The Ministry of Health of India has reportedly decided to amend Rule 122 (E) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 to categorize the New Drug Delivery Systems (NDDS), including ‘Controlled Release (CR)’ or ‘Modified Release (MR)’ formulations, whether a copy of studied and approved drugs or a new one, as ‘New Drugs’.
After the amendment, all vaccines and recombinant DNA (r-DNA) derived drugs would also fall under this nomenclature. Accordingly, to obtain ‘Marketing Approval’, such formulations would be subjected to requisite studies, including ‘Clinical Trials (CT), as specified for ‘New Drugs’ under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of India.
It has however been clarified though, that these applications will not be treated as Investigational New Drugs (IND) and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) shall prepare appropriate regulatory guidelines for all NDDS formulations.
The main reason for the amendment is possibly much late realization of CDSCO that such formulations are vastly different from each other with respect to both efficacy and toxicity.
Besides, it has been widely alleged that some pharma companies in India, mainly to hoodwink the Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO) in the past, used to switch over from ‘Immediate Release (IR)’ formulations to products with CR/MR technology of the same molecule. However, that loophole has since been plugged in DPCO 2013, creating almost a furore in the industry.
A long overdue decision for patients’ health safety:
As stated earlier, this is indeed a long overdue decision of the Indian drug regulatory policy makers, solely considering patients’ health interest.
The primary reason being, any NDDS formulation with CR/MR technology is designed to release the drug substance in a controlled manner with high precision to achieve desired efficacy and safety, quite unlike its IR equivalent, if available in the market. It is important to note that inappropriate release of the drug in any CR/MR formulation would result in lesser efficacy or increased toxicity, jeopardizing patients’ health.
Process followed by US-FDA for CR/MR formulations:
In the United States, for marketing approval of such products, FDA usually requires submission of New Drug Applications (NDAs) providing details based on the evidence of adequate drug exposure expressed by blood levels or dose, and the response framework validated by clinical or surrogate endpoint(s).
US-FDA has three types of NDAs for MR drug products:
- IR to CR/MR switch
- MR/CR to MR/CR switch with unequal dosing intervals
- MR/CR to MR/CR switch with equal dosing intervals
For switching from an IR to a CR/MR product, which is more common in India, the key requirement is to establish that the new CR/MR product has similar exposure course of the drug as compared to the previously approved IR product, backed by well-documented efficacy and safety profile. If not, one efficacy and/or safety trial would be necessary, in addition to three clinical pharmacology studies.
Good for patients:
The good news for patients is that, being categorized as ‘New Drugs’, all NDDS formulations, without any exceptions whatsoever, would henceforth obtain marketing approval only from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), after having passed through intense data scrutiny, instead of State Drug Authorities where getting a manufacturing license of such formulations is alleged to be a ‘child’s play’. Thus, with the proposed amendment, efficacy and safety concerns of CR/MR formulations are expected to be addressed adequately.
Great for Pharma:
Currently, while fixing the ‘Ceiling Prices (CP)’ under DPCO 2013, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) treats CR/MR formulations at par with IR varieties of the same molecules having the same dosage strength.
Thus, categorization of all NDDS formulations as ‘New Drugs’, irrespective of the fact whether these are copies of studied and approved drugs or new ones, would be lapped up by the manufacturers from product pricing point of view. All these formulations, after the proposed amendment, would go outside the purview of drug price control under Para 32 (iii) of DPCO 2013, which categorically states that the provisions of this order shall not apply to:
“A manufacturer producing a ‘new drug’ involving a new delivery system developed through indigenous Research and Development for a period of five years from the date of its market approval in India.”
A similar past issue still haunts:
Similar callousness was exhibited in the past, while granting marketing approval for a large number of highly questionable Fixed Dose Combination (FDC) drugs by the same drug regulators. Unfortunately, that saga is still not over, not just yet.
All these irrational FDC formulations, even after being identified so by the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), have been caught in the quagmire of protracted litigations. Consequently, such dubious products are still being promoted by the respective pharma players intensively, prescribed by the doctors uninhibitedly, sold by the chemists freely and consumed by patients ignorantly. With ‘pharmacovigilance’ being almost non-functional in India, the harmful impact of these drugs on patients’ health cannot just be fathomed.
With the above examples, it is quite clear that technological precision of high order is absolutely imperative to manufacture any effective CR/MR formulation. In addition, stark regulatory laxity in the marketing approval process for these drugs is a matter of great concern.
In such a scenario, one could well imagine how patients’ health interests are being compromised by not formalizing and adhering to appropriate regulatory pathways for marketing approval of such drugs in the country, since decades.
That said, as the saying goes “Better Late, Than Never”. The ‘New Drug’ nomenclature of all CR/MR formulations or for that matter entire NDDS as a category, including vaccines and recombinant DNA (r-DNA) derived drugs, would now hopefully be implemented in India, though rather too late, a much welcoming decision nevertheless.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.