FDA Stuns With Rejection of Pfizer’s Retacrit

Following a 14-1 vote by its Oncology Drug Advisory Committee last month to recommend approval for Pfizer’s biosimilar version of Epogen®, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on June 22 sent the drug maker a complete response letter outlining its decision to reject the product.

It is unusual for the FDA to decide against a clear majority recommendation by its Advisory Committee, but the agency pointed to potential manufacturing issues at one of Pfizer’s facilities. Pfizer stated, “This [complete response letter] relates to matters noted in a Warning Letter issued on February 14, 2017 following a routine [FDA] inspection of the company’s facility in McPherson, Kansas in 2016. This facility was lisfdated as the potential manufacturing site in the BLA for the proposed epoetin alfa biosimilar. The issues noted in the Warning Letter do not relate specifically to the manufacture of epoetin alfa.” Although Pfizer responded to that notification by submitting a corrective and preventative action plan the following month, apparently, the FDA is not yet confident in the drug maker’s plan. According to Pfizer’s statement, the agency did not request that additional clinical data be submitted.

The FDA had cited this particular plant for several issues regarding the presence of foreign matter in medications being produced there. In its Warning Letter, the agency suggested there was “a significant loss of control in your manufacturing process” that represents a “severe risk of harm to patients.” The plant was one that Pfizer acquired in its purchase of Hospira in 2015.

This is Pfizer’s second rejection for Retacrit™, a product that was developed and brought to market in Europe by Hospira. Pfizer had resubmitted the 351(k) application in 2016.

The manufacturer stated that it is seeking to clear up any remaining issues at the plant cited by FDA. However, it is not clear whether Pfizer will have to resubmit its application entirely, as the rejection does not seem to be related to safety or efficacy issues involving the agent.

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