals and by the use of commercial sales records, the study’s results support concerns about the marketing and use of FDCs in India. They indicate that large numbers of unapproved formulations are available for three of the four therapeutic areas examined, and that sales volumes of these unapproved FDCs (including FDCs that included internationally banned or restricted drugs) are high. The researchers make several recommendations to remedy this situation, which in their view risks harming patients. Sale and manufacture of unapproved FDC formulations, they suggest, should be banned immediately. Withdrawal from the market should be staged, with priority given to removing those formulations containing drugs that are banned or restricted internationally. Manufacturers who wish to retain specific FDCs on the market should be required to submit approval applications to the CDSCO. If this recommendation is implemented, the researchers note, clinicians will need to review the needs of patients taking unapproved FDCs and provide appropriate alternatives. To ensure in the long-term the safety and effectiveness of new medicines marketed in India, as well as transparency of the approval process, the researchers call for amendments in India’s regulatory processes and drug laws. They also suggest that a review should be undertaken of the safety and effectiveness of FDCs currently available in India.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at Wikipedia provides information about fixed dose combination products (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)The US Food and Drug Administration regulates all medical drugs and devices in the US and provides information about combination products, including FDCsThe World Health Organization provides a brief introduction to FDCs and draft guidance for the registration of FDCsInformation about the CDSCO, the Indian national drug regulatory body, is available; the CDSCO website includes the approved FDC list; the Indian parliamentary standing committee report on the CDSCO is availableThe Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency provides information on medicines regulation in the UKThe European Medicines Agency provides information on medicines regulation in Europe
PMCID: PMC4428752  PMID: 25965416
11.  Summary Workshop Report: Facilitating Oral Product Development and Reducing Regulatory Burden Through Novel Approaches to Assess Bioavailability/Bioequivalence 
The AAPS Journal  2012;14(3):627-638.
This summary workshop report highlights presentations and over-arching themes from an October 2011 workshop. Discussions focused on best practices in the application of biopharmaceutics in oral drug product development and evolving bioequivalence approaches. Best practices leverage biopharmaceutic data and other drug, formulation, and patient/disease data to identify drug development challenges in yielding a successfully performing product. Quality by design and product developability paradigms were discussed. Development tools include early development strategies to identify critical absorption factors and oral absorption modeling. An ongoing theme was the desire to comprehensively and systematically assess risk of product failure via the quality target product profile and root cause and risk analysis. However, a parallel need is reduced timelines and fewer resources. Several presentations discussed applying Biopharmaceutics Classification System (BCS) and in vitro–in vivo correlations in development and in post-development and discussed both resource savings and best scientific practices. The workshop also focused on evolving bioequivalence approaches, with emphasis on highly variable products (HVDP), as well as specialized modified-release products. In USA, two bioequivalence approaches for HVDP are the reference-scaled average bioequivalence approach and the two-stage group-sequential design. An adaptive sequential design approach is also acceptable in Canada. In European Union, two approaches for HVDP are a two-stage design and an approach to widen Cmax acceptance limits. For some specialized modified-release products, FDA now requests partial area under the curve. Rationale and limitations of such metrics were discussed (e.g., zolpidem and methylphenidate). A common theme was the benefit of the scientific and regulatory community developing, validating, and harmonizing newer bioequivalence methodologies (e.g., BCS-based waivers and HVDP trial designs).
PMCID: PMC3385831  PMID: 22684402
12.  Assuring quality and performance of sustained and controlled release parenterals: Workshop report 
AAPS PharmSci  2002;4(2):13-23.
This is a summary report of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Pharmacopoeia cosponsored workshop on “Assuring Quality and Performance of Sustained and Controlled Release Parenterals.” Experts from the pharmaceutical industry, the regulatory authorities and academia participated in this workshop to review, discuss and debate formulation, processing and manufacture of sustained and controlled release parenterals and identify critical process parameters and their control. Areas were identified where research is needed in order to understand the performance of these drug delivery systems and to assist in the development of appropriate testing procedures. Recommendations were made for future workshops, meetings and working groups in this area.
PMCID: PMC2751292  PMID: 12141269
13.  Number of Patients Studied Prior to Approval of New Medicines: A Database Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001407.
In an evaluation of medicines approved by the European Medicines Agency 2000 to 2010, Ruben Duijnhoven and colleagues find that the number of patients evaluated for medicines approved for chronic use are inadequate for evaluation of safety or long-term efficacy.
At the time of approval of a new medicine, there are few long-term data on the medicine's benefit–risk balance. Clinical trials are designed to demonstrate efficacy, but have major limitations with regard to safety in terms of patient exposure and length of follow-up. This study of the number of patients who had been administered medicines at the time of medicine approval by the European Medicines Agency aimed to determine the total number of patients studied, as well as the number of patients studied long term for chronic medication use, compared with the International Conference on Harmonisation's E1 guideline recommendations.
