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  4. The Drug Development Process
  5. Step 4: FDA Drug Review
  1. The Drug Development Process

Step 4: FDA Drug Review

If a drug developer has evidence from its early tests and preclinical and clinical research that a drug is safe and effective for its intended use, the company can file an application to market the drug. The FDA review team thoroughly examines all submitted data on the drug and makes a decision to approve or not to approve it.

Find out how the FDA is Speeding Up the Approval Process.

New Drug Application

A New Drug Application (NDA) tells the full story of a drug. Its purpose is to demonstrate that a drug is safe and effective for its intended use in the population studied.

A drug developer must include everything about a drug—from preclinical data to Phase 3 trial data—in an NDA. Developers must include reports on all studies, data, and analyses. Along with clinical results, developers must include:

  • Proposed labeling

  • Safety updates

  • Drug abuse information

  • Patent information

  • Any data from studies that may have been conducted outside the United States

  • Institutional review board compliance information

  • Directions for use

FDA Review

Once FDA receives an NDA, the review team decides if it is complete. If it is not complete, the review team can refuse to file the NDA. If it is complete, the review team has 6 to 10 months to make a decision on whether to approve the drug. The process includes the following:

  • Each member of the review team conducts a full review of his or her section of the application. For example, the medical officer and the statistician review clinical data, while a pharmacologist reviews the data from animal studies. Within each technical discipline represented on the team, there is also a supervisory review.

  • FDA inspectors travel to clinical study sites to conduct a routine inspection. The Agency looks for evidence of fabrication, manipulation, or withholding of data.

  • The project manager assembles all individual reviews and other documents, such as the inspection report, into an “action package.” This document becomes the record for FDA review. The review team issues a recommendation, and a senior FDA official makes a decision.

FDA Approval

In cases where FDA determines that a drug has been shown to be safe and effective for its intended use, it is then necessary to work with the applicant to develop and refine prescribing information. This is referred to as “labeling.” Labeling accurately and objectively describes the basis for approval and how best to use the drug.

Often, though, remaining issues need to be resolved before the drug can be approved for marketing. Sometimes FDA requires the developer to address questions based on existing data. In other cases, FDA requires additional studies. At this point, the developer can decide whether or not to continue further development. If a developer disagrees with an FDA decision, there are mechanisms for formal appeal.

FDA Advisory Committees

Often, the NDA contains sufficient data for FDA to determine the safety and effectiveness of a drug. Sometimes, though, questions arise that require additional consideration. In these cases, FDA may organize a meeting of one of its Advisory Committees to get independent, expert advice and to permit the public to make comments. These Advisory Committees include a Patient Representative that provides input from the patient perspective. Learn more about FDA Advisory Committees.

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