Regulatory Affairs Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

EMA, new features for the PRIority Medicines (PRIME) scheme

By Giuliana Miglierini Based on the review of results obtained in the first five years of implementation of the PRIority Medicines (PRIME) scheme, the European Medicines Agency has launched a set of new features to further enhance the support to Read more

The proposals of the EU Commission for the revision of the IP legislation

By Giuliana Miglierini In parallel to the new pharmaceutical legislation, on 27 April 2023 the EU Commission issued the proposal for the new framework protecting intellectual property (IP). The reform package impacts on the pharmaceutical industry, as it contains proposals Read more

Webinar: Pharmacovigilance as a specialization and the role of the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC)

EIPG webinar Next EIPG webinar is to be held on Wednesday 31st of May 2023 at 17.00 CEST (16.00 BST) in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork. Sofia Trantza, a pharmacist with long experience as a Qualified Person for Pharmacovigilance Read more

EMA, new features for the PRIority Medicines (PRIME) scheme

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By Giuliana Miglierini

Based on the review of results obtained in the first five years of implementation of the PRIority Medicines (PRIME) scheme, the European Medicines Agency has launched a set of new features to further enhance the support to developers of new medicinal products in areas of unmet medical needs (see the revised guidance for applicants seeking access to PRIME scheme).

The guideline complements contents of other documents, i.e. EMA’s Guidance on accelerated assessment, the guidance on the preparation of the PRIME kick-off meeting and submission readiness meeting, the one specific for applicants seeking scientific advice and protocol assistance, and the toolbox guidance for robust CMC data packages.

The new set of measures to speed up approval

The major goal of the PRIME scheme, introduced by EMA in 2016, is to accelerate the regulatory pathway for new medicines seeking approval and that may have a high impact on severe conditions currently lacking treatment options. The scheme aims to facilitate the generation of robust data packages supporting the compliance to regulatory requirements for all aspects of development and production of a new medicine.

A critical aspect to ensure efficiency of this process is the ability to build a constructive and continuous dialogue between regulators and sponsors, fundamental for the continuous monitoring of development activities. To this regard, EMA will establish a new roadmap for each PRI-ME development, that will parallel and complement the already existing product development tracker. The combination of the two should allow the optimisation of early scientific advice and regulatory support provided by EMA committees. It should also facilitate the prompt identification of critical aspects and emerging issues in the development, requiring further discussion between regulators and sponsors to positively solve them.

Should issues occur with a specific programme that has already received comprehensive initial advice, EMA is now entitled to provide expedited scientific advice specifically for PRIME developments. The new approach will be tested in a one-year pilot project started in March 2023. Requests of expedited scientific advice have to meet some criteria: the request is a follow-up advice, subsequent to the initial scientific advice procedure; it refers to issues with a specific, well-defined scope; and its urgency has to be justified, in comparison to standard scientific ad-vice timelines. The PRIME Scientific Coordinator is the first point of contact for sponsors to discuss these requests, which have to be submitted via IRIS, as well as all other issues referred to the PRIME scheme.

The pilot phase also includes the new roadmap and tracker to replace the previous PRIME annual update for any products that have not yet been discussed in a Kick-off meeting. Contents of both the roadmap and development tracker are detailed in the updated guidance.

Submission readiness meetings are the third new measure introduced by EMA. The meetings will serve as the final checking point to assess the status of development, with respect to the implementation of the regulatory advice previously provided by the Agency, and the resulting data package intended to support the MA application. Mature plans for post-marketing evidence generation should also be presented, as needed. Applicants are expected to start organise the submission readiness meeting approx. 15 months prior to the intended MAA submission date; the meetings should occur approx. 9-12 months prior the same date. Confirmation of eligibility to accelerated assessment should be checked 2-3 months before submission of the MA application.

Key features of PRIME scheme

At the end of 2022, the PRIME scheme supported the development and final recommendation for approval for 26 medicines. Sponsor can voluntarily file an application to access the scheme, providing evidence the eligibility criteria are met, in particular with reference to a potential major public health interest. These include conditions for which there is an unmet medical need in prevention, diagnosis or treatment, a new therapeutic method is introduced providing significant benefit over the existing ones or bringing a major therapeutic advantage to patients in a given indication.

The PRIME scheme articulates its support through different actions along the planned pathway. Depending on the type of medicinal product under development, the early appointment of a Rapporteur from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) or the Committee for Advanced Therapies (CAT) allows for the discussion of all preparatory aspects of the ap-plication from both a technical and scientific perspective. Opinions may be also provided by other relevant EMA’s Committees and Working Parties, as needed.

Sponsors can also benefit from an initial Kick-off meeting with all the above-mentioned regulators and experts, to obtain preliminary guidance on the overall development plan. Key development steps subject to future scientific advice and the recommended regulatory strategy should be addressed during this meeting.

Special provisions are set forth to facilitate access to the PRIME scheme for SMEs and academic applicants. Upon demonstration of proof of principle, these may be granted Early Entry PRIME status, allowing for introductory meetings to raise awareness on regulatory requirements, and provide early advice on the overall development plan and relevant milestones. The requested proof of principle should be based on compelling non-clinical data in a relevant model providing early evidence of promising activity, and first-in-human studies indicating adequate exposure for the desired pharmacotherapeutic effects and tolerability.

Advice on the generation of proof of concept data is also provided at this stage by the EMA pro-duct team, and it must be fulfilled in order to confirm transition to full PRIME eligibility. In this instance, appointment of the CHMP/CAT Rapporteur is also activated.