Methods and Findings
All medicines containing new molecular entities approved between 2000 and 2010 were included in the study, including orphan medicines as a separate category. The total number of patients studied before approval was extracted (main outcome). In addition, the number of patients with long-term use (6 or 12 mo) was determined for chronic medication. 200 unique new medicines were identified: 161 standard and 39 orphan medicines. The median total number of patients studied before approval was 1,708 (interquartile range [IQR] 968–3,195) for standard medicines and 438 (IQR 132–915) for orphan medicines. On average, chronic medication was studied in a larger number of patients (median 2,338, IQR 1,462–4,135) than medication for intermediate (878, IQR 513–1,559) or short-term use (1,315, IQR 609–2,420). Safety and efficacy of chronic use was studied in fewer than 1,000 patients for at least 6 and 12 mo in 46.4% and 58.3% of new medicines, respectively. Among the 84 medicines intended for chronic use, 68 (82.1%) met the guideline recommendations for 6-mo use (at least 300 participants studied for 6 mo and at least 1,000 participants studied for any length of time), whereas 67 (79.8%) of the medicines met the criteria for 12-mo patient exposure (at least 100 participants studied for 12 mo).
For medicines intended for chronic use, the number of patients studied before marketing is insufficient to evaluate safety and long-term efficacy. Both safety and efficacy require continued study after approval. New epidemiologic tools and legislative actions necessitate a review of the requirements for the number of patients studied prior to approval, particularly for chronic use, and adequate use of post-marketing studies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Before any new medicine is marketed for the treatment of a human disease, it has to go through extensive laboratory and clinical research. In the laboratory, scientists investigate the causes of diseases, identify potential new treatments, and test these interventions in disease models, some of which involve animals. The safety and efficacy of potential new interventions is then investigated in a series of clinical trials—studies in which the new treatment is tested in selected groups of patients under strictly controlled conditions, first to determine whether the drug is tolerated by humans and then to assess its efficacy. Finally, the results of these trials are reviewed by the government body responsible for drug approval; in the US, this body is the Food and Drug Administration, and in the European Union, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the scientific evaluation and approval of new medicines.
Why Was This Study Done?
Clinical trials are primarily designed to test the efficacy—the ability to produce the desired therapeutic effect—of new medicines. The number of patients needed to establish efficacy determines the size of a clinical trial, and the indications for which efficacy must be shown determine the trial's duration. However, identifying adverse effects of drugs generally requires the drug to be taken by more patients than are required to show efficacy, so the information about adverse effects is often relatively limited at the end of clinical testing. Consequently, when new medicines are approved, their benefit–risk ratios are often poorly defined, even though physicians need this information to decide which treatment to recommend to their patients. For the evaluation of risk or adverse effects of medicines being developed for chronic (long-term) treatment of non-life-threatening diseases, current guidelines recommend that at least 1,000–1,500 patients are exposed to the new drug and that 300 and 100 patients use the drug for six and twelve months, respectively, before approval. But are these guidelines being followed? In this database analysis, the researchers use data collected by the EMA to determine how many patients are exposed to new medicines before approval in the European Union and how many are exposed for extended periods of time to medicines intended for chronic use.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using the European Commission's Community Register of Medicinal Products, the researchers identified 161 standard medicines and 39 orphan medicines (medicines to treat or prevent rare life-threatening diseases) that contained new active substances and that were approved in the European Union between 2000 and 2010. They extracted information on the total number of patients studied and on the number exposed to the medicines for six months and twelve months before approval of each medicine from EMA's European public assessment reports. The average number of patients studied before approval was 1,708 for standard medicines and 438 for orphan medicines (marketing approval is easier to obtain for orphan medicines than for standard medicines to encourage drug companies to develop medicines that might otherwise be unprofitable). On average, medicines for chronic use (for example, asthma medications) were studied in more patients (2,338) than those for intermediate use such as anticancer drugs (878), or short-term use such as antibiotics (1,315). The safety and efficacy of chronic use was studied in fewer than 1,000 patients for at least six and twelve months in 46.4% and 58.4% of new medicines, respectively. Finally, among the 84 medicines intended for chronic use, 72 were studied in at least 300 patients for six months, and 70 were studied in at least 100 patients for twelve months.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that although the number of patients studied before approval is sufficient to determine the short-term efficacy of new medicines, it is insufficient to determine safety or long-term efficacy. Any move by drug approval bodies to require pharmaceutical companies to increase the total number of patients exposed to a drug, or the number exposed for extended periods of time to drugs intended for chronic use, would inevitably delay the entry of new products into the market, which likely would be unacceptable to patients and healthcare providers. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that a reevaluation of the study size and long-term data requirements that need to be met for the approval of new medicines, particularly those designed for long-term use, is merited. They also stress the need for continued study of both the safety and efficacy of new medicines after approval and the importance of post-marketing studies that actively examine safety issues.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) provides information about all aspects of the scientific evaluation and approval of new medicines in the European Union; its European public assessment reports are publicly available
The European Commission's Community Register of Medicinal Products is a publicly searchable database of medicinal products approved for human use in the European Union
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health professionals
The US National Institutes of Health provides information (including personal stories) about clinical trials
PMCID: PMC3601954  PMID: 23526887
14.  Proposals for model-based paediatric medicinal development within the current European Union regulatory framework 
The new paediatric European Union (EU) regulation and the consequent demand for paediatric studies on one hand and the ethical need for minimizing the burden of studies in children on the other hand necessitate optimal techniques in the assessment of safety/efficacy and use of drugs in children. Modelling and simulation (M&S) is one way to circumvent some difficulties in developing medicinal products in children. M&S allows the quantitative use of sparse sampling, characterization and prediction of pharmacokinetics/ pharmacodynamics (PK/PD), extrapolation from adults to children, interpolation between paediatric age subsets, optimal use of scientific literature and in vitro/preclinical data. Together, industry, academia and regulators recognize the usefulness of modelling and simulation in this setting. However, even if M&S is an emerging science, its integration in the EU regulatory decision making is for the time being deficient and M&S expertise is concentrated in big pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions. The European Medicines Agency, acknowledging all the above conditions, organized and hosted a Workshop on Modelling in Paediatric Medicines. The article presents the personal views of the authors on the issues presented and discussed in the workshop. We attempt to identify the regulatory framework for the use of M&S in paediatric medicinal development and to make proposals for model-based paediatric medicinal development. The objective is to open the discussion between industry, academia, paediatricians and regulators on the optimal use of M&S in paediatric medicinal development.
