by Maya Suresh, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff
Bringing new drugs to the market has turned into a time consuming and costly process. Resulting in a process that takes roughly 12 years and 1.2 billion dollars to develop a single new drug and move it through the approval process, the current laws administered by the FDA have the potential to stifle potential economic growth. Current laws and FDA regulations require new drugs to go through three phases of clinical trials focusing on safety, optimal dosage, and effectiveness. It is in the prolonged third phase (where effectiveness is tested through extensive clinical trials) that many manufacturers decide to pull the drug from the program as the clinical trials threaten the firm’s financial viability. Ultimately, it is consumers that are hurt by the process, as they are unable to benefit from the drugs.
The negative effect on consumers is what Emily Puchalski hopes to eliminate with the recommendation detailed in her note published in Issue 14.1 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology. In “Bringing Dormant GRAS(E) to Bloom: Reviving The GRASE Concept for Drugs,” Puchalski suggests that a revival of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “generally recognized as safe and effective” laws and regulations, commonly reffered to as “GRASE”, could minimize the negative effects on consumers. Many drugs, once discovered, have formulations found in earlier drugs that have already been established as safe for consumer use. The GRASE law is grounded in this understanding, and provides a way for these “already established as safe” drugs to get to the market quicker without having to go through extensive clinical trials.
The problem with GRASE however, is that it is very difficult for a drug to achieve GRASE status. Due to this difficulty, GRASE has fallen out of use as manufacturers have stopped trying to achieve the status. Puchalski suggests that if the FDA were to revive GRASE, it could convince manufacturers to apply for GRASE status, allowing already established safe and effective drugs to come to market more quickly, thus benefiting consumers.
It would appear that Puchalski’s recommendation is being heard. In late February Micropharma Limited was able to obtain GRASE status for their new heart health probiotic. Ryan Jones, CEO of Micropharma Limited, echoed Puchalski when he spoke of the benefits the company has been able to reap with the highly coveted status. GRASE status will allow the company to accelerate development of the drug within both the United States and international markets. Further, it provides strong reputational benefits for the company, as it makes clear to the public that Micropharma is committed to investing a significant amount of time and energy into providing safe and effective drugs to the market.
The ability for Micropharma to obtain GRASE status could serve as evidence of a potentially reformed drug approval process. However, the full benefits realized by consumers and the market will only become clear with time.