Communication Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

ACT EU’s Workplan 2022-2026


by Giuliana Miglierini The implementation phase of the Accelerating Clinical Trials in the EU (ACT EU) initiative, launched in January 2022 by the European Commission, started with the publication of the2022-2026 Workplan jointly drafted by the Commission, the European Medicines Read more

EFPIA’s Annual Report on the Pharmaceutical industry 2022


by Giuliana Miglierini “In the 21 years from 2000 to 2021 – in which time we’ve come through the Global Financial Crisis and a pandemic – EFPIA companies have more than doubled production, increased exports by a factor of six, Read more

Webinar: Contamination Control Strategy, an Implementation Roadmap


The next EIPG webinar will be held in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork on Friday 23rd September 2022 (16.00 CEST), on the implementation roadmap of Contamination Control Strategy (CCS). This presentation is given by Walid El Azab, Read more

Current inspection trends and new approaches to the monitoring of post-inspection activities

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has published its Annual Regulatory GMP/GDP Inspection Survey 2021, highlighting the more recent trends in inspections and how the pandemic affected this critical verification process of pharmaceutical productions. Meanwhile, UK’s regulatory authority MHRA launched the Compliance Monitor Process pilot, aimed to use eligible consultants as Compliance Monitors to supervise companies in the delivery of actions identified in the Compliance Protocol agreed with the regulatory authority.

Main trends in inspections

The main effect of the lockdowns has been the implementation of new ways to run inspections. The recommendation resulting from EFPIA’s report is now for virtual tools combined with onsite presence; to this instance, data gathered in 2021 show that the two modalities of inspection have a similar duration (2.9 days for on-site inspections vs 2.8 days for virtual ones). The report also indicates there is still a backlog of inspections due in 2020, the critical period of the pandemic; suggestions to manage expiring GMP/GDP/ISO-certificates include a one-year prolongation of current certificates, a dedicated communication process between the industry and regulators in the case of issues with the registration in third countries, and a planning of inspections based on the quality history of the site.

Domestic inspections confirming the trend observed since 2016, are almost double of the number of foreign inspections. These last ones focused in 2021 on only 23 countries, compared to the 44 countries visited by inspectors in 2017. EU’s countries were the most visited ones, with some 350 inspections reported vs the 150 of US, confirming the importance of European pharmaceutical manufacturing. According to the report, 2021 saw an increased attention to GDP inspections, while the percentage of sites with no inspections remains stable for six years.

A new mix of inspection tools

The use of new tools, additional to physical on-site presence, has now become a routine possibility accepted by many regulatory authorities. Many different approaches have been tested during the pandemic, including different inspections tools. Different combinations of tools cannot be considered to be equivalent, according to EFPIA. In general, a mixture of physical presence, document review and virtual presence flanked by the sharing of experience, collaboration and reliance is deemed suitable to confirm compliance and capability while supporting a risk-based efficiency.

Data show that the number of virtual inspections was higher in 2020 compared to 2021; the last year saw an increase of on-site presence vs 2020 and a mixture of virtual and on-site inspections. According to the report, only seven European countries have experience with the implementation of virtual inspection tools (Germany, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Sweden). As a consequence, the impact of mixed virtual and on-site domestic inspections in 2021 was lower in EU member states that, for example, in the US, Brazil, Russia and Singapore.

There is still space for improvement

EFPIA’s survey presents the respective advantages and disadvantages of on-site inspections vs virtual tools. The implementation of the new modalities is far from being accomplished, the process is still on the learning curve, says the document.

While the remote, virtual interaction allows for a greater flexibility of the inspection process, it may result stressful for some people; furthermore, it impacts on the way work is organised, as it needs a flexible schedule and time to prepare for the next day meetings. Also, the style of communication changes to become less natural and more focused. Overall, virtual inspections appear to be more efficient when performed in real-time, as it would be for on-site inspections. While being less costly, due to avoiding extensive travelling, virtual inspections require a careful preparation, including the availability of a suitable IT infrastructure and connectivity. Documents are also often required in advance of the meetings to be shared with regulators.

How to further improve inspections

According to EFPIA, the future of inspections calls for improved collaboration and reliance in order to increase the knowledge shared by the different inspectorates and overcome the limits intrinsic to self-dependency. The expected final outcome of the new approach to inspections is an improvement in the decision-making process. Inspection frequency may be set every 1 to 5 years on the basis of a risk-based evaluation.

Collaboration, reliance and delegation appear to be the new mantras to guide the actions of regulators: the focus suggested by EFPIA is on inspections run by domestic authorities, coupled to the implementation of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) to avoid duplication of efforts. According to the report, it would be needed to harmonise the scope of existing MRAs and to establish new ones between the EU and PIC/S participating authorities (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Turkey and UK). The European legislation should be also updated to include the concept of listed third countries, as already in place for the importation of active substances under the provisions of the Falsified Medicines directive.