PMCID: PMC2780274  PMID: 19843052
modelling and simulation; paediatric drug development; regulatory science
15.  Performance Properties of the Population Bioequivalence Approach for In Vitro Delivered Dose for Orally Inhaled Respiratory Products 
The AAPS Journal  2013;16(1):89-100.
Regulatory agencies, industry, and academia have acknowledged that in vitro assessments serve a role in establishing bioequivalence for second-entry drug product approvals as well as innovator post-approval drug product changes. For orally inhaled respiratory products (OIPs), the issues of correctly analyzing in vitro data and interpreting the results within the broader context of therapeutic equivalence have garnered significant attention. One of the recommended statistical tests for in vitro data is the population bioequivalence method (PBE). The current literature for assessing the PBE statistical approach for in vitro data assumes a log normal distribution. This paper focuses on an assessment of that assumption for in vitro delivered dose. Concepts in development of a statistical model are presented. The PBE criterion and hypotheses are written for the case when data follows a normal distribution, rather than log normal. Results of a simulation study are reported, characterizing the performance of the PBE approach when data are expected to be normally distributed, rather than log normal. In these cases, decisions using the PBE approach are not consistent for the same absolute mean difference that the test product is from the reference product. A conclusion of inequivalency will occur more often if the test product dose is lower than the reference product for the same deviation from target. These features suggest that more research is needed for statistical equivalency approaches for in vitro data.
PMCID: PMC3889535  PMID: 24249218
in vitro delivered dose; population bioequivalence approach; simulations; statistical model
16.  Summary Workshop Report: Bioequivalence, Biopharmaceutics Classification System, and Beyond 
The AAPS Journal  2008;10(2):373-379.
The workshop “Bioequivalence, Biopharmaceutics Classification System, and Beyond” was held May 21–23, 2007 in North Bethesda, MD, USA. This workshop provided an opportunity for pharmaceutical scientists to discuss the FDA guidance on the Biopharmaceutics Classification System (BCS), bioequivalence of oral products, and related FDA initiatives such as the FDA Critical Path Initiative. The objective of this Summary Workshop Report is to document the main points from this workshop. Key highlights of the workshop were (a) the described granting of over a dozen BCS-based biowaivers by the FDA for Class I drugs whose formulations exhibit rapid dissolution, (b) continued scientific support for biowaivers for Class III compounds whose formulations exhibit very rapid dissolution, (c) scientific support for a number of permeability methodologies to assess BCS permeability class, (d) utilization of BCS in pharmaceutical research and development, and (e) scientific progress in in vitro dissolution methods to predict dosage form performance.
PMCID: PMC2751390  PMID: 18679807
bioavailability; bioequivalence; biopharmaceutics classification system (BCS); oral absorption; permeability; regulatory science; solubility
17.  The Connection Between Academia and Industry 
Mens Sana Monographs  2005;3(1):5-35.
The growing commercialization of research with its effect on the ethical conduct of researchers, and the advancement of scientific knowledge with its effect on the welfare or otherwise of patients, are areas of pressing concern today and need a serious, thorough study. Biomedical research, and its forward march, is becoming increasingly dependent on industry-academia proximity, both commercial and geographic. A realization of the commercial value of academic biomedical research coupled with its rapid and efficient utilization by industry is the major propelling force here. A number of well-intentioned writers in the field look to the whole development with optimism. But this partnership is a double-edged sword, for it carries with it the potential of an exciting future as much as the prospect of misappropriation and malevolence. Moreover, such partnerships have sometimes eroded public trust in the research enterprise itself.
Connected to the growing clout of industry in institutions is concern about thecommercialization of research and resolving the ‘patient or product’ loyalty.
There is ambivalence about industry funding and influence in academia, and a consequent ‘approach-avoidance’ conflict. If academia has to provide the patients and research talent, industry necessarily has to provide the finances and other facilities based on it. This is an invariable and essential agreement between the two parties that they can walk out of only at their own peril. The profound ethical concerns that industry funded research has brought center-stage need a close look, especially as they impact patients, research subjects, public trust, marketability of products, and research and professional credibility.
How can the intermediate goal of industry (patient welfare) serve the purpose of the final goal of academia is the basic struggle for conscientious research institutions /associations. And how best the goal of maximizing profits can be best served, albeit suitably camouflaged as patient welfare throughout, is the concern of the pharmaceutical industry.
A very great potential conflict of interest lies in the fact that academia needs the sophisticated instruments that only big funding can provide, while at the same time resists the attempts of the fund provider to set the agenda of research, protocol, design, publication, the works. Conflicts arise at many steps and levels of functioning, and are related to the expectations, competing interests, and conflicting priorities of the different entities involved, whether they are the academic medical centers, the funding agencies, the patients and their families, or the investors and venture capitalists.
