PhRMA perspective on population and individual bioequivalence

J Clin Pharmacol. 2000 Jun;40(6):561-70. doi: 10.1002/j.1552-4604.2000.tb05980.x.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a second-draft guidance in August 1999 on the subject of in vivo bioequivalence, which is based on the concepts of individual and population bioequivalence (IBE and PBE, respectively). The intention of this guidance is to replace the 1992 guidance that requires that in vivo bioequivalence be demonstrated by average bioequivalence (ABE). Although the concepts of population and individual bioequivalence are intuitively reasonable, a detailed review of the literature has not uncovered clinical evidence to justify the additional burden to the innovator and generic companies as well as the consumer that the new guidelines would impose. The criteria for bioequivalence described in the draft guidance employ aggregate statistics that combine information about differences in bioavailability between formulation means and differences in bioavailability variation of formulations between and within subjects. The purely technical aspects of the statistical approach are reasonably sound. However, PhRMA believes that important operational issues remain that need to be resolved before any changes to current practice are implemented. PhRMA believes that the ideals of prescribability and switchability are intuitively reasonable, but it is uncertain of the extent to which the proposed guidance can achieve these goals. It is not clear whether the attainment of such goals is necessary in the evaluation of bioequivalence given the role this plays in drug development, and the lack of clinical evidence argues against a pressing need to change current practice. PhRMA is concerned that the trade-off offered by the aggregate criteria may ultimately represent more harm than good to the public interest. PhRMA recommends more rigorous evaluation of methods based on two-way crossover designs before moving to methods that require more complex designs. One such method is identified herein and contains procedures for estimating prescribability and switchability. The possibility of a phase-in or trial period to collect replicate crossover data to further evaluate IBE and PBE and possibly allow market access based on these criteria as they are being evaluated has been proposed. PhRMA believes this is unprecedented and will offer little additional information beyond that which can be obtained by simulation or has already been collected by the FDA. Simulation studies have the advantage of allowing evaluation of the sensitivity of various procedures to represent the data patterns as created within the simulation. Operating characteristics by which proposed criteria can be adequately judged have not yet been defined. The limitations of ABE for highly variable drugs and narrow therapeutic drugs are well appreciated and may be addressed by means other than a wholesale change in the current criteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Therapeutic Equivalency*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration