Drug commonly used to prevent gout, treat gout flares, and treat Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took action against companies that manufacture, distribute, and/or market unapproved single-ingredient oral colchicine, a medication commonly used for the daily prevention of gout, to treat acute gout flare-ups, and for the treatment of Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF).
The companies are expected to stop manufacturing single-ingredient oral colchicine within 45 days and must stop shipping this unapproved product in interstate commerce within 90 days. A small amount of unapproved colchicine is expected to be available after these dates until supplies are exhausted.
Many single ingredient oral colchicine products have been used by the medical community for decades. These and a variety of other medications have not received the mandatory modern-day FDA-approval required of all prescription drugs.
Colcrys is the only FDA-approved single-ingredient oral colchicine product available on the U.S. market. Approved by the FDA in 2009, Colcrys' prescribing information contains important safety data and recommendations on drug interactions and dosing not available with unapproved products.
The manufacturer of Colcrys, Mutual Pharmaceutical/URL Pharma, has established a Patient Assistance Program (PAP) and a Co-Pay Assistance Program (CAP) to ensure that all patients will be able to continue affordable access to colchicine. The company also has informed FDA that it will maintain the programs at a minimum until there is FDA-approved generic competition for Colcrys. The PAP covers three groups of people: those with insurance; those without insurance; and Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part D who do not want the cost of Colcrys to contribute toward their true out-of-pocket expenditures under Part D. The CAP helps eligible patients reduce their Colcrys prescription co-pay to no more than $25 per prescription. Specific information on these programs can be found at www.colcrys.com, www.needymeds.org, or by calling 1-888-811-8423.
The action is part of the FDA's broader initiative against marketed unapproved drugs, announced in a June 2006 Compliance Policy Guide describing the agency's risk-based enforcement approach for marketed unapproved drug products.
"The need for drugs to go through the FDA approval process is clearly demonstrated by our review of oral colchicine tablets," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). "Without our safety review and proper drug labeling, the old standard of care would likely have continued, to the detriment of patients."
Unapproved versions of colchicine are not generic drugs. Generic drugs are approved by the FDA to assure that the approved generic drug products meet the same standards as the innovator drug. All single-ingredient oral colchicine products, other than Colcrys, that are currently being marketed are unapproved drugs and have never been evaluated by the agency.
"It is a priority for the FDA to get unapproved medications, such as older versions of single ingredient oral colchicine, either updated to conform to FDA's current approval standards or off the market," said Deborah M. Autor, director of CDER's Office of Compliance. "The FDA remains committed to ensuring that prescription drugs have the necessary FDA approval. We encourage companies to actively pursue approval or face the type of action announced today."
The FDA previously took action against unapproved colchicine for injection products on Feb. 6, 2008. This ongoing initiative is designed to bring all unapproved medications, including single-ingredient oral colchicine, up to modern-day safety, efficacy, labeling, and quality standards by ensuring that they comply with FDA approval requirements. The FDA is committed to working with companies to ensure that marketed drugs are safe and effective, and meet appropriate standards for manufacturing and labeling.