The public expects access to new treatments. Its appetite for innovation has been bolstered by the constant attention given by the press to new treatments and by the implicit promise from researchers of continuing advances. Similarly, patients demand privacy and control over information about themselves.
It makes greater sense for genuine researchers to associate with large long-term industry players who have a track record of genuine hard-core discoveries, even if the process is slow (maybe), and the funding less (may not be).
The element of control venture capitalists exert over the pharmaceutical industry is an under researched area for obvious reasons. But it needs further probing, for that will lay bare the pulls and pressures under which industry works.
It makes sense for ethically minded researchers and institutions not to fall in the trap of stocks and equity investments in industry, howsoever attractive they appear, and get rid of them as soon as possible if they have them. If at all they want, it makes more sense to own stocks of larger well established concerns, for the stock upheavals being less, the pressure of the market-place, and of venture sharks, is likely to be lower too.
While active participation by the researcher in the commercialization process may be greatly desired by industry, ostensibly in the name of creating value, academia must realize it is a bait it might find hard to swallow in the long run. It makes more sense for the researcher and institution to forego such temptations and/or walk out of such investments as soon as possible.
While mainstream medicine and research are booming, as is connected industry, concerns about professional commitment to patient welfare are growing too. Increasing corporate influence is challenging certain long held and fundamental values of patient care, which will have far reaching implications for biomedical care and the future progress of mainstream medicine.
PMCID: PMC3369181  PMID: 22679346
Academia; Pharmaceutical Industry; Academia-Industry Proximity; Biomedical Research; Commercialization of Research; Pharmaceutical Funding; Public Accountability and Academic Freedom of Universities
18.  Designing concept maps for a precise and objective description of pharmaceutical innovations 
When a new drug is launched onto the market, information about the new manufactured product is contained in its monograph and evaluation report published by national drug agencies. Health professionals need to be able to determine rapidly and easily whether the new manufactured product is potentially useful for their practice. There is therefore a need to identify the best way to group together and visualize the main items of information describing the nature and potential impact of the new drug. The objective of this study was to identify these items of information and to bring them together in a model that could serve as the standard for presenting the main features of new manufactured product.
We developed a preliminary conceptual model of pharmaceutical innovations, based on the knowledge of the authors. We then refined this model, using a random sample of 40 new manufactured drugs recently approved by the national drug regulatory authorities in France and covering a broad spectrum of innovations and therapeutic areas. Finally, we used another sample of 20 new manufactured drugs to determine whether the model was sufficiently comprehensive.
The results of our modeling led to three sub models described as conceptual maps representingi) the medical context for use of the new drug (indications, type of effect, therapeutical arsenal for the same indications), ii) the nature of the novelty of the new drug (new molecule, new mechanism of action, new combination, new dosage, etc.), and iii) the impact of the drug in terms of efficacy, safety and ease of use, compared with other drugs with the same indications.
Our model can help to standardize information about new drugs released onto the market. It is potentially useful to the pharmaceutical industry, medical journals, editors of drug databases and medical software, and national or international drug regulation agencies, as a means of describing the main properties of new pharmaceutical products. It could also used as a guide for the writing of comprehensive and objective texts summarizing the nature and interest of new manufactured product.
PMCID: PMC3560234  PMID: 23331768
19.  Bioequivalence of generic aerosol bronchodilators: what are the issues? 
I have attempted to address some critical issues relating to the introduction of generic aerosol bronchodilators in Canada. I approached Genpharm to obtain information on the data submitted to the HPB, including the number of subjects involved, but the company refused to divulge this information because it was concerned about the use of such information by its competitors. In addition to the in-vitro testing conducted by the HPB, should a single pharmacodynamic study be sufficient to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of a drug that serves such a critical role in the prevention of serious illness and possibly death? If so, what will constitute the minimum requirements for the design of such a study? In general, what should be the minimum standards required for safety, efficacy and bioequivalence of aerosol bronchodilators? The next phase rests with the provincial governments. What criteria will they use to determine whether a generic aerosol bronchodilator will be considered bioequivalent? It is essential that the criteria for bioequivalence be developed by experts, and ideally those criteria should be agreed upon and accepted by federal and provincial regulatory bodies before a product is given the status of bioequivalence. Unless such a step is taken it will be difficult to have confidence that products can be considered interchangeable. The issue of interchangeability of aerosol bronchodilators demands immediate attention. Regulatory agencies are caught between those groups with vested interests on both sides. Since patients will either benefit or suffer as a consequence of regulatory decisions, action must be taken to ensure that the best decisions are made. Scientists, clinicians and government officials should convene as soon as possible to formulate a satisfactory approach to this problem of interchangeability. The medical and pharmaceutical professions need reliable information, and patients should not be denied less expensive generic drugs if it can be determined that they are comparable to the innovator's product.
PMCID: PMC1451469  PMID: 2804845
20.  Public Welfare Agenda or Corporate Research Agenda? 
Mens Sana Monographs  2005;3(1):41-80.