The main steps of the procedure

Upon a first checking of acceptability of the application and related documentation, a Scientific Advice Working Party (SAWP) reviewer and a EMA scientific officer are appointed (plus a CAT reviewer in case of advanced-therapy products), and sponsors are informed of the start of the procedure and expected timelines. The SAWP committee should provide its comments to the reports by day 30, followed by final adoption by CHMP by day 40. A flowchart describing the criteria to determine eligibility is reported in Annex 1 of the guideline. The opinion of the CHMP is followed by the issuing of a letter detailing the reasons for the positive/negative decision. The outcomes of the CHMP meetings including discussions of PRIME developments are published as part of the highlights on the monthly adopted recommendations.

The confirmation of eligibility to the centralised procedure triggers the appointment of the CHMP Rapporteur, according to the specific procedure. A letter of intent to submit an MAA (approximately 6-7 months prior to submission of the MAA) is also requested.

In the case of SMEs accessing Early Entry PRIME, the appointment of the Rapporteur follows the generation of data confirming eligibility at proof of concept stage. SMEs or academic applicants also benefit from a full fee waiver for scientific advice or follow-up requests.

The Kick-off meeting is usually scheduled around 3-4 months after granting of the PRIME eligibility; submission of relevant background information and a detailed regulatory roadmap is requested to applicants in order to prepare the meeting.

PIC/S new guidance documents for GDP inspectors

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By Giuliana Miglierini

Two new guidance documents for GDP inspectors have been issued by the Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme (PIC/S) Expert Circle on GDP, and are available on the PIC/S’ website.

The ‘AideMemoire on the Inspection of Good Distribution Practice for Medicinal Products in the Supply Chain’ (PI 0441) and a ‘Questions & Answers (Q&A) document regarding the PIC/S GDP Guide’ (PS/INF 22/2017) both entered into force on 1 February 2023.

Main contents of the AideMemoire

The AideMemoire aims to support GDP inspectors in the understanding the process of GDP inspections. The document is expected to be used for training and planning of inspections. Its adoption is voluntary, as the PIC/S GDP Guide for inspections is a legally nonbinding document unless it has been declared a legal standard in the jurisdiction of a PIC/S Participating Authority. The AideMemoire addresses inspections in wholesale distribution sites of entities holding a wholesale distribution licence according to national legislation (i.e. including importing, exporting, holding, or supplying distributors), as well as manufacturers performing any distribution activities. GDP inspections should be thorough and conducted under normal operating conditions.

The AideMemoire is organised in the form of 10 tables that could be used by inspectors as check lists of items to be investigated during inspections of manufacturers and wholesale distributors.

The first table addresses general aspects of GDP inspections, such as the accuracy of the Licence/ application in detailing relevant activities and products. Lists of prescription only medicines (POM), sales without prescription (P), or General sales list/Over the counter (GSL) products are some examples, together all other possible items that may be handled by wholesales distributors, including medical gases, products requiring storage at low temperature and controlled drugs according to national laws.

Preliminary activities also include the review of previous inspections and the assessment of corrective/preventative actions (CAPAs) outlined in the company response. Change should also be verified, namely in the case of high risk operations that may affect the risk profile of the organisation.

Table 2 lists items referred to Quality management. Inspectors should check, for example, the availability of procedures and logs for change control and deviation management. Quality Risk Management (QRM) principles should have been applied to outsourced activities, leading to the definition of specific activities falling under GDP rules, approval, auditing of suppliers, etc. An appropriate procedure should be available also for activities referring to Management review and monitoring and QRM.

Issues referring to personnel are discussed in table 3. An organisation chart and job descriptions should be available, the latter reflecting also key responsibilities and indication of Designated Responsible Persons. Inspectors should verify GDP training received by personnel, also with reference to specific aspects such as falsified medicines or temperaturesensitive products. Availability of a regular GDP training programme and training records should be checked. Personnel should have received specific training in SOPs relevant to their role, to be adequately assessed and documented. These should also include aspects relative to health, hygiene and clothing requirements.

The check list referred to Premises and Equipment is detailed in table 4. It includes among others items reflecting segregation requirements (e.g. identification, design and management of segregation areas) for hazardous or radioactive products, falsified medicines, products not authorised for the approved market, expired products, etc.

Cleaning and pest control procedures are also addressed in this section, as well as temperature and environmental controls and the appropriate monitoring of fridge or cold storage conditions. As for the equipment, inspectors should verify planned maintenance and calibration and their respective records. Alarms should also be checked, as well as computerised systems including validation, security and access restrictions. Appropriate qualification and validation procedures should be in place for all relevant equipment according to QRM principles, and risk assessment should be also available.

Table 5 lists all items referring to documentation management, including procedures and records. The qualification and approval of suppliers and customers according to QRM principles is addressed in Table 6, discussing Operations. This section also addresses the availability of goods receipts to be checked against purchase orders, including details of the temperature conditions during transportation and checks at receipt for products with special storage requirements or nonconforming products. Stock rotation according to the First Expiry First Out principle (FEFO) should be verified by inspectors, among items referred to storage. Aspects referring to the security of the premises also fall under this section, as well as the destruction of expired/ obsolete goods. Inspectors should address also picking operations, supply notes and records and procedures for import/export.

