It is widely believed that acceptable bioequivalence studies of drugs with high within-subject pharmacokinetic variability must enroll higher numbers of subjects than studies of drugs with lower variability. We studied the scope of this issue within US generic drug regulatory submissions.Materials and Methods
We collected data from all in vivo bioequivalence studies reviewed at FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs (OGD) from 2003–2005. We used the ANOVA root mean square error (RMSE) from bioequivalence statistical analyses to estimate within-subject variability. A drug was considered highly variable if its RMSE for Cmax and/or AUC was ≥0.3. To identify factors contributing to high variability, we evaluated drug substance pharmacokinetic characteristics and drug product dissolution performance.Results and Discussion
In 2003–2005, the OGD reviewed 1,010 acceptable bioequivalence studies of 180 different drugs, of which 31% (57/180) were highly variable. Of these highly variable drugs, 51%, 10%, and 39% were either consistently, borderline, or inconsistently highly variable, respectively. We observed that most of the consistent and borderline highly variable drugs underwent extensive first pass metabolism. Drug product dissolution variability was high for about half of the inconsistently highly variable drugs. We could not identify factors causing variability for the other half. Studies of highly variable drugs generally used more subjects than studies of lower variability drugs.Conclusion
About 60% of the highly variable drugs we surveyed were highly variable due to drug substance pharmacokinetic characteristics. For about 20% of the highly variable drugs, it appeared that formulation performance contributed to the high variability.
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