As things stand today, whether we like it or not, industry funding is on the upswing. The whole enterprise of medicine in booming, and it makes sense for industry to invest more and more of one's millions into it. The pharmaceutical industry has become the single largest direct funding agency of medical research in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Since the goals of industry and academia differ, it seems that conflicts of interest are inevitable at times. The crucial decision is whether the public welfare agenda of academia, or the corporate research agenda of industry, should occupy center stage when they conflict.
There is enough evidence to show that funding by industry is very systematic, and results that are supportive of the safety and efficacy of sponsor's products alone get the funds. It is no surprise, therefore, that one finds very few negative drug trials reports published, and whatever are, are likely to be by rival companies to serve their commercial interests.
Renewed and continued funding by industry decides the future prospects of many academic researchers. At the same time there is now evidence that pharmaceutical companies attempt suppression of research findings, may be selective in publishing results, and may delay or stymie publication of unfavourable results. This is a major area of concern for all conscientious researchers and industry watchers.
Industry commonly decides which clinical research/trial gets done, not academia, much though the latter may wish to believe otherwise. It finds willing researchers to carry this out. This can be one area of concern. Another area of pressing concern is when industry decides to both design and control publication of research.
It makes sense for researchers to refuse to allow commercial interests to rule research reporting. Research having been reported, the commercial implications of such reporting is industry's concern. But, doctoring of findings to suit commerce is to be resisted at all costs. In this even pliant researchers need have no fear, for if they indeed publish what will work, the concerned sponsor will benefit in the long run. The only decision academia has to make is refuse to comply with predestined conclusions of sponsors for the ‘thirty pieces of silver’. Instead do genuine research and make sixty for themselves.
The useful rule of thumb is: Keep the critical antenna on, especially with regard to drug trials, and more especially their methodology, and study closely the conflict of interest disclosed, and if possible undisclosed, before you jump on the band wagon to herald the next great wonder drug.
There are three important lessons to be learnt by academia in all academia-industry relationships:
i)Lesson number one: incorporate the right to publish contrary findings in the research contract itself. Which means, it makes great sense for academia to concentrate on the language and contractual provisions of sponsored research, to read the fine print very closely, and protect their research interests in case of conflict.ii)Lesson number two: a number of lawsuits successfully brought up against industry recently reflect earnest attempts by patient welfare bodies and others to remedy the tilt. It will result in a newfound confidence in academia that augurs well for academia industry relationship in the long run. Hence the second lesson for academia: do not get browbeaten by threats of legal actioniii)Lesson number three: Academia should keep itself involved right from inception of the clinical trial through to ultimate publication. And this must be an integral part of the written contract.
The time to repeat cliches about the exciting future of the academia-industry connect is past. A concerted effort to lay a strong foundation of the relationship on practical ethical grounds has become mandatory.
PMCID: PMC3369180  PMID: 22679348
Public Welfare or Corporate Research Agenda; The Olivieri Case; Doctoring of Research Findings; Selective publishing; Delay and Under reporting; Complete Disclosure; Multi-centred Trials; Ghost writing; Duplicate Publication; Access to Data; Control over Publication; Negative Drug Trials; The Porcupine Dance; Law Suits Against Industry; Design and Control of Publication; Connection between Funding and Positive Findings
21.  Pharmaceutical Industry Off-label Promotion and Self-regulation: A Document Analysis of Off-label Promotion Rulings by the United Kingdom Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority 2003–2012 
PLoS Medicine  2016;13(1):e1001945.
European Union law prohibits companies from marketing drugs off-label. In the United Kingdom—as in some other European countries, but unlike the United States—industry self-regulatory bodies are tasked with supervising compliance with marketing rules. The objectives of this study were to (1) characterize off-label promotion rulings in the UK compared to the whistleblower-initiated cases in the US and (2) shed light on the UK self-regulatory mechanism for detecting, deterring, and sanctioning off-label promotion.
Methods and Findings
We conducted structured reviews of rulings by the UK self-regulatory authority, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), between 2003 and 2012. There were 74 off-label promotion rulings involving 43 companies and 65 drugs. Nineteen companies were ruled in breach more than once, and ten companies were ruled in breach three or more times over the 10-y period. Drawing on a typology previously developed to analyse US whistleblower complaints, we coded and analysed the apparent strategic goals of each off-label marketing scheme and the practices consistent with those alleged goals. 50% of rulings cited efforts to expand drug use to unapproved indications, and 39% and 38% cited efforts to expand beyond approved disease entities and dosing strategies, respectively. The most frequently described promotional tactic was attempts to influence prescribers (n = 72, 97%), using print material (70/72, 97%), for example, advertisements (21/70, 30%). Although rulings cited prescribers as the prime target of off-label promotion, competing companies lodged the majority of complaints (prescriber: n = 16, 22%, versus companies: n = 42, 57%). Unlike US whistleblower complaints, few UK rulings described practices targeting consumers (n = 3, 4%), payers (n = 2, 3%), or company staff (n = 2, 3%). Eight UK rulings (11%) pertaining to six drugs described promotion of the same drug for the same off-label use as was alleged by whistleblowers in the US. However, while the UK cases typically related to only one or a few claims made in printed material, several complaints in the US alleged multifaceted and covert marketing activities. Because this study is limited to PMCPA rulings and whistleblower-initiated federal cases, it may offer a partial view of exposed off-label marketing.