Table 7 refers to the management of complaints, returns, suspected falsified medical products and recalls, which should all be handled according to relevant procedures. Requirements and documentation to be verified for outsourced activities are listed in table 8. These include for example the availability of quality agreements, and contracts including clear responsibilities and audits schedules.

Procedures, plans and records referring to selfinspections are listed in table 9. Items to be verified by GDP inspectors include among others the selection of auditors, their training and independence, CAPAs implementation and verification. The last table addresses issues relative to transportation, including planning, outsourcing, temperature monitoring, GDP training of drivers, etc.

Q&As on PIC/S GDP Guide (PE 0111)

The second document published by PIC/S consists in a list of Questions & Answers specifically referred to the PIC/S GDP Guide (PE 0111). Contents are organised in the form of a table detailing the relevant chapter number and title, paragraph number, question and answer. The latter also make reference to other paragraphs of the GDP Guide to be considered. The sequence of topics is similar to that of the previously examined guidance document for inspectors.

Questions referred to Chapter 1 address issues referred to Quality management and Quality system, outsourced activities, management review and monitoring. Effectiveness of the QS, for example, may be measured by inspectors with reference to deviations and CAPA analysis or to the impact of QRM functions. Frequency of periodic review and responsibilities for ensuring GDP compliance of outsourced activities are also addressed.

Personnel and definition of responsibilities, including key positions and delegation, are detailed in Chapter 2, while Q&As referred to Premises and Equipment go deeper in contents of Chapter 3 (i.e. including the definition of “acceptable temperature limits” and use of Mean Kinetic Temperature for monitoring).

The following chapters and related Q&As address the proper management of Documentation (Ch. 4) and Operations (Ch. 5). The later details some aspects of suppliers and customers qualification, storage, picking. The management of complaints, returns and particular categories of medicinal products refers to Chapter 6. As for outsourced activities (Ch. 7), Q&As addresses onsite auditing, while selfinspections are treated in Chapter 8. Q&As referred to Transportation (Ch. 9), for example, refer to national legislations as for the need for the transportation company to hold a wholesaler licence.

Draft ICH M13A guideline on bioequivalence open for consultation

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The draft ICH M13A harmonised guideline Bioequivalence for immediate-release solid oral dosage forms” was endorsed by the International Council for Harmonisation on 20 December 2022 and is now open for consultation. Comments can be forwarded until 26 May 2023; publication of the final document is expected by May 2024.

The new guideline will then be implemented as a European guideline, replacing the current EMA guideline on the investigation of bioequivalence (BE) for oral dosage forms. The ICH M13A is the first of a planned series intended to address scientific and technical aspects of study design and data analysis, so to better support BE assessment both during development and post approval. The guideline covers immediate-release (IR) solid oral dosage forms delivering drugs to the systemic circulation (i.e. tablets, capsules, and granules/powders for oral suspension). Different approaches from those suggested in the guideline are possible, provided they are scientifically justified; applicants are thus encouraged to seek the advice of the relevant regulators in order to share a common approach to development.

Key concepts of the M13 series

The determination of bioequivalence to the originator is a fundamental step in the development of generic and biosimilar medicines. BE plays also an important role for some innovator products, as well as for post-approval changes of formulation and/or manufacturing process. BE is determined in terms of bioavailability of the products under comparison after administration, within predefined limits to ensure safety and efficacy. In vivo BE studies for certain orally administered IR solid oral dosage forms can be waived according to the ICH M9 guideline on Biopharmaceutics classification system (BCS)-based biowaiver, which has already superseded Appendix III of the EMA guideline.

The M13A guideline addresses study design containing multiple comparator products or test products, but not the acceptance of comparator products across different regulatory regions, as this greatly varies according to local legislations. The process of regulatory decision making based on BE is also excluded from the guideline.

The planned M13 series should also include the ICH M13B guideline, focused on biowaiver considerations for additional strengths not investigated in BE studies, and ICH M13C discussing data analysis and BE assessment for highly variable drugs, drugs with narrow therapeutic index, and complex BE study design. It should also address data analysis considerations, for example in the case of adaptive BE study design.

Pharmacokinetics (PK) bioequivalence studies and comparative in vitro dissolution studies are the main tools for BE determination for IR solid oral dosage forms with systemic action. These principles can be also applied to other non-orally administered drug products with immediate action (e.g., certain rectal, inhalation, and nasal drug products), provided BE may be derived from measures of systemic exposure.

The ICH E6 guideline on Good Clinical Practice should also be considered while conducting BE studies, in order to ensure the data integrity of all data generated in the trials.

The main contents of the ICH M13A

Chapter 2 of the ICH M13A guideline discusses the general principles to be used for the establishment of bioequivalence. These include the selection of the study population and the choice of the pharmacokinetic endpoint to be used in the BE studies. Healthy subjects should be the preferred choice, unless there are ethical concerns linked to the safety of the pharmaceutical products under assessment. In any case, inclusion and exclusion criteria should always be clearly reported in the study protocol. The main target of BE studies should be the detection of differences in the in vivo release characteristics between the products. Elements to be considered to select the study population are discussed in the draft guideline.

As for the study design, the recommended suggestion is for randomised, single-dose, two-period, two-sequence crossover studies comparing two formulations, as single-dose studies may better detect differences in the rate and extent of absorption. Multiple-dose studies may be conducted in patients should the single-dose design be not affordable for safety/tolerability or ethical reasons. A parallel design may be indicated for drugs with long elimination half-lives, requiring a prolonged washout period. Alternatives are also acceptable upon scientific justification.

