FDA Unveils 5-Year Plan for ALS, Other Neurodegenerative Diseases

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unveiled a 5-year strategy aimed at improving and extending the lives of people with rare neurodegenerative diseases.

The agency’s Action Plan for Rare Neurodegenerative Diseases including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) aims to advance the development of safe and effective medical products and facilitate patient access to novel treatments.

“The effects of rare neurodegenerative diseases are devastating, with very few effective therapeutic options available to patients. We recognize the urgent need for new treatments that can both improve and extend the lives of people diagnosed with these diseases,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, said in a news release.

“To face that challenge and to accelerate drug development, we need innovative approaches to better understand these diseases while also building on current scientific and research capabilities,” Califf acknowledged.

“This action plan, especially including the use of public-private partnerships and direct involvement of patients, will ensure the FDA is working toward meeting the task set forth by Congress to enhance the quality of life for those suffering by facilitating access to new therapies,” Califf added.

Blueprint to “Aggressively” Move Forward

The action plan represents a “blueprint” for how the agency will “aggressively” move forward to address challenges in drug development for rare neurodegenerative diseases to improve patient health, the FDA said.

The plan was created in accordance with provisions in the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act (ACT for ALS) that President Biden signed into law in late 2021.

Targeted activities include establishing the FDA Rare Neurodegenerative Diseases Task Force and the public-private partnership for rare neurodegenerative diseases; developing disease-specific science strategies over the next 5 years; and leveraging ongoing FDA regulatory science efforts.

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The ALS Science Strategy is part of the plan focused specifically on ALS. It provides a “forward-leaning” framework for FDA activities, which include efforts to improve characterization of disease pathogenesis and natural history; and boost clinical trial infrastructure and agility to enable early selection of promising therapeutic candidates for further development, optimize clinical trial design, improve access to the trials, streamline clinical trial operations, and reduce the time and cost of drug development.

The FDA says patient engagement, public workshops, research projects, coordination across FDA centers and offices, and collaboration with the National Institutes of Health will be key to the success of implementation of the ALS Science Strategy.

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