bilateral meetings Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

The risk of a biosimilar void in Europe


by Giuliana Miglierini The undergoing revision of the pharmaceutical legislation aims, among others, to redefine data protection to better support competitiveness of generics and biosimilars and to favour the timely access of patients to treatments. While the innovator pharma industry is Read more

The drug shortage situation - EIPG's point of view


by Maurizio Battistini The shortage of medicines has been a major concern in the countries of the European Union, and elsewhere, for more than 10 years, so much so that the Economic Community has devoted a great deal of effort Read more

EP’s draft position on Unitary SPC and SPC Regulation revision


by Giuliana Miglierini The Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament released the draft amendments to the Commission’s proposals aimed to establish a Unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) (links to the document and to the procedure) and to Read more

EC Communication (part 2): a Critical Medicines Alliance to support European pharma supply chain

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by Giuliana Miglierini

After last week’s examination of the first part of the Commission’s Communication, specifically targeted to short-term actions to prevent and mitigate critical medicine shortages, in this second post we will address the announced mid- and long-term structural measures, focused on the creation of the Critical Medicines Alliance, the diversification of supply chains and the role of international partnerships.

The Critical Medicines Alliance

The second part of the Commission’s Communication details the structural measures to strengthen the secure supply of pharmaceuticals in the EU, with particular reference to critical medicines. An objective that, according to the Commission, may require the development of new pieces of legislation, such as the EU Critical Medicines Act. To this instance, the preparatory study should be launched by the end of 2023, and followed by the impact assessment.

In the meantime, the improved coordination of the industrial approach to the management of shortages in the EU should be pursued by the Critical Medicines Alliance, to be created in early 2024. The Alliance will bring together all involved stakeholders; its activities should start from a shared analysis of vulnerabilities in the supply chain of the critical medicines on the Union list (i.e over-dependency on a limited number of external suppliers, limited diversification possibilities, limited production capacities, etc).

The result of this exercise should be the identification of useful tools to address vulnerabilities of a limited number of critical medicines with the highest risk of shortages and impact on healthcare systems. To this regard, several lines of actions are identified in the Communication, starting from the issuing of a dedicated guidance and common criteria for the coordinated procurement of critical medicines (e.g. green production and prioritisation of supplies in Euro-pe at times of critical shortages). A better quantification of demand and the consequent possibility to compensate and incentivise industry for its effort in these directions are other expected outcomes.

Medium-term contractual incentives are proposed as a tool to improve predictability of supply and to attract new manufacturing investments in Europe, together with the use of capacity reservation contracts modelled on EU FABs. These last instruments were launched by the HERA Authority during the pandemic in order to reserve manufacturing capacities for vaccines and obtain a priority right for their manufacturing in case of a future public health emergency.

The second line of action of the Alliance would address the diversification of global supply chains for critical medicines, including the identification of priority countries to be involved in strategic partnerships on the security of supply (see also below).

The third pillar should see the Alliance involved in the coordination and harmonisation of efforts to identify security of supply needs for critical medicines, on the basis of the above-mentioned identified vulnerabilities. Actions cited by the Communication, such as the Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) coordinated at the EU level, should be compatible with the state aid framework. The Alliance may also represent the dedicated location where member states may better discuss the possibility of a new Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) focusing on sustainable manufacturing of critical medicines (including off patent medicines).

Stockpiling, skills and financial support

EU stockpiling of critical medicines is another area of activity of the Critical Medicines Alliance. The goal is to overcome current limitations typical of national stockpile programmes; the development of a common strategic approach and a Joint Action on stockpiling has been announced for the first half of 2024, based on the previously mentioned vulnerability analysis and on the experience of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM, that will continue to be part of the EU approach) and the rescEU stockpile.