The UK self-regulatory system for exposing marketing violations relies largely on complaints from company outsiders, which may explain why most off-label promotion rulings relate to plainly visible promotional activities such as advertising. This contrasts with the US, where Department of Justice investigations and whistleblower testimony have alleged complex off-label marketing campaigns that remain concealed to company outsiders. UK authorities should consider introducing increased incentives and protections for whistleblowers combined with US-style governmental investigations and meaningful sanctions. UK prescribers should be attentive to, and increasingly report, off-label promotion.
In a document analysis of legal cases, Shai Mulinari and colleagues characterize off-label drug promotion by pharmaceutical companies in the UK.
Editors' Summary
Before a pharmaceutical company can market a new prescription drug, the drug has to go through a long approval process. After extensive studies in the laboratory and in animals, the company must test the drug’s safety and efficacy in series of clinical trials in which patients with specific diseases receive the drug under carefully controlled conditions. Regulatory bodies such as the US FDA, the UK MHRA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) then review the results of these trials and, when they are satisfied that the drug is safe and effective for the conditions in which it was tested, give the pharmaceutical company approval to market the drug in the relevant country. An important part of the approval process is the creation of the “drug label,” a detailed report that specifies the exact diseases and patient groups in which the drug can be used and the drug’s approved doses.
Why Was This Study Done?
Physicians can use approved drugs “off-label.” That is, they can prescribe drugs for a different disease, in a different group of patients, or at a different dose to that specified in the label. However, in the UK, the US, and other countries, national law prohibits the promotion of off-label uses of prescription drugs by pharmaceutical companies, which stand to benefit financially from off-label use through increased drugs sales. The primary rationale for banning off-label promotion is that it might encourage the widespread use of drugs in settings where they have not been rigorously tested, thereby exposing patients to uncertain benefits and possible adverse effects. In the US, the FDA regulates and prosecutes off-label promotion, but enforcement actions against companies can also be brought by federal and state prosecutors and private citizens. In the UK, the MHRA has delegated an important part of its responsibility for supervising off-label marketing to a self-regulatory body set up by the pharmaceutical industry—the PMCPA. Here, by reviewing off-label promotion rulings made by the PMCPA between 2003 and 2012, the researchers compare off-label promotion cases ruled on in the UK with whistleblower (company insider)-initiated cases from the US and shed light on the UK self-regulatory mechanism for detecting, deterring, and sanctioning off-label promotion.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 74 UK off-label promotion rulings over the ten-year study period involving 43 companies (including 19 that were ruled in breach more than once) and 65 drugs. They coded and analyzed each off-label promotion ruling using a typology (a classification according to general type) previously developed to analyze US whistleblower-initiated off-label promotion cases. Half of the rulings cited efforts to expand drug use to unapproved indications (for example, using a drug to treat all patients with MS rather than only patients with recent relapses); 39% and 38% of the rulings cited efforts to expand drug use beyond approved diseases and dosing strategies, respectively. The most commonly cited off-label promotional tactic was attempts to influence prescribers using advertisements and other print material; competing companies lodged 57% of complaints whereas prescribers (the prime target of off-label promotion) lodged only 22% of the complaints. Unlike US whistleblower complaints, which often alleged promotional tactics targeting consumers, payers and company staff, few UK rulings described practices targeting these classes of individuals. Finally, although several US whistleblower-initiated cases alleged multifaceted and covert marketing activities, the UK cases typically related to one or a few claims made in printed material.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because this study only describes PMCPA rulings and whistleblower-initiated US cases of off-label promotion, these findings provide an incomplete view of off-label marketing violations (some of which may not be deliberate) in the UK and US. The findings suggest that the UK self-regulatory approach, which relies mainly on complaints from company outsiders, is capable of detecting and dealing with instances of off-label promotion with high visibility (for example, advertisements). However, the UK self-regulatory approach may be less capable of uncovering complex marketing campaigns than the US government-led approach. The researchers suggest, therefore, that the UK authorities should consider the introduction of increased incentives and protections for whistleblowers and of US-style governmental investigation (the PMCPA rulings are based on complainant and company submissions alone) and that both the MHRA and PMCPA should strengthen their regulatory oversight of promotional material. Finally, prescribers—the main target of off-label promotion in the UK—should be encouraged to identify and report off-label promotion.
Additional Information
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at
The PLOS Medicine Research Article by Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues provides information about whistleblower-initiated cases on off-label promotion in the US
Wikipedia provides information on prescription drugs, pharmaceutical marketing (mainly in the US), and off-label drug use (mainly in the US) (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion aims to protect public health by assuring prescription drug information is truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated; the FDA’s Bad Ads Program aims to educate health care professionals about the role they can play in ensuring that drug advertising and promotion is truthful and not misleading
Information on the UK regulatory framework is available from the MHRA; the MHRA website also includes information on advertising investigations by the MHRA.
Information on the UK self-regulatory body, the PMCPA, is available; the PMCPA website includes information about the UK Code of Practice for medicines promotion
Healthy Skepticism is an international non-profit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
PMCID: PMC4727894  PMID: 26812151
22.  The Saudi Arabia Food and Drug Authority: An Evaluation of the Registration Process and Good Review Practices in Saudi Arabia in Comparison with Australia, Canada and Singapore 
Pharmaceutical Medicine  2015;30:37-47.
This study compares the current regulatory review process and good review practices at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) with those of regulatory agencies in Australia, Canada, and Singapore and identifies opportunities for developing the SFDA as a Regional Centre of Excellence.
