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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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What is the approval process for a new prescription drug?

Drug companies seeking FDA approval to sell a new prescription drug in the United States must test it in various ways. First are laboratory and animal tests. Next are tests in humans to see if the drug is safe and effective when used to treat or diagnose a disease.

After testing the drug, the company then sends FDA an application called a New Drug Application (NDA). Some drugs are made out of biologic materials. Instead of an NDA, new biologic drugs are approved using a Biologics License Application (BLA). Whether an NDA or a BLA, the application includes

  • the drug's test results
  • manufacturing information to demonstrate the company can properly manufacture the drug
  • the company's proposed label for the drug. The label provides necessary information about the drug, including uses for which it has been shown to be effective, possible risks, and how to use it.

If a review by FDA physicians and scientists shows the drug's benefits outweigh its known risks and the drug can be manufactured in a way that ensures a quality product, the drug is approved and can be marketed in the United States.

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