The choice of the test product should be also discussed and justified, and it should be representative of the product to be marketed. As for the comparator, the selection of the batches to be used for BE studies should be based on assay content. The strength of the product to be used in the BE study depends on the dose proportionality in PK and solubility of the analyte.

The draft also indicates standardised fasting conditions should be the preferred choice to run BE studies, as they support a better discrimination between the PK profiles of the product and the comparator. Both fasting and fed BE studies should be conducted for high-risk products, due to their complex formulation design or manufacturing process that may impact differently on their in vivo performance, due to different gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. This is the case, for example, of low solubility drug substances formulated in the form of solid dispersions, microemulsions, lipid-based formulations, nanotechnologies, or other specialised technologies.

Analysis of the parent drug should be the preferred choice to demonstrated bioequivalence. Primary metabolites are considered acceptable in the case of pro-drugs which are rapidly eliminated. Stereoselective assays measuring individual enantiomers should be also considered while assessing chiral drugs.

Specific paragraphs address the setting up of sampling, the need to avoid occurrence of Cmax at the first post-dose sampling time point, the possibility to use truncated AUC for drugs with long half-life and considerations on early exposure.

How to analyse and present data

Specific sections of the guideline discuss how to present and report data obtained from BE studies. The study documentation should include the complete evidence of the protocol, conduct, and evaluation, and it should be written according to the ICH E3 guideline Structure and content of clinical study reports”.

Unadjusted, measured drug concentrations in a suitable biological fluid should be always provided for both the product and the originator, for each subject participating in the study. Any deviations should be clearly identified. A suggested list of PK’s parameters to be tabulated for each subject-formulation combination is provided, together with summary statistics to be reported. Not less important is the statistical analysis performed on raw data. To this instance, the model of choice for the analysis should be pre-specified in the study protocol. Cmax and AUC(0-t) should be the preferred PK parameters to establish BE.

Chapter 3 discusses specific topics that may impact on the determination of BE. Among these is the presence of endogenous compounds identical to the drug under evaluation, thus requiring the determination of their baseline concentration in the biological fluids of interest. The draft guideline also specifies that both orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs) and chewable tablets should be administered in BE studies according to the comparator product labelling with regard to intake of water. The comparator product labelling should also represent the main reference for BE studies involving tablets, granules, and powders labelled as being only intended to be dispersed in a liquid before administration as an oral suspension. Considerations are also provided for fixed-dose combination products and the dependance of the drug solubility on pH.

EMA/EFSA joint report on human dietary exposure to residues of veterinary medicines, pesticides and feed additives

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The presence of residues of veterinary medicines, feed additives and pesticides in food of animal origin may pose exposure risks for human health. The topic has been historically approached under different perspectives according to the specific reference legislative framework and the respective authority involved in regulating and monitoring the products. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are among the main regulators involved in setting and verifying the legally binding maximum residue limits (MRLs) for chemical substances, together with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

EMA and EFSA received in 2020 a mandate by the European Commission to work at the development of a harmonised approach to the assessment of dietary exposure to residues of veterinary medicines in food of animal origin. The comparison of the current situation run by the two agencies included only exposure assessment methods used in the regulatory areas, which are all based on traditional deterministic approaches. The resulting recommendations have recently been published in the form of a joint report.

EMA/EFSA experts focused on key concepts and features in order to provide a general agreement on the basic “building blocks” of a recommendable harmonised methodology, leaving the setting up of more detailed methodological aspects targeted to the different sectorial applications to a further phase of discussion. The document shall now be assessed by the European Commission and, if adopted, may request the implementation of specific action targeted to the different sectors to reach a better harmonisation. The Technical Report to be submitted to the Commission may also contain other elements to be considered.

Meanwhile, on 9 February 2023 the Commission implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/1255 designating antimicrobials or groups of antimicrobials reserved for treatment of certain infections in humans entered into force. The regulation lists a wide range of antibiotic, antiviral and antiprotozoal active substances. Those use is from now on excluded to treat animals, so to preserve their efficacy in humans. The measure is part of the broader approach against antimicrobial resistance, and it aims to promote a more prudent and responsible use of antimicrobial medicinal products in animals, including very strict rules on their veterinary prescription for prophylactic and metaphylactic use.

The main issues examined by the EMA/EFSA report

Sectorial legislations in the field of medicinal products (managed by EMA), food (EFSA) and chemicals (ECHA) may greatly differ from one another in the approach and methodologies chosen to define exposure limits and to run risk assessments referred to residues of veterinary medicinal products, feed additives, pesticides and biocides. This lack in harmonisation may lead to significantly different outcomes in the assessment of the same active substance, especially when it is characterised by a dual use for applications in different sectors.

There are several pieces of legislation in place aimed to guarantee a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment [Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/7829, Regulation (EC) No 1107/200910 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 429/2008], as well as sectorial legislations in the pharmaceutical, food, and feed additives fields that may diverge at the level of data requirements, purpose of the required studies, methodologies for exposure assessment, consumption models, etc.

In general terms, exposure studies are usually run using radiolabeling to trace the fate of a substance and to characterise its metabolites and their concentration in edible tissues/food commodities from target animals. The “residue of concern” (RoC) considered in the dietary exposure assessment is most commonly estimated assuming that metabolites have the same pharmacological/ toxicological potential as the parent compound. The difficulty of measuring the concentration of all compounds in residue monitoring often leads to the selection of a marker residue to be traced.

