A committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has just a few days ago recommended suspending the sale of roughly four dozen generic drugs that are used for conditions including diabetes, depression, and hypertension because they noted that their approvals were based on flawed clinical studies conducted only in India. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet taken action on the issue. But they are in the process of reviewing this issue now.
Familiar names of commonly prescribe drugs on the list include candesartan, donepezil, escitalopram, esomeprazole, and metformin. The list extends more than 120 pages because the drugs are marketed individually in multiple European Union (EU) nations in various dosages, and therefore appear over and over.
Abbott Laboratories, Actavis, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Sandoz, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals are some of the many well-known manufacturers involved in this scandel.
The EMA recommendation to suspend the drugs would apply across the entire EU. Drug regulators in France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg have already acted to stop the sales of 25 of these drugs.
The clinical studies in question were conducted by GVK Biosciences, a contract research organization in Hyderabad, India.
The recommendation of the EMA's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use to suspend the drugs was based on an independent French inspection of GVK Biosciences that revealed "data manipulations of electrocardiograms during the conduct of some studies of generic medicines," apparently over the course of at least 5 years. The systematic and prolonged nature of these manipulations and the number of staff involved "cast doubt" on the integrity of the trial methodology and the reliability of the data generated according to the EMA.
FDA Has Taken No Action After Its Own GVK Inspection
When queried the FDA said that some 40 drug applications received from 2007 to March 2012 contained GVK clinical data, and that some of these applications were approved.
The FDA declined to identify the drugs in question or indicate those that had been approved.
According to the FDA statement, the agency inspected GVK Biosciences in September 2014 on the heels of the French inspection in May 2014 and failed to find any evidence "that affects the safety or efficacy of drug products subject to pending applications or products approved in the US."
The agency promised to take "swift and appropriate action" to protect American consumers if it "identifies issues concerning GVK Biosciences that relate to products approved by the FDA."
Exceptions Can Be Made
The EMA investigation of drugs studied at GVK Biosciences encompassed more than 1000 individual generics in various forms and strengths as individually approved in 29 EU nations. Of this group, 300 generics had enough supporting clinical data from other sources to warrant staying on the market, according to the EMA.
That left roughly 700 generics — reiterations of the core four dozen or so drugs — that should be suspended, the EMA said. However, individual countries can make an exception for drugs that are critically important because there are no alternatives to meet patients' needs.
The EMA recommendation goes to the European Commission, the EU's executive agency, for a legally binding decision that will apply to all EU nations, including those that already have suspended the generics in question.
In the meantime, American physicians are waiting for the results of the independent FDA evaluation of this situation. If the FDA concurs, then this will be the biggest debacle ever in U.S. pharmaceutical history.