The report also suggests a qualitative tool that would fulfil the legal requirements for “inspections” and may prove useful to support inspection planning on the basis of the knowledge of the GMP compliance history of the site, the footprint history of critical and major deficiencies and the type of inspection to be run. These elements lead to the identification of the hazards to be considered, including the intrinsic risk and the compliance-related one. The final output of the tool takes the form of a risk-ranking quality metric, to be used to establish the frequency of inspection for a certain site and the number and level of expertise of the required inspectors, as well as the scope, depth and duration of routine inspections.

All these items may form the basis for the drafting of a GMP inspection “Reliance Assessment Report”, which would also include the statement about the name of the hosting national competent authority and the basis on which country reliance has been established. Such a document may be then used to support regulatory decisions. According to EFPIA, the suggested approach would benefit of a better knowledge of the site inspected by the local NCA, a better insight in the local culture and less barriers to the interaction, with optimisation of resources. A better transparency of the inspection process is also expected, as a non-compliant site may negatively impact on the reputation of local inspectorates. Identified pre-requisites to allow the implementation of such an approach are the availability of high-quality standards at the local level and the evaluation of national regulatory systems by and independent body (e.g. PIC/S or the WHO Global Benchmarking Tool).

UK’s pilot of a Compliance Monitor Process

A new approach that may represent a first example towards the new paradigm of collaboration and reliance has been undertaken in the UK, where the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) launched in April 2022 a pilot project focused on the Compliance Monitor (CM) Process (see more here and here). The pilot is part of MHRA’s delivery plan 2021-2023 and will focus on the CM supervision process for appropriate GMP and GDP Inspection Action Group (IAG) cases.

According to the MHRA, the new process would allow companies to concentrate on the delivery of the required improvements without the need to use resources to manage MHRA supervision inspections to assess compliance remediation activities. On the regulatory side, the MHRA should be able to concentrate on the delivery of the routine risk-based inspection programme. The risk-based approach to supervision and monitoring is also expected to limit the number of potential shortages of supply.

The CM process is based on the figure of eligible consultants acting as Compliance Monitors (CM) in charge of working with the company to deliver the remediation actions identified in a Compliance Protocol (CP) agreed with the MHRA. The supervision by the CMs is expected to contribute to lower the need of on-site inspections with respect to the current process managed by the IAG. The CP also includes the transmission to MHRA of high-level updates at fixed intervals of time, which should include only exceptions to the agreed timelines or significant related compliance issues which were identified. Once completed the CP protocol, the CM informs the regulatory authority that the company is ready for inspection, so that the MHRA can verify onsite the possibility of its removal from IAG oversight.

CMs will be selected by the involved company from a dedicated register and accepted as suitable for that case by the MHRA. At least five years’ experience in independent audits of GMP/ GDP companies is needed to be eligible as CM. Furthermore, not having been personally the subject of MHRA regulatory action and/or significant adverse findings in the previous three years,  a suitable CV and the completion of a MHRA training as CM. All details on requirements for the CM role and application are available at the dedicated page of the MHRA website.

Suitability criteria to act as a CM for the specific case include as a minimum a sufficient experience of the dosage form manufactured, testing activities being performed, or distribution activity being carried out and a written confirmation of absence of Conflict of Interest. These criteria will be assessed by the company selecting the CM.

BIA’s view of the reliance in the UK medicines regulatory framework

The UK’s BioIndustry Association (BIA) contributed to the debate on the reliance in the UK medicines regulatory framework with a Reflection Paper. According to BIA, the MHRA has a well recognised status and history as a valued contributor to the global regulatory ecosystem and a point of reference for the regulatory decision-making which should be preserved also in the future.

BIA recalls the role played by the MHRA in the development of the concept of regulatory reliance at the EU level, as a way to support the agile management of resources and simultaneously focusing on core and innovative national activities across all stages in the product lifecycle. The central concept sees regulators from one country to rely on the decision and assessments of trusted authorities from another country in order to speed up the timeline of regulatory procedures. At the end of the process, each regulator remains fully responsible and accountable for all its decisions.

BIA also highlights the contribution of reliance to the advancement of good regulatory practices and international networks of regulators, so to better allocate resources potentially taking into account also the respective fields of specialisation. The proposal is for a list of accepted reference regulatory authorities as a way to recognise the evolution of partnerships over time. Examples of recognition pathways already active in the UK are the EC Decision Reliance Procedure (ECDRP) and international work-sharing through the Access Consortium and Project Orbis, through which the MHRA may act as the reference regulatory agency in many procedures.

BIA also warns about the risks of a sudden interruption at the end of 2022 of the reliance pathway, that would have a highly disruptive impact on companies and patients.


Revision of the CDMh’s Q&As document on nitrosamine impurities

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The review process of medicinal products started in 2018 to assess the presence of nitrosamine impurities is still ongoing. The Coordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedure (CMDh) last updated in December2021 its Questions & Answers document (Q&A) proving guidance on how to approach the revision procedure.

The US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also updated its guidance on how to minimise the risks related to nitrosamine through formulation design changes. We summarise the latest news of the topic of nitrosamine impurities.