Health Based Guidance Values (HBGVs, or Reference Values) corresponds to the concentration of a chemical that may present hazards for the human, animal or environmental health; they are listed in the EFSA Open Food Tox Database, as well as in similar WHO and US-EPA databases.

HBGV, as well as acceptable daily intake (ADI) in case of chronic risk and the acute reference dose (ARfD) in case of acute risk, can be used in association with the estimated dietary exposure to the RoC to evaluate the risk of exposure.

The report initially discusses the different approaches and models currently in use by EMA, EFSA, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR). Reference is made to the alternative definitions for the establishment of residue limits related to veterinary medicinal products charactering the different sectorial legislation, as well as to methods to assess the related hazard.

The Theoretical Maximum Daily Intake model (TMDI, or diet-based approach), for example, is used by EMA to estimate the risk from life-long exposure to residues in food commodities from animals treated with veterinary medicinal products. This model has been already abandoned by JECFA and EFSA, that switched respectively to the Feed Additives Consumer Exposure (FACE) and Pesticide Residue Intake Model (PRIMo 4), as better suited to estimate age-dependent exposure scenarios based on individual food consumption data. The report also discusses the Global Estimated Chronic Dietary Exposure (GECDE) model, and the International Estimated Daily Intakes (IEDI) model. This last one is based on the WHO GEMS Food Cluster diets, estimating average per capita consumption figures based on international trade and production statistics of foods.

A further level of complexity in the assessment has to be considered for substances with dual uses, such as veterinary medicines and pesticides. In such instances, it is important to note that maximum residue limits/levels may vary for the same substance in the same animal commodity, as their concentration may differ in different tissues and/or organs (i.e., muscle, fat, liver, kidney, eggs, or milk). This may result in uncertainties at the level of the enforcement of the appropriate level and residue definition by different authorities.

The recommendations for future harmonization

The analysis and evaluation of the performance of the many available methods led EMA and EFSA to conclude that the observed differences in exposure assessment could be primarily attributed to the type and use of consumption and occurrence data. Other possible elements impacting on the obtained result may include the chosen calculation model and exposure model, the exposure to residues from multiple uses, and the use of commodity definitions and combined exposure from multiple species. Different timelines in the implementation of scientific innovation may have also contributed to the observed divergences.

The final goal of the exercise was to obtain a most realistic exposure assessment possible based on the available methodologies. The so identified “preferred methodology” focuses on data sources and models, includes also alternative proposals on a number of items, and it might represent the “blueprint” for a future harmonised methodology. EMA and EFSA’s recommendations pay particular attention to exposure assessment as the first step of a risk assessment; as for risk characterisation, no specific recommendations have been developed during this round of discussions.

A concept paper on the revision of Annex 11

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This concept paper addresses the need to update Annex 11, Computerised Systems, of the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guideline. Annex 11 is common to the member states of the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) as well as to the participating authorities of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC/S). The current version was issued in 2011 and does not give sufficient guidance within a number of areas. Since then, there has been extensive progress in the use of new technologies.

Reasons for the revision of Annex 11 include but are not limited to the following (in non-prioritised order):

  • The document should be updated to replace relevant parts of the Q&A on Annex 11 and the Q&A on Data Integrity on the EMA GMP website
  • An update of the document with regulatory expectations to ‘digital transformation’ and similar newer concepts will be considered
  • References should be made to ICH Q9
  • The meaning of the term ‘validation’ (and ‘qualification’), needs to be clarified
  • Guidelines should be included for classification of critical data and critical systems
  • Important expectations to backup processes are missing e.g. to what is covered by a backup, what types of backups are made, how often backups are made, how long backups are, retained, which media is used for backups, or where backups are kept
  • The concept and purpose of audit trail review is inadequately described
  • Guidelines for acceptable frequency of audit trail review should be provided
  • There is an urgent need for regulatory guidance and expectations to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models in critical GMP applications as industry is already implementing this technology
  • FDA has released a draft guidance on Computer Software Assurance for Production and Quality System Software (CSA). This guidance and any implication will be considered with regards to aspects of potential regulatory relevance for GMP Annex 11

The current Annex 11 does not give sufficient guidance within a number of areas already covered, and other areas, which are becoming increasingly important to GMP, are not covered at all. The revised text will expand the guidance given in the document and embrace the application of new technologies which have gained momentum since the release of the existing version.

If possible, the revised document will include guidelines for acceptance of AI/ML algorithms used in critical GMP applications. This is an area where regulatory guidance is highly needed as this is not covered by any existing regulatory guidance in the pharmaceutical industry and as pharma companies are already implementing such algorithms.

The draft concept paper approved by EMA GMP/GDP IWG (October 2022) and by PIC/S (November 2022) and released for a two-months consultation until 16 January 2023.

MDCG, a position paper on the capacity of notified bodies

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The lack of a suitable capacity of notified bodies (NBs) is one of the main issues still pending after the entry into force of the new Medical Device Regulation (MDR) (EU) 2017/745 and In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) (EU) 2017/746. The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) discussed some suggestions on how to address the problem within a position paper published in August 2022.

Even if the document does not represent an official guideline, it describes some critical points to be considered by manufacturers and notified bodies in order to face the great challenge of the re-certification of medical devices and in vitro diagnostics according to the new rules. Should this not occur in time, many products may exit the market at the end of the transition period, potentially leading to a supply crisis greatly impacting on the health of patients and the normal functioning of healthcare institutions.

