decision making Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Real-world evidence for regulatory decision-making


by Giuliana Miglierini Digitalisation is rapidly advancing also in the regulatory field, as a tool to improve the efficiency and accuracy of processes used for the generation and use of data to inform the regulatory decision-making. To this instance, real-world Read more

Webinar: Implementation of Contamination Control Strategy Using the ECA template


The next EIPG webinar will be held in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork on Friday 21st of October 2022 (16.00 CEST), on the implementation of Contamination Control Strategy (CCS) using the ECA* template. This is the second Read more

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

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.


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.