USA – FDA Issues Draft Guidance on NASH Drug Development

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday issued draft guidance on developing drugs to treat patients who have noncirrhotic nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with liver fibrosis.

“Currently, there are no approved drugs for the treatment of NASH. Given the high prevalence of NASH, the associated morbidity, the growing burden of end-stage liver disease, and the limited availability of livers for organ transplantation, FDA believes that identifying therapies that will slow the progress or, halt, or reverse NASH and NAFLD will address an unmet medical need,” FDA writes.

However, FDA acknowledges that there are knowledge gaps that present challenges to developing drugs to treat NASH. One particular challenge is that there are currently no criteria for identifying which patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) will progress to NASH.

Because of this, FDA says that sponsors should focus on developing treatments noncirrhotic NASH with liver fibrosis until there are methods for identifying the subset of patients who are at risk of progression.

FDA also encourages sponsors to develop and validate biomarkers for diagnosing and grading NASH and liver fibrosis, as liver biopsy is currently the only reliable method for diagnosing the disease.

Guidance

The guidance itself provides recommendations for preclinical and clinical development as well as trial design and endpoint selection to support approval of drugs to treat noncirrhotic NASH with liver fibrosis.

FDA notes that the guidance is not meant to cover the development of drugs to treat cirrhosis caused by NASH or the development of in vitrodiagnostics that may be used in developing drugs to treat the disease.

For Phase 3 studies, FDA says that sponsors should enroll patients with a histological diagnosis of NASH with liver fibrosis made within six months of enrollment, taking into consideration patients’ standard of care and background therapy for other chronic conditions. FDA also says that patients’ weight should be stable for three months prior to enrollment…