Expanded Access Programs (EAPs) provide patients access to investigational drugs outside of the clinical trial setting. These programs provide promising new medicines to patients suffering from cancer or rare diseases who have no other treatment options available to them, either because there is no product approved on the market or because they are unable to enroll in active clinical trials.
When Can An EAP Be Set Up?
An EAP can be set up by a pharma company at different stages of the drug development process, depending on what a company is trying to achieve. A program can either be set up to run while late stage clinical trials are ongoing or after the trials have ended. Below, we will explore both options.
EAPs During Clinical Trials
Many drug companies will choose to provide an EAP alongside their active phase 2 or 3 clinical trials. In this case, the EAP runs at the same time as the pivotal trial to provide access to the investigational drug to patients who are unable to enroll in the study. Companies often choose to provide expanded access at this stage for compassionate reasons, i.e. to help desperate patients who have no other viable treatment options available to them. For other companies, this option helps provide physicians in key markets experience using the product before it is commercially available, so that they will eventually advocate for its approval and support its use once on the market.
Providing an EAP alongside active clinical trials also allows companies an opportunity to collect non-clinical data from patients enrolled in the program. Although the primary intent of an EAP is to provide treatment, companies can decide to collect basic information from patients, which can be used to supplement clinical trial data when seeking product approval. This data is known as Real World Data (RWD) and, once analyzed, it becomes Real World Evidence (RWE). Regulatory bodies, such as the FDA and EMA, are actively encouraging the collection of RWD, where appropriate, as the RWE generated can provide an important insight into how a drug will perform outside the clinical setting, in the real world setting, once it becomes commercially available.
Click here to find out more about WEP Clinical’s RWD service offering for sponsors conducting EAPs.
EAPs After Clinical Trials
Companies also have the option to provide an EAP once clinical trials have ended. This allows companies to provide continued treatment access for patients, while they wait for the product to become commercially available. For companies not required to collect large amounts of clinical data from follow-on studies, an EAP at this stage could function as an alternative to an Open Label Extension (OLEX) Study. An EAP can offer a time- and cost-effective solution that reduces some of the burdens and limitations associated with OLEX Studies.
Read More: An EAP Versus a Clinical Trial
For example, because an EAP is not as rigorous as a clinical trial, the set-up process is not as complex or time consuming as it would be for an OLEX Study. Companies can even start by submitting individual patient requests to the FDA, then move to a cohort application once enough patients are enrolled. By this point, the FDA and IRB would be familiar with the program. An EAP also does not require such stringent monitoring or as detailed data collection and reporting. This reduces the cost, complexity and overall workload associated with an OLEX Study. Furthermore, sponsors have more flexibility when it comes to setting the inclusion and exclusion criteria under an EAP. Sponsors can choose to provide the drug to all trial patients, a subset of trial patients, and/or patients who were excluded from the original clinical trials.
Click here to access WEP Clinical’s online resource which outlines the main differences between an OLEX study and an EAP.