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FDA In Brief: As part of a longstanding program encouraging the development of medical countermeasures; new FDA policy promotes innovation to thwart inhalational anthrax

May 23, 2018

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  Tara Rabin
  240-402-3157

“The FDA has long played an important role preparing our nation for potential bioterrorism threats, providing guidance and support around the development of medical countermeasures that can be used safely, effectively and reliably during public health emergencies,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “Since the 2001 anthrax attacks, the U.S. government’s efforts to protect the nation from bioterrorism threats have continued to evolve. We now know that a comprehensive preparedness plan for potential anthrax threats must account for both pre- and post-exposure scenarios. That’s why the FDA has taken steps to modernize its guidance on inhalational anthrax to advance the development of new drugs for prophylaxis, prior to exposure. This builds upon the treatments that are currently available for inhalational anthrax and advances the agency’s longstanding commitment to the development of a full suite of medical countermeasures as part of its established programs.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued final guidance, Anthrax: Developing Drugs for Prophylaxis of Inhalational Anthrax, which is designed to assist in the development of drugs for prophylaxis (prevention) of inhalational anthrax for individuals who may be potentially exposed to or have inhaled aerosolized Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis) spores, but who have not yet displayed related signs and symptoms.

While there are FDA-approved drugs for treatment of anthrax and for post-exposure prophylaxis of inhalational anthrax, situations can arise where starting therapy immediately before the anticipated or potential exposure can reduce the risk of illness and death (for example, first responders who anticipate an imminent risk of exposure to B. anthracis spores).

The FDA’s final guidance is the result of a multi-year effort to advance its policy framework for the development of treatments targeting inhalational anthrax. The final guidance revises the indication to “prophylaxis of inhalational anthrax” for the reduction of disease risk in those who have inhaled, or are likely to inhale, aerosolized B. anthracis spores, but who do not yet have established disease.

Clinical trials in humans cannot be conducted since naturally occurring inhalational anthrax is extremely rare and it would be unethical to deliberately expose healthy human volunteers to B. anthracis spores. Therefore, the final guidance clarifies that drugs developed for the prophylaxis of inhalational anthrax can rely on evidence from animal studies (known as the Animal Rule) to support approval when the criteria under the Animal Rule have been met.

The FDA encourages drug developers to reference the final guidance issued today when designing studies to appropriately establish the safety and effectiveness of drugs for prophylaxis of inhalational anthrax.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Page Last Updated: 05/23/2018
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