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Conditional Drug Approval as a Path to Market for Oncology Drugs in Canada: Challenges and Recommendations for Assessing Eligibility and Regulatory Responsiveness

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Author: Weiss, Emma
International drug regulators use conditional drug approval mechanisms to facilitate faster patient access to drugs based on a lower evidentiary standard typically required of drug approvals. Faster and earlier access is justified by limiting eligibility to drugs intended for serious and life-threatening diseases and by requiring post-market evidence collection to confirm clinical benefit. One such mechanism in Canada, the Notice of Compliance with Conditions (NOC/c) policy, was introduced in 1998. Today, most of the drugs approved under the NOC/c policy are for oncology indications. We analyze oncology drugs approvals under the NOC/c policy to inform discussions of two tradeoffs applied to conditional drug approvals, eligibility criteria and post-market evidence. Our analysis informs recommendations for Canada's proposed regulatory reforms approach to conditional approvals pathways. Our analysis demonstrates that under the current policy, eligibility criteria are insufficiently defined, resulting in their inconsistent application by Health Canada. Regulatory responsiveness to post-market evidence from post-market clinical trial and foreign jurisdiction regulatory decisions is slow and insufficient. In the absence of sufficient regulatory responsiveness, physicians and patients must make clinical decisions without the benefit of the best available evidence. Together, our analysis of the two core tradeoffs in Canada's conditional drug approval provides insight to inform the further development of Canada's proposed agile regulatory approach to drugs and devices that will expand the use of terms and conditions.
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