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Featured Article Original Investigation
Olivier J. Wouters
John P.A. Ioannidis
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Context: Therapeutic agents treating serious conditions are eligible for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accelerated approval. The clinical evidence accrued on agents receiving accelerated approval has not been systematically evaluated. Our objective was to assess the timing and characteristics of available studies.
Methods: We first identified clinical studies of novel therapeutic agents receiving accelerated approval. We then (1) categorized those studies as randomized or nonrandomized, (2) explored whether they evaluated the FDA-approved indications, and (3) documented the available treatment comparisons. We also meta-analyzed the difference in start times between randomized studies that (1) did or did not evaluate approved indications and (2) were or were not designed to evaluate the agent’s effectiveness.
Findings: In total, 37 novel therapeutic agents received accelerated approval between 2000 and 2013. Our search of ClinicalTrials.gov identified 7,757 studies, which included 1,258,315 participants. Only one-third of identified studies were randomized controlled trials. Of 1,631 randomized trials with advanced recruitment status, 906 were conducted in therapeutic areas for which agents received initial accelerated approval, 202 were in supplemental indications, and 523 were outside approved indications. Only 411 out of 906 (45.4%) trials were designed to test the effectiveness of agents that received accelerated approval (“evaluation” trials); others used these agents as common background treatment in both arms (“background” trials). There was no detectable lag between average start times of trials conducted within and outside initially approved indications. Evaluation trials started on average 1.52 years (95% CI: 0.87 to 2.17) earlier than background trials.
Conclusions: Cumulative evidence on agents with accelerated approvals has major limitations. Most clinical studies including these agents are small and nonrandomized, and about a third are conducted in unapproved areas, typically concurrently with those conducted in approved areas. Most randomized trials including these therapeutic agents are not designed to directly evaluate their clinical benefits but to incorporate them as standard treatment.
Keywords: Food and Drug Administration, pharmaceutical policy, market authorization, accelerated approval.
Read on Wiley Online Library
Volume 95, Issue 2 (pages 261–290) DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12261 Published in 2017
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The Milbank Quarterly’s multidisciplinary approach and commitment to applying the best empirical research to practical policymaking offers in-depth assessments of the social, economic, political, historical, legal, and ethical dimensions of health and health care policy.