A questionnaire completed by the SFDA included data regarding the organisation, key milestones, review timelines, and good review practices of the agency. Similar information was obtained within the same timeframe (2014/2015) through the same standard questionnaire regarding the processes and practices for Health Canada, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority, and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.
All four regulatory agencies have established target times for scientific assessment and regulatory review, examine dossier sections in parallel, and separate company response time from overall timing. Additionally, all four agencies have instituted good review practices including standard operating procedures, templates, dossier monitoring, and continuous improvement processes, and assign a high priority to transparency in their relationships with the public, healthcare professionals and industry. Of the four agencies, however, only the SFDA requires a Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (CPP) at the time of the submission and pricing negotiations before final product approval.
To assist the SFDA in its efforts to become a Regional Centre of Excellence, it is suggested that the agency explore a risk stratification approach to select dossiers for verification, abridged, or full reviews; use forms of certification other than the CPP; make pricing negotiations independent to the review process; and introduce a feedback process for the quality of the dossier.
PMCID: PMC4718932  PMID: 26834481
23.  Information from Pharmaceutical Companies and the Quality, Quantity, and Cost of Physicians' Prescribing: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000352.
Geoff Spurling and colleagues report findings of a systematic review looking at the relationship between exposure to promotional material from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of prescribing. They fail to find evidence of improvements in prescribing after exposure, and find some evidence of an association with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality.
Pharmaceutical companies spent $57.5 billion on pharmaceutical promotion in the United States in 2004. The industry claims that promotion provides scientific and educational information to physicians. While some evidence indicates that promotion may adversely influence prescribing, physicians hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. The objective of this review is to examine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
Methods and Findings
We searched for studies of physicians with prescribing rights who were exposed to information from pharmaceutical companies (promotional or otherwise). Exposures included pharmaceutical sales representative visits, journal advertisements, attendance at pharmaceutical sponsored meetings, mailed information, prescribing software, and participation in sponsored clinical trials. The outcomes measured were quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing. We searched Medline (1966 to February 2008), International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970 to February 2008), Embase (1997 to February 2008), Current Contents (2001 to 2008), and Central (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2007) using the search terms developed with an expert librarian. Additionally, we reviewed reference lists and contacted experts and pharmaceutical companies for information. Randomized and observational studies evaluating information from pharmaceutical companies and measures of physicians' prescribing were independently appraised for methodological quality by two authors. Studies were excluded where insufficient study information precluded appraisal. The full text of 255 articles was retrieved from electronic databases (7,185 studies) and other sources (138 studies). Articles were then excluded because they did not fulfil inclusion criteria (179) or quality appraisal criteria (18), leaving 58 included studies with 87 distinct analyses. Data were extracted independently by two authors and a narrative synthesis performed following the MOOSE guidelines. Of the set of studies examining prescribing quality outcomes, five found associations between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and lower quality prescribing, four did not detect an association, and one found associations with lower and higher quality prescribing. 38 included studies found associations between exposure and higher frequency of prescribing and 13 did not detect an association. Five included studies found evidence for association with higher costs, four found no association, and one found an association with lower costs. The narrative synthesis finding of variable results was supported by a meta-analysis of studies of prescribing frequency that found significant heterogeneity. The observational nature of most included studies is the main limitation of this review.
With rare exceptions, studies of exposure to information provided directly by pharmaceutical companies have found associations with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality or have not found significant associations. We did not find evidence of net improvements in prescribing, but the available literature does not exclude the possibility that prescribing may sometimes be improved. Still, we recommend that practitioners follow the precautionary principle and thus avoid exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
A prescription drug is a medication that can be supplied only with a written instruction (“prescription”) from a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. In 2009, 3.9 billion drug prescriptions were dispensed in the US alone and US pharmaceutical companies made US$300 billion in sales revenue. Every year, a large proportion of this revenue is spent on drug promotion. In 2004, for example, a quarter of US drug revenue was spent on pharmaceutical promotion. The pharmaceutical industry claims that drug promotion—visits from pharmaceutical sales representatives, advertisements in journals and prescribing software, sponsorship of meetings, mailed information—helps to inform and educate healthcare professionals about the risks and benefits of their products and thereby ensures that patients receive the best possible care. Physicians, however, hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. Some see it as a useful and convenient source of information. Others deny that they are influenced by pharmaceutical company promotion but claim that it influences other physicians. Meanwhile, several professional organizations have called for tighter control of promotional activities because of fears that pharmaceutical promotion might encourage physicians to prescribe inappropriate or needlessly expensive drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
