One day before the program’s sunset, President Obama signed a bill to temporarily reauthorize the rare pediatric disease priority review voucher program for 3 months. The program has had significant interest from industry, and the program’s extension on September 30 was the product of substantial efforts on the part of stakeholders, including rare disease advocates.
This is the second short-term reauthorization of the program, which was originally slated to end in March 2016. Unlike the first reauthorization (which we discussed here), the Advancing Hope Act (S. 1878) was a more ambitious undertaking. As such, it amended the definition of “pediatric rare disease,” likely expanding eligibility for the program. We discussed the law’s impact on the program’s scope in a post last week.
The law makes several other key changes. First, the Advancing Hope Act now requires Sponsors to notify FDA of the Sponsor’s intent to request a pediatric voucher upon the submission of a rare pediatric disease product application. This requirement comes into effect 90 days after the enactment of the Advancing Hope Act, which incidentally is just a few days prior to the program’s December 31, 2016 sunset. Second, Sponsors are now expressly prohibited from receiving more than one priority review voucher per drug.
Reading the law makes it abundantly clear that the September 30, 2016 reauthorization is a stop-gap measure. Congress’s effort to quickly pass the bill and avoid creating a gap in the program, meant making a last-minute amendment to the program’s end date of at least September 2022 to December 31, 2016. As a result of the last-minute amendment, some parts of the bill are fairly nonsensical. For example, by 2022, GAO will be required to issue another report on the program, similar to the one it issued in March 2016. It would be odd if the pediatric voucher program was not reauthorized past 2016 and yet the GAO was required to report on the program in 2022 (more than 5 years after the end of the program).
Members of Congress have expressed a strong desire to address FDA-related legislation (including the 21st Century Cures Act, which we discussed here) during the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections. Part of this attention will go towards discussing the pediatric voucher program and its long term or permanent reauthorization.