The MDCG position paper answers the request of EU Health ministers advanced during the EPSCO Council meeting on 14 June 2022 to figure out some immediate measures to face the problem. The final goal of the document is to improve the efficiency in the application of the current regulatory framework, with no reduction of requirements to be fulfilled by manufacturers. Waivers from applicable conformity assessments procedures should be considered only in relation to an interest of public health, patient’s safety, or health.

The position paper consists of nineteen points addressing the issue under its different perspectives, the first eleven of which refer to the increase of notified bodies’ capacity. The MDCG calls on all stakeholders to collaborate in order to smoothly implement the suggested actions, a process that will be monitored by the MDCG itself.

How to increase the capacity of NBs

Hybrid audits should be the elective tool notified bodies may use where appropriate to timely and efficiently run conformity assessment. Duplication of activities should be also avoided. To this instance, the suggestion is to “develop a framework for leveraging evidence, or components thereof, from previous assessments” run according to previous Directives. A pre-condition to activate this possibility is that the previous assessment has been judged “valid and properly substantiated also with regard to the MDR/IVDR requirements and the device” by a duly qualified notified body personnel.

A flexible approach may also apply to the combination of audits for legacy devices and actions needed to guarantee their ‘appropriate surveillance’. Combined audits may be used particularly for legacy devices whose application for MDR/IVDR certification is under review by a NB, thus moving the focus more towards the assessment of compliance with the new rules. To this instance, the MDCG also announced the intention to produce a specific guidance on ‘appropriate surveillanceunder Article 110(3) IVDR and to update MDCG 2022-4.

Already existing guidance may also be reviewed to reduce the administrative burden for NBs, and remove limitations related to the scope of documentation not required by MDR/IVDR.

A fundamental piece of the new European infrastructure for medical devices and IVDs is represented by the centralised Eudamed database, which should be timely fed by NBs with all relevant information using machine-to-machine procedures. Double registrations should be avoided as much as possible.

New notified bodies are essential in order to increase capacity. To this instance, the MDCG suggests supporting training, coaching and internship activities for their personnel. The rationalisation of internal administrative procedures is also deemed important.

Time for re-assessment of NBs is undergoing a review by the European Commission, which is expected to result in the publication of new Delegated Acts. The proposal is to move from the current first re-assessment at three years after notification (and then every 4th year) to up to five years after notification, on the basis of a flexible approach. There are currently ten re-assessments planned in 2022, twelve in 2023 and 11 in 2024. According to the MDCG, the new timeframe for re-assessment would allow national designating authorities to free resources to assess new NBs, while existing ones could process higher numbers of first MDR/ IVDR certifications.

Assessment, designation and notification of conformity assessment bodies (including the European Commission) are also called to reduce their timeframes and improve the efficiency of their processes, keeping unaltered the requirements to be met. The possibility to add specific codes to the designation of NBs shall be also explored by the MDCG. The Group is also committed to prioritise some ongoing actions which may impact on NB’s capacity (i.e. revision of section III.6. of MDCG 2019-6 revision 3).

MDCG’s guidance documents should be seen as an aid “to apply the legal requirements in a harmonised way, providing possible solutions endorsed by the MDCG”. Nevertheless, demonstration of the compliance to requirements should always benefit of a certain flexibility. A reasonable time should also be granted to integrate the new guidance in the relevant systems and/ or to apply them, suggests the MDCG.

Suggestions for the manufacturers

Under the perspective of manufacturers of MDs and IVDs, costs to access NBs may play an important role, especially for small-and-medium companies (SMEs). The MDCG position paper recalls NBs to the obligation to make their standard fees publicly available, possibly in a way that might be easily compared. Specific access schemes should be also in place to make available some capacity to SMEs and other first-time applicants for conformity assessment.

Manufacturers should also refer to notice MDCG 2022-11 to ensure timely compliance with MDR requirements. IVDs should not left behind, even if this category of products benefits of one more year for the transition to new rules compered to medical devices.

Structured dialogue is the suggested tool to improve the collaboration between manufacturers and notified bodies along the entire process of conformity assessment aimed at regulatory procedures, should this approach turn to be useful in order to improve the overall efficiency and predictability.

A timely communication to manufacturers by mean of webinars, workshops, targeted feedback and informative sessions is also deemed important in order to allow for a better preparedness, with a particular attention to SMEs and first-time applicants. The MDCG also suggest NBs to develop common guidelines for manufacturers to assist them in the application phase, containing explicative examples of typical non-conformities and details on he preparation and content of technical documentation. National authorities and industry associations are called as well to contribute to the dissemination of relevant information across their stakeholders.

Specific guidance should be issued by the MDCG to support a simpler conformity assessment of some aspects of legacy and orphan devices denoted by a demonstrable track record of safety. The development of a specific definition of “orphan devices” is also planned.

An improved dialogue between NBs and medicines authorities, and cases where expedited review would be possible is also supported in order to speed up consultations on medical devices incorporating an ancillary medicinal substance and companion diagnostics.

ICMRA, two pilot programmes to optimise regulatory assessment and inspections

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by Giuliana Miglierini

New flexible modalities for the management of regulatory procedures are becoming progressively accepted even for routine activities, upon the experience built during the pandemic. Efforts are ongoing at the global level in order to better harmonise the new approaches. To this instance, the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA) has launched two pilot programmes focused, respectively, on the collaborative assessments of chemistry, manufacturing and control (CMC) and Post-Approval Change (PAC) submissions and related regulatory actions and on hybrid inspections.