The CMDh’s update of the Q&A document

The CMDh Questions & Answers document (CMDh/400/2019, Rev.5) specifically refers to the implementation of the outcome of Art. 31 referral on angiotensin-II-receptor antagonists (sartans) containing a tetrazole group. According to the indications released in November 2020 by EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP), these outcomes should now be aligned with those issued for other classes of medicines. This provision impacted on the allowed limits for nitrosamines, which are now applied to the finished products instead than to the active ingredient. The limits are determined on the basis of internationally agreed standards (ICH M7(R1)).

Companies are called to implement an appropriate control strategy to prevent or limit the presence of nitrosamine impurities as much as possible and to improve their manufacturing processes where necessary. A risk assessment should be run to evaluate the possible presence of N-nitrosamines in medicinal products, and tests carried out if appropriate.

Four different conditions (A-D) are set for the marketing authorisation (MA) of tetrazole sartans, with specific dates to be met for their fulfilment by marketing authorisation holders (MAHs). Revision 5 of the Q&As document specifically addresses conditions B and D.

Condition B asks the MAH to submit a step 2 response in the general “call for review”. To lift the condition on the risk assessment for the finished product, and provided no nitrosamine was detected in step 2 or levels are below 10% of acceptable intake (AI), submission of the step 2 response must now be followed by the submission of the outcome of the risk assessment. To this instance, the relevant template “Step 2 – No nitrosamine detected response template” should be used to fill a type IA C.I.11.a variation.

A further amendment to Condition B refers to nitrosamines being detected in step 2 above 10% AI. In this case, a variation application should be submitted as appropriate to support changes to the manufacturing process and the possible introduction of a limit in the specification of the finished product.

Condition D now specifies that it applies only to N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) impurities. Thus, to lift the condition on the change of the finished product specification, and if the MAH wants to apply for omission from the specification, supporting data and risk assessments should be submitted via a type IB C.I.11.z variation referring only to these two impurities. Should any other nitrosamine impurity be potentially present, data should be submitted under separate variation (also grouping them together). Conditions A and C remain unchanged. The former refers to the three different possibilities for lifting the condition on the risk assessment for the active substance and with specific reference to the manufacturing process used to prepare it, the second to lifting the condition on the control strategy.

The guidance from the FDA

The US regulatory agency Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released in February 2021 the first revision of the “Guidance for Industry Control of Nitrosamine Impurities in Human Drugs”, establishing a three-step process to demonstrate the fulfilment of requirements.

The guideline widely discusses the structure of nitrosamine impurities and the possible root causes for their presence in medicinal products. While not binding for manufacturers, recommendations contained in the document should be applied in order to evaluate the risk level for the contamination of both active ingredients and finished products. This exercise should be run on the basis of a prioritisation taking into consideration the maximum daily dose, the duration of treatment, the therapeutic indication, and the number of patients treated.

The FDA provides also the acceptable intake limits for a set of different nitrosamine impurities (NDMA, NDEA, NMBA, NMPA, NIPEA, and NDIPA); the approach outlined in ICH M7(R1) should be used to determine the risk associated with other types of nitrosamines.

Manufacturers do not need to submit the results of the risk assessment to the FDA, the relevant documentation has to be made available just upon specific request.

The second step refers to products showing a risk for the presence of nitrosamine impurities. In this case, highly sensitive confirmatory testing is needed to confirm the presence of the impurities.

The implementation of all changes to the manufacturing process for the API or final product have then to be submitted to the FDA in the form of drug master file amendments and changes to approved applications.

The Agency also provides specific guidance for API manufacturers to optimise the route of manufacturing in order to prevent the possible formation of nitrosamine impurities. API manufacturers should participate to the risk assessment run by the MAH; this last exercise should include the evaluation of any pathway (including degradation) that may introduce nitrosamines during drug product manufacture or storage.

Additional points to be considered

A Communication issued in November 2021 by the FDA specifies the terms for the recommended completion dates of the above mentioned three steps and adds some additional points to be considered in the evaluations. MAHs should have already completed by 31st March 2021 all risk assessments, while there is time up to 1st October 2023 for confirmatory testing and reporting changes. According to the FDA, the time left is enough to include in the development of the mitigation strategies also new considerations on how formulation design may prove useful to control nitrosamine levels in drug products.

More in particular, manufacturers are asked to evaluate the presence of nitrosamine drug substance-related impurities (NDSRIs), that may be produced if nitrite impurities are present in excipients (at parts-per-million amounts) or may be generated during manufacturing or shelf-life storage. Should NDSRIs be present, FDA recommends the mitigation strategy should include a supplier qualification program that takes into account potential nitrite impurities across excipient suppliers and excipient lots.

Formulation design is another possible approach to solve the issue. This may use, for example, common antioxidants – such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) – that according to the scientific literature inhibit the formation of nitrosamines in vivo. The kinetic of the reaction leading to the formation of nitrosamine impurities may be also addressed by using a neutral or basic pH for formulation, to avoid acidic conditions which favours the side reaction.

Formulation changes may be submitted to the FDA through supplements or amendments to the applications, also following a preliminary meeting with the Agency to better discuss the approach to be used. Should this be the case, applicants or manufacturers are asked to prepare a comprehensive meeting package with the appropriate regulatory and scientific data on the selected approach to be submitted to the FDA in advance of the meeting.