SFDA Priority Review: 40% Faster Registration

In 2014, the SFDA introduced the priority review procedure for human drug registration. The new route enables expedited patient’s access to medications that treat life-threatening conditions, provide a substantial treatment option, or offset a prolonged drug shortage in the Saudi market.

In 2017, SFDA announced two additional fast track procedures for drug registration. They are called the SFDA verification and abridged procedures.


The drug application has to fall under one of the following four categories:

1- Treatment of Serious or Life-Threatening Conditions

ًThe priority review scope in this category only covers a specific definition of serious diseases. In addition, the treatment has to be with special criteria. Therefore, we can say that not all serious diseases can be considered here nor all the drugs indicated for them.

Therefore, there are two main conditions to meet in this category, one is related to the definition of “serious disease,” and the other is related to how the drug “treats” it:

Serious Diseases

Accepted serious diseases or conditions are those:

  • Associated with morbidity that results in a substantial impact on daily functioning.
  • Moreover, it needs to be irreversible morbidity and persistent or recurrent.

Hence, the SFDA will not accept a priority review request for drugs that are not affecting daily functioning or with morbidity that is self-limiting or short-lived.

If your drug addresses a disease with such definition, then you can proceed to confirm the second condition:

Treating a Serious Aspect of The Serious Condition

Simply put, a drug can’t be just “used” in patients with a serious condition to be accepted for a priority review. In fact, it must demonstrate efficacy in the treatment of a serious aspect of the serious condition.

To clarify this point, below are a few examples of the serious aspects that should be treated or intended for (as suggested by SFDA):

  • Affect a serious manifestation or symptom of the condition.
  • Able to improve diagnosis or detection of the condition.
  • Able to prevent a serious manifestation.
  • Able to prevent a condition with possible serious consequences.
  • Able to improve or prevent a serious side effect of therapy of a condition.
  • Able to treat a condition while avoiding known serious side effects of current treatment, providing that:
    • Current therapy is commonly used despite the unavoidable side effects.
    • Side effects are a significant public health issue.
    • New therapy reflects a significant potential to improve the overall safety profile with at least similar efficacy.

2- The Drug Addresses an Unmet Medical Need

Under this category, the SFDA will assess the application eligibility in two aspects:

  • The drug is developed to address an unmet medical need.
  • It demonstrated potential through clinical trials.

Here is more clarification on these two evaluation aspects:

Is It An “Unmet” Medical Need?

The unmet medical need is the medical need that is not addressed adequately by any existing therapy. If there is absolutely no available therapy for a serious condition, it is clearly an unmet medical need.

On the other hand, if a therapy already exists for the condition, it yet could be considered a case of an unmet medical need if it evaluated one of the following:

  • Improved effect(s) on serious outcomes of the condition that are affected by alternate therapies
  • Effect(s) on serious outcomes of the condition not known to be affected by the alternatives.
  • Ability to provide benefit(s) in patients who cannot tolerate or are unresponsive to alternative or an ability to be used effectively in combination with other critical agents that cannot be combined with available therapy.
  • Ability to provide benefit(s) similar to those of alternatives while avoiding serious toxicity present in existing therapies or avoiding less serious toxicity that is common and causes discontinuation of treatment of a serious disease.
  • Ability to provide benefit(s) similar to those of alternatives but with improvements in some factors, such as compliance or convenience, that is shown to lead to improved effects on serious outcomes.

Does The Drug Demonstrate Potential?

The SFDA will evaluate the drug potential using the provided clinical data or its summaries to determine if it reflects the potential to address an unmet medical need. Note that drug development should be designed to measure this potential.

3- First Generic or Biosimilar

SFDA admits the first generic or biosimilar applications into the priority review route to expedite the introduction of the alternative options in the market,

4- Shortage

To enhance drug availability, SFDA will consider the priority review for the following candidates:

  • Drug lists in SFDA short list or unregistered list.
  • Drugs that are short in the market (supply coverage issues).
  • Drugs available in any the essential drug list sch as what is published in the Local Content & Government Procurement Authority.


The priority registration offers a 40% reduction on the regular registration timelines. They are as follows:

  • Human Generic: 93 working days.
  • Human New Drugs registered in SRA: 168 working days.
  • Human New Drugs not registered in SRA: 243 working days.
  • Human Biologics registered in SRA: 168 working days.
  • Human Biologics not registered in SRA: 243 working days.
  • Radiopharmaceuticals: 168 working days.

SRA: Stringent Regulatory Authority.

Note that good preparation of the priority review request would increase the acceptance probability. We have seen eligible cases turned down by the SFDA due to a lack of proper elaboration and presentation.

Regarding the fees, they are the same as the normal procedure fees. For the amount and details, refer to SFDA Fees article.

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