But is there any evidence that pharmaceutical promotion adversely influences prescribing? Reviews of the research literature undertaken in 2000 and 2005 provide some evidence that drug promotion influences prescribing behavior. However, these reviews only partly assessed the relationship between information from pharmaceutical companies and prescribing costs and quality and are now out of date. In this study, therefore, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) to reexamine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the literature for studies of licensed physicians who were exposed to promotional and other information from pharmaceutical companies. They identified 58 studies that included a measure of exposure to any type of information directly provided by pharmaceutical companies and a measure of physicians' prescribing behavior. They then undertook a “narrative synthesis,” a descriptive analysis of the data in these studies. Ten of the studies, they report, examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing quality (as judged, for example, by physician drug choices in response to clinical vignettes). All but one of these studies suggested that exposure to drug company information was associated with lower prescribing quality or no association was detected. In the 51 studies that examined the relationship between exposure to drug company information and prescribing frequency, exposure to information was associated with more frequent prescribing or no association was detected. Thus, for example, 17 out of 29 studies of the effect of pharmaceutical sales representatives' visits found an association between visits and increased prescribing; none found an association with less frequent prescribing. Finally, eight studies examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing costs. With one exception, these studies indicated that exposure to information was associated with a higher cost of prescribing or no association was detected. So, for example, one study found that physicians with low prescribing costs were more likely to have rarely or never read promotional mail or journal advertisements from pharmaceutical companies than physicians with high prescribing costs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
With rare exceptions, these findings suggest that exposure to pharmaceutical company information is associated with either no effect on physicians' prescribing behavior or with adverse affects (reduced quality, increased frequency, or increased costs). Because most of the studies included in the review were observational studies—the physicians in the studies were not randomly selected to receive or not receive drug company information—it is not possible to conclude that exposure to information actually causes any changes in physician behavior. Furthermore, although these findings provide no evidence for any net improvement in prescribing after exposure to pharmaceutical company information, the researchers note that it would be wrong to conclude that improvements do not sometimes happen. The findings support the case for reforms to reduce negative influence to prescribing from pharmaceutical promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has pages on prescription drugs and on pharmaceutical marketing (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK General Medical Council provides guidelines on good practice in prescribing medicines
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information on prescription drugs and on its Bad Ad Program
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
The Drug Promotion Database was developed by the World Health Organization Department of Essential Drugs & Medicines Policy and Health Action International Europe to address unethical and inappropriate drug promotion
PMCID: PMC2957394  PMID: 20976098
24.  Science, politics, and health in the brave new world of pharmaceutical carcinogenic risk assessment: Technical progress or cycle of regulatory capture? 
Social Science & Medicine (1982)  2012;75(8):1433-1440.
The carcinogenicity (cancer-inducing potential) of pharmaceuticals is an important risk factor for health when considering whether thousands of patients on drug trials or millions/billions of consumers in the marketplace should be exposed to a new drug. Drawing on fieldwork involving over 50 interviews and documentary research spanning 2002–2010 in Europe and the US, and on regulatory capture theory, this article investigates how the techno-regulatory standards for carcinogenicity testing of pharmaceuticals have altered since 1998. It focuses on the replacement of long-term carcinogenicity tests in rodents (especially mice) with shorter-term tests involving genetically-engineered mice (GEM). Based on evidence regarding financial/organizational control, methodological design, and interpretation of the validation and application of these new GEM tests, it is argued that regulatory agencies permitted the drug industry to shape such validation and application in ways that prioritized commercial interests over the need to protect public health. Boundary-work enabling industry scientists to define some standards of public-health policy facilitated such capture. However, as the scientific credibility of GEM tests as tools to protect public health by screening out carcinogens became inescapably problematic, a regulatory resurgence, impelled by reputational concerns, exercised more control over industry’s construction and use of the tests, The extensive problems with GEM tests as public-health protective regulatory science raises the spectre that alterations to pharmaceutical carcinogenicity-testing standards since the 1990s may have been boundary-work in which the political project of decreasing the chance that companies’ products are defined as carcinogenic has masqueraded as techno-science.
PMCID: PMC3778938  PMID: 22784375
Drug testing; Animal models; Pharmaceutical industry; International regulation; Drug safety regulation; Carcinogenic
25.  A review of the gastrointestinal therapeutic system (GITS) formulation and its effectiveness in the delivery of antihypertensive drug treatment (focus on nifedipine GITS) 
Hypertension treatment guidelines do not discriminate within drug classes and, furthermore, do not consider whether or not all of the formulations of any given drug licensed for once-daily administration can be considered to be therapeutically interchangeable. This article focuses on this issue with respect to nifedipine and the development of the gastrointestinal therapeutic system (GITS) formulation. Nifedipine GITS is regarded as the gold standard once-daily formulation of nifedipine and, as such, it is anticipated that alternative formulations will be therapeutically equivalent to nifedipine GITS. In general, this depends on demonstrating pharmacokinetic bioequivalence. This article is intended to focus attention on generic substitution and, in particular, on aspects of the scientific basis for the substitution of generic products in place of branded products. Such substitution is required for cost-saving or cost-containment reasons and is justified on the basis that the generic (substitute) drug is “therapeutically” equivalent to the branded drug. Unfortunately, there are serious shortcomings in the current methods of assessment insofar as they are typically based on statistical comparisons of average pharmacokinetic parameter values, using arbitrary comparative criteria. This article illustrates the shortcomings of the current approaches to generic substitution and concludes that, in regulatory terms, either more rigorous pharmacokinetic criteria are required or pharmacodynamic indices should be added to reinforce the regulatory criteria. Generic substitution is a balancing act but, at the moment, the cost issue is dominant. To restore the balance, equivalent efficacy must be confirmed. At present, therefore, in the absence of such regulatory rigor, the obvious course is to prefer the branded product, the therapeutic efficacy of which (including outcome benefits) has been established.
PMCID: PMC3724274  PMID: 23901292
nifedipine GITS; generic; generic substitution; bioequivalence; cardiovascular outcome; safety

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