Each programme is expected to last 1-1.5 years and should see the involvement of at least two regulatory regions, each one conducting three assessments or collaborative hybrid inspections. Recommendations resulting from the pilots shall be published in 2023, representing the basis of an initial common framework for collaborative assessment and hybrid inspections. The initiative follows the results of a workshop organised by ICMRA in July 2021, during which emerged the need for more convergence and reliance across regulatory authorities in order to support the timely supply of critical medicines.

ICRMA has invited industrial sponsors to participate to the initiative, with particular reference to those planning to file an application for a new product or for post approval changes of already approved products to more than one regulatory agency. All details and the procedure for application are available at this link.

Therapeutics which may be object of the submission include both small molecules and biological products. The submission may refer to products for the treatment of Covid-19, other medically necessary/critical medicines or products granted for access to fast-track procedures such as the Breakthrough (US), PRIME (EU) or Sakigake (JP) schemes.

Interested sponsors are required to check with the involved facility’s management to ensure readiness for inspection and possibility to host a collaborative hybrid inspection, with a particular attention to the availability of suitable IT infrastructures and interpretation services, and the possibility to coordinate at least two inspectorates across different time-zones.

Applications are open since 15 June 2022 and have to be forwarded using the EudraLink secure file transfer application provided by EMA. After a rolling review of the applications, starting of the first pilot is scheduled for September 2022.

The general objectives

The main goals of the initiative include the definition of best practices and standards in the quality assessment of CMC-related post-approval changes and collaborative hybrid inspections. A single list of questions to the sponsor or manufacturer should also be delivered, and answers be shared with the participating quality assessors and inspectors.

The exercise should lead to the identification of misalignments and potential areas of harmonization across participating regulatory regions. An improved convergence and collaboration among regulators in specific data expectations and assessment approaches for the assessment of manufacturing facilities for Pre-Approval and Pre-License Applications (PAIs & PLIs) and reviewing PACs and PAC Management Protocols may also be supported by the analysis of the data acquired during the two programmes.

Hybrid inspections

Hybrid inspections are based on the collaboration of at least two different National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs), one of which in charge of the on-site inspection activities, the second acting as a remote inspectorate. The respective tasks shall be coordinated and run using virtual technologies, so to enable real-time collaboration in the inspection activities, which should target facilities and products of interest for multiple regulatory agencies (see more details here and here).

The pilot is expected to reduce the need of multiple inspections or facility assessments and to support the identification of the best virtual platforms and information technology (i.e., video) to facilitate concurrent on-site inspection and distant assessment. Focus on the development of a common framework to accommodate time zone differences between the facility location and the distant inspectorates is also expected.

Best practices to prepare and conduct the hybrid inspection are another important outcome, as both the on-site and distant inspectorates needs to obtain from the activities all the information needed to run their respective assessments.

In the critical field of GMP expectations, a possible target of the pilot may be represented by how the inspection is reported and how deficiencies are classified by different regulators. Aligned reports and protocols may also support the sharing of information with other interested ICRMA inspectorates. In any case, each participating authority remains the sole responsible for the evaluation of the outcomes of the inspection and the enforcement of any consequent action, according to its own reference legal framework.

A final protocol describing how to execute a hybrid inspection is a main expected outcome of the fist pilot, to be then applied by the Working Group to evaluate at least 3-5 facilities with at least two regulatory agencies involved in the hybrid assessment.

Collaborative assessment

The second pilot aims to run collaborative quality assessment for a minimum of three different applications and a minimum of three regulatory agencies involved each time. The initial phase of the pilot should see a limited number of regulatory agencies (3-5) participating to the project, on the basis of specific confidentiality agreements.

Sponsors participating to the pilot shall submit a single application for the proposed CMC changes for assessment by multiple regulatory authorities; the initial focus is expected to be on post-approval change management protocols (PACMPs; chapter 4 of ICH Q12) for Covid-19 therapeutics. More in detail, participating regulatory agencies will agree on the procedure to be used for the collaborative assessment. They are expected to share and discuss in advance any information request or comment, prior to the interaction with the applicant. Any participating authority can maintain its independence to issue information requests, but in any case, the so obtained answers shall be shared with other NRAs and assessed on the basis of a common approach, so to avoid the need of multiple independent lists of clarification seeking comments.

The project also aims to achieve a single regulatory decision regarding the joint assessment (see more details here and here).

More specifically, priorities to be addressed should include for example the evaluation of information or data on specifications, stability, and/or PACMP that support site changes or additions.

As for the hybrid inspections, expected outcomes are represented by the identification of the best practices and standards in the quality assessment of post approval changes, including PACMPs, and of potential areas for alignment or harmonisation across regions.

A forum of discussion should be also created in order to facilitate convergence on the basis of such best practices. Each evaluation should lead to the preparation of lessons-learned summaries to share the acquired knowledge; new quality assessment guidance and standards might also be proposed, where appropriate.

The transition towards EMA’s new Digital Application Dataset Integration (DADI) user interface

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The Digital Application Dataset Integration (DADI) network project is aimed to replace the current PDF-based electronic applications forms (eAFs) used for regulatory submissions with new web-forms accessible through the DADI user interface.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has released the updated timeline for the implementation of the project, which will at first affect variation forms for human medicinal products. The ongoing phase of User Acceptance Testing (UAT) by members of the DADI Subject Matter Expert (SME) Group (including representatives of EMA, national competent authorities and the industry) is expected to close in August 2022, followed by a second round of testing with external users, representatives of the different stakeholders.