The Alliance should also address the need for new and updated skills to work in the pharmaceutical sector, so to cope with the increasing impact of digitalisation, the evolution of the regulatory environment and the green transition. Pharmacists are cited in the Communication, as their curricula could be easily adjusted to accommodate education and training on new skills. Attention should be paid to increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates. A Pact for Skills is the measure identified to actively involve key actors in educational and training activities aimed to fill industry skills gaps.

The Alliance would also play a significant role in better leverage and align EU and national funding: a goal deemed important in order to support improved long-term investment predictability for the private sector, and to avoid duplication of efforts. Among other tools cited by the Communication to reach it, the proposed Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP) is also inclusive of pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies and medical technologies. The creation of a Sovereignty Seal to promote synergies amongst existing programmes, and the Technical Support Instrument to enhance the administrative capacity of member states in managing shortages and producing critical medicines are among other proposed tools.

Diversification of supply chains

A second, fundamental line of action identified by the Commission addresses how to better diversify the complex, global pharmaceutical supply chain, also by means of new international partnerships with third countries. According to the Communication, the EU industry needs to have access to a broad range of essential inputs; to this regard, new strategic partnerships with third countries for production of critical medicines and active ingredients should be based on concrete actions of mutual interest.

The EU has 42 preferential trade agreements in place with 74 different trading partners, and a new one is under negotiation with India. The Commission also recalled the importance of bilateral meetings with China on issues affecting access to medicines supply chains, and of the dialogue with Latin America.

An improved regulatory convergence is another main objective of the planned actions at the international level, so to increase GMP compliance of medicinal products marketed in the EU and manufactured by extra-UE partners. To this instance, the Communication mentions the work of international bodies such as the ICH (International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use) and ICMRA (International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities) for the harmonisation of standards for pharmaceuticals, and the WHO support to improved regulatory convergence. Many free trade and mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) signed by the EU also contain this type of obligation, and in some cases the sharing of non-sensitive market knowledge to anticipate possible problems too.

A new network of international partners should be created by the Commission within a year, in conformity with applicable state aid and antitrust rules. The network activities would focus on crisis preparedness and supply diversification. The Communication mentions also different international initiatives already in place, such as the Global Gateway to support local manufacturing of health products and announced another Team European Initiative in Africa on health security and pandemic preparedness and response. Another ongoing initiative is the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Partnership on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies. The EU will also continue to support the provision of critical medicines in humanitarian contexts.


A new joint work plan to 2023 for EMA and EUnetHTA 21

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new Regulation (EU) 2021/228 on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) will assume full validity in January 2025, at the end of the 3-year transition period. To this instance, it is time to define the actions needed to establish the new framework for HTA in the field of medicinal products.

A central point of the new approach is represented by joint scientific consultations (JSCs) to be carried out in coordination between the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the bodies entitled of HTA at the level of single member states.

After the termination of the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA) initiative, in 2021, the new consortium EUnetHTA 21 has been created grouping thirteen HTA agencies from The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Hungary and Norway. EUnetHTA 21 signed a contract service in 2021 with the Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) for the provision of joint health technology assessment up to September 2023.

On this basis, EMA and EUnetHTA 21 have now published a joint work plan of the activities to be put in place until 2023; the initiative represents the continuation of the EUnetHTA Joint Actions, started in 2010 and concluded in May 2021.

The document identifies the priority areas of future collaboration between regulators and HTA bodies at European level, with the final goal to “improve efficiency and quality of processes, whilst respecting the respective remits of different decision makers, and ensure mutual understanding and dialogue on evidence needs”.

The transition to the new legislative framework shall be based on a flexible approach to the different tasks; the work plan includes both methodological and operative actions, and it will be monitored in close cooperation with the EU Commission. Progresses will be discussed during the four bilateral meetings planned until September 2023.

Under the new framework, high priority HTA activities related to the service contract will be delivered by EUnetHTA 21. Other voluntary activities can be actioned through individual HTA bodies from a European (EU/EEA) member state that expressed their interest to participate. Should this be the case, the work plan clarifies that the position is that of the individual HTA body, not of EUnetHTA 21. A public consultation on deliverables part of the EUnetHTA’s mandate is also planned.

