Abuse liability assessment for biologic drugs – All molecules are not created equal

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Abstract

The development of novel drug candidates involves the thorough evaluation of potential efficacy and safety. To facilitate the safety assessment in light of global increases in prescription drug misuse/abuse, health authorities have developed guidance documents which provide a framework for evaluating the abuse liability of candidate therapeutics. The guidances do not distinguish between small molecules and biologics/biotherapeutics; however, there are key differences between these classes of therapeutics which are important drivers of concern for abuse. An analysis of these properties, including ability to distribute to the central nervous system, pharmacokinetic properties (e.g., half-life and metabolism), potential for off-target binding, and the physiochemical characteristics of biologic drug products suggests that the potential for abuse of a biologic is limited. Many marketed antibodies and recombinant proteins have been associated with adverse effects such as headache and dizziness. However, biologics have not historically engendered the rapid-onset psychoactive effects typically present for drugs of abuse, thus further underscoring their low risk for abuse potential. The factors to be taken into consideration before conducting nonclinical abuse liability studies with biologics are described herein; importantly, the aggregate assessment of these factors leads to the conclusion that abuse liability studies are unlikely to be necessary for this class of therapeutics.

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