May 31, 2015

Research Roundup: priority review voucher sells for record price, WHO action to address antimicrobial resistance, and more

Senior Program Assistant

The French pharmaceutical company Sanofi purchased a priority review voucher (PRV)—which entitles the owner to an expedited review of a future product by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—for US$245 million last week. This particular sale was part of the Rare Pediatric Disease PRV, which was modeled after the Neglected Tropical Disease PRV—a program intended to incentivize research and development (R&D) for neglected diseases, as the market for drugs to treat these conditions is often limited. The voucher significantly expedites the FDA’s review process, from 10–12 months to 6–8 months. This voucher was awarded to Retrophin for approval of a drug to treat bile acid synthesis disorders, which are considered rare pediatric diseases. Only two vouchers have been awarded through a PRV program, the first of which was sold to Sanofi for $67 million and the second to Gilead Sciences for $125 million.

Delegates from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 194 member states approved a resolution at the World Health Assembly—the organization’s annual convening—to address the spread of antimicrobial resistance. The resolution establishes a global strategy to control and prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections, including through the R&D of new antibiotics. Under this new resolution, member states will be required to develop and implement national plans to combat antimicrobial resistance within the next two years. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan assured delegates at the World Health Assembly that the WHO will provide technical support to national governments as needed, stating “we are going to do our utmost to support you.” The status and progress of these efforts will be reported to the World Health Assembly in May 2017.

Photo: World Health Organization
Photo: World Health Organization

The global action plan, presented by the WHO Secretariat during the World Health Assembly, called for improved surveillance; increased awareness; and adequate, sustainable R&D funding surrounding the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. The plan notes the “serious market failure” for antimicrobial R&D, calling for new mechanisms to incentivize and accelerate the development of new antibiotics.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently introduced the bipartisan Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act, which expands the Patents for Humanity program at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) to ensure small businesses can participate. Each year, USTPO identifies approximately ten products that have been patented through their office and that have since been used for humanitarian purposes, and provides the winners with a voucher for an expedited patent application, ex parte reexam, or ex parte appeal. The legislation would make the voucher transferable, which would encourage small businesses or individual researchers or inventors—who may not anticipate future patent applications or dealings with USTPO—to participate.