Actions in support of JSCs

Joint scientific consultations are the core of the new approach to HTA, aimed to generate a robust evidence relative to the entire life cycle of medicinal products, including the post-licensing and launch.

The work plan establishes a new European process of “parallel joint scientific consultation” involving both HTA bodies and EMA, that will take the place of the current procedures of parallel scientific advice, parallel consultation and early dialogue. This action shall make available a single assessment process, reflecting both regulatory and HTA’s needs.

Interested parties can apply to access the EMA/EUnetHTA parallel JSC procedure; a joint guidance on how to apply and the dates of EMA’s Scientific Advice Working Party (SAWP) meetings are available at the dedicated page of the Agency’s website, together with the template of the parallel consultation briefing document and submission deadlines. The joint guideline also provides details for applicants on how to respond to a EUnetHTA 21 open call for joint scientific consultation.

Exchange of information

The setting up of the JSC procedure includes the optimisation of the use of registries to facilitate post-licensing evidence generation (PLEG) and/or launch evidence to support decision making. To this instance, and depending on the specific products selected during the JSC, advice may be provided on requirements for data collection and analysis of disease registries in the context of development plans, or for qualification of registries in disease areas of particular mutual interest (including advanced therapies, ATMPs).

This exchange of information between EMA and EUnetHTA 21 may lead to discussions in order to monitor progress in the identification of PLEG. Under this action, a voluntary pilot might be activated to explore the feasibility of earlier engagement with an HTA agency during regulatory assessment, including evidence sharing and managing of uncertainties. A main outcome of this area of cooperation shall see the initial drafting of the rules for the exchange of information on the preparation and update of joint clinical assessment of medicinal products.

Capturing patient relevant data and information

The ability to generate patient relevant data and information is key to support the process of decision making. The joint work plan aims to develop new methodologies to improve reliance of patient relevant data. To this instance, the cooperation with EUnetHTA is expected to contribute to EMA’s initiative to establish an EU network of experts on Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs). The work plan also includes voluntary actions focused on the discussion and exchange of relevant data in bilateral meetings, in parallel with the development of the respective guidelines, and a workshop on patient experience data planned in June 2022.

The work plan shall also favour a better engagement of patients and healthcare professionals in areas of mutual interest. To this regard, EMA and EUnetHTA 21 will share their best practices as for compensation for expert participation and how to incorporate the input received in regulatory and HTA deliverables.

Preparedness for future challenges

The need to better understand challenges arising from the development of innovative treatments will benefit the sharing of horizon scanning activities between EMA and EUnetHTA 21. This may include, on a voluntary basis, joint discussions on data requirements and preparative measures relative to high-impact innovative medicines for patients with high unmet needs. Other voluntary activities by individual HTA bodies may focus on the optimisation of regulatory assessment reports in order to facilitate the uptake of their outcomes as part of the HTA process. Sharing of experience and guidance on the optimisation of information on subpopulations (e.g. labelling and EPARs) may also be considered, as well as the improvement of Orphan Medicines Assessment Reports (OMARs). Under the methodological perspective needed to make real-world evidence more available, a main goal of the plan shall achieve HTA representation in the advisory board of Darwin EU, the Data Analysis and Real World Interrogation Network established and coordinated by EMA to provide timely and reliable evidence on the use, safety and effectiveness of medicines for human use from real-world healthcare databases across the EU.

Other voluntary activities in this area may include multi-stakeholder discussions aimed to optimise the design, quality and utilisation of disease registries and the training on new guidance on registry-based studies. Joint methodological work may be also carried out to identify key concepts supporting the acceptance of extrapolation and/or evidence transfer, and to share best practices and experiences in the field of the integrated assessment of companion diagnostics, or other diagnostics for targeting therapeutics not directly related to the use of specific medicines.