The final release of the new form is currently scheduled for October 2022; a six month transition period shall then apply, during which both the PDF eAF and the web-based form can be used in parallel. Further information of the scope and implementation of the new DADI interface is available in the Q&A document published by EMA. An updated Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) mapping spreadsheet is also available, containing all attributes that are required by the Notice to Applicants; the attributes have been made consistent with the ISO Identification of Medicinal Products (IDMP), so that the DADI form also supports the submission of structured data to EMA’s Product Management Service (PMS).

A short history of the project

The DADI project is aimed to improve the interoperability of data; it builds upon the Common European Single Submission Portal (CESSP) Phase 1 project (2016-2020). Seven national competent authorities (NCAs), from Austria, Germany, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are also collaborating to the setting up of the DADI project.

Some results from the Horizon 2020’s UNICOM project (with no contractual obligations for EMA towards the UNICOM Consortium and the European Commission) also supported the DADI’s development; UNICOM is specifically targeted to ensure the availability of pan-European ISO IDMP compliant forms and IDMP implementation at national agencies.

The use of ISO IDMP rules is compulsory as for Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 520/2012 (articles 25 and 26) for both marketing authorisation holders (MAHs), EMA and member states. These standardised definitions for the identification and description of medicinal products for human use shall facilitate the reliable exchange of information between the different parties involved in the regulatory processes. However, it should be noted that ISO IDMP covers human medicinal products only, not veterinary ones, and refers to the entire product lifecycle, including development. This differs from the PMS module, which covers only the Authorised Medicinal product part of IDMP.

How the DADI interface works

EMA’s plan is to gradually replace during 2022 and 2023 all the eAF forms for the various types of regulatory procedures, starting with the variation form for human medicinal products, so to achieve the availability of standard product master data for human and veterinary medicinal products. It is important to note that both the old forms based on the PDF format and the new web-forms are “electronic application forms”; EMA warns to expect that “the web-based forms will still be called electronic application forms (eAF)”, while in DADI communications, reference can be made to web-based application forms to distinguish them from the current PDF-based eAFs.

The implementation of the FHIR data exchange standard shall make possible to generate human- readable output (PDF files, with an attached FHIR XML) as well as machine-readable output for digital processing. Exchangeable contents based on FHIR are called “resources”. They all share some common characteristics, including how they are defined and represented on the basis of reusable patterns of elements, a common set of metadata, and a human readable part.

Some form fields could also be pre-populated with available product master data from the PMS for human medicines and the Union Product Database (UPD) for veterinary ones, so to facilitate applicants with the filling of the form. Additional metadata may be included in the FHIR XML backbone in order to facilitate regulatory activities.

Users will be able to download forms containing relevant product data, but it won’t be possible to export only product data nor to perform bulk exports in the web UI. Digital signature tools should be used to sign the PDF rendition of the web-form (details will follow from EMA).

Other expected benefits include shorter times to load substances drop down lists and a lower administrative burden for regulators, so to speed up the validation of applications and lowering the number of errors and discrepancies.

The main expected changes

No changes in the process to apply for or submit marketing authorisation applications will occur following the implementation of the DADI project. The current PDF output will remain, as well as the content of the output form included in the application.

The DADI project was developed on the basis of the Safe Agile principles of the Network Portfolio, and it will impact both centralised, decentralised, mutual recognition and national procedures. Ownership of the new web-forms is shared between EMA and NCAs, to acknowledge the collaborative work done to develop them.

At the level of national competent authorities, the new FHIR compliant XML shall be implemented by NCAs which are currently using the PDF forms’ Extensible Markup Language (XML) functionalities.

Specific guidance, training and webinars on the use of the new variation form should be made available by EMA close to its final adoption. Support in the use of the new web-forms will be available through the EMA Service Desk; the existing eAF Maintenance Group shall also continue its activities and act as an expert body.

Access to the new DADI interface should be based on EMA’s Identity and Access Management (IAM) system, and make use of specific access privileges. Consultants may be granted access by marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) to all products from that MAH, or only to specific applications containing products.

EMA also clarifies that the new DADI portal will remain distinct from the IRIS platform supporting product-related scientific and regulatory procedures, and it will be governed differently.

The challenges for the industry

The challenges and opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry linked to the implementation of the new DADI interface by April 2023, at the end of the transition period, has been addressed by an article by Amy Williams in Pharmaceutical Online.

Namely, the decision to implement the DADI has overwritten the expected publication of the IDMP’s EU Implementation Guide 2.2, thus asking the industry an effort to redefine its priorities along its entire regulatory portfolio to include all types of EU procedures. Submission of structured PMS data should also be accelerated by the adoption of the DADI, thus asking for an improved approach to data capture and alignment across the entire company. The need to resubmit post-approval data using EMA’s Extended EudraVigilance Medicinal Product Dictionary (xEVMPD) should be also considered.

The new phase of the DADI implementation indicates that “full IDMP-based regulatory data exchange, via a system-to-system interface between pharmaceutical companies and EMA, now won’t come into effect any time soon”, writes Renato Rjavec in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe. Compliance to data granularity requirements of IDMP should also be ensured, together with the availability of tools to extract relevant information from complex IDMP data model to appropriately generate the xEVPRM format of data exchange.