ECHA Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

A new member within EIPG


The European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG) is pleased to announce the Romanian Association (AFFI) as its newest member following the annual General Assembly of EIPG in Rome (20th-21st April 2024). Commenting on the continued growth of EIPG’s membership, EIPG President Read more

The EU Parliament voted its position on the Unitary SPC


by Giuliana Miglierini The intersecting pathways of revision of the pharmaceutical and intellectual property legislations recently marked the adoption of the EU Parliament’s position on the new unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) system, parallel to the recast of the current Read more

Reform of pharma legislation: the debate on regulatory data protection


by Giuliana Miglierini As the definition of the final contents of many new pieces of the overall revision of the pharmaceutical legislation is approaching, many voices commented the possible impact the new scheme for regulatory data protection (RDP) may have Read more

Reactions to the proposed ban of PFAS

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by Giuliana Miglierini

A proposal to ban around 10,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was submitted in January 2023 to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) by authorities of Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The proposal was published on ECHA website on 7 February 2023.

The focus is the so-called “forever chemicals”, i.e. very high persistence PFAS typically characterised by bioaccumulation (also in plants), great mobility and a long range transport potential, and potential endocrine activity.

This landmark proposal by the five authorities supports the ambitions of the EU’s Chemicals Strategy and the Zero Pollution action plan. While the evaluation of such a broad proposal with thousands of substances, and many uses, will be challenging, we are ready.”, said Peter van der Zandt, ECHA’s Director for Risk Assessment.

The proposal was open to public consultation on 22 March 2023, giving rise to the collection of 5,600 comments. Opinions will be issued by ECHA’s scientific committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC), to be then forwarded to the EU Commission for final decision.

 The current role of PFAS

PFAS are characterised by the presence of alkyl groups in which many or all the hydrogen atoms have been replaced with fluorine. The main carbon chain of these substances may have different lengths, from small molecules to long chain PFAS and polymers, and may carry a very wide variety of other functional groups. The strength of the carbon-fluorine bond is the root cause of PFAS persistence, leading to these substances remaining in the environment for decades to centuries.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are currently used in many different industrial sectors, thanks to their useful technical properties. Among others, PFAS can be used to repel water, oil and dirt from surfaces, and is characterised by a high durability under extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, radiation, and chemicals. PFAS also present electrical and thermal insulation properties.

The main features of the restriction proposal

According to the authorities that submitted the proposal, around 4.4 million tons of PFAS would end up in the environment over the next 30 years in the case of no action. Ban would refer to manufacture, placing on the market and use as such, as constituent in other substances or in mixture as well as in articles.

Two options for restriction have been considered, a full ban or specific derogations for certain industries, based on the analyses of alternatives, efforts put in place for switching to them, and socio-economic considerations. The ban would be effective above a set concentration limit; a transition period of 18 months should occur between final adoption and entry into force. Use-specific, time-limited derogation might refer, for example, to a 5-year period in the case of food contact materials for industrial food and feed production (as alternatives are already under development, but are not yet available to entry into force), or to a 12 years for implantable medical devices (for which identification, development and certification of alternatives is still needed).

During the public consultation phase, comments were received from more than 4,400 organisations, companies and individuals, to be reviewed by both the RAC and SEAC committees and the five proposing countries. Sweden, Germany and Japan are the countries that contributed the higher number of comments, well in advance of Belgium, China, Italy and the US. Companies provided more than the half of the comments (58,7%), followed by individuals (27,3%), and industrial or trade associations (9,8%). The full list of entities participating to the consultation is available at the consultation webpage.

EFPIA response to ECHA’s consultation

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) contributed to the consultation with a detailed document. Another joint ISPE-EFPIA document particularly addressed the use of fluoropolymers and fluoroelastomers in medicinal product manufacturing facilities.

While we support the need to restrict certain PFAS, we need to find the right approach to ensure the continued manufacturing and availability of medicines in Europe. A total ban would see medicines’ manufacturing in the EU grind to a halt in under three years. It would also jeopardise the production of all pharmaceutical substances in Europe and would conflict with the EU’s strategy of reducing dependency on nations outside of the EEA in the event of shortages or pandemics.”, said EFPIA’s director general, Nathalie Moll.

EFPIA’s consultation documents highlights the many different uses of PFAS in the pharmaceutical industry, ranging from active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) falling within the definition of PFAS used in the proposal, to building blocks and raw materials used within chemical synthesis of PFAS and non-PFAS medicines. Other reagents and equipment might also fall within the scope of the ban, as well as packaging materials or combination products such as pre-filled syringes. The ban would also affect the manufacturing process, where PFAS materials are used in a wide variety of applications.

It might thus result in the disappearance from the market of a large number of important medicines, warns EFPIA, due to the unavailability of replacement materials, and the time required to obtain regulatory re-approval of alternatives. The supply chain of pharmaceuticals would be also impacted at many stages, thus possibly exacerbating shortages.

In its analysis, EFPIA highlights how some PFAS are considered of low concern by the OECD, and in particular “those used in actual medicines have no or low identified risk through medicines risk benefit or environmental risk assessments”.

A patient access impact analysis was also jointly developed by the involved industrial associations (AESGP, EFCG, EFPIA, Medicines for Europe and Vaccines Europe), showing that the current proposal would lead to at least 47,677 global marketing authorisations being affected by the ban. More than 600 medicines from the WHO Essential Medicines List would be at risk; restrictions would greatly impact also the European Member State’s “Critical Medicines lists”.

EFPIA submitted also a socio-economic assessment of the proposal, according to which a broad restriction of PFAS used in the production of human medicines would have disproportionate negative impacts on the European economy and society. “Without additional derogations, the entire pharmaceutical industry would no longer be able to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) (whether classified as PFAS or non-PFAS APIs) or associated medicinal products in the EEA”, writes EFPIA, resulting in APIs production to necessarily move out of the European Economic Area.

The position of the medical device sector

MedTech Europe also published a position paper on the PFAS restriction proposal and called fora realistic transition pathway to non-PFAS alternatives that are both reliable and feasible for medical technologies (including their manufacturing and supply chain) to avoid shortages of medical technologies for patients and practitioners”.

The position paper presents many PFAS use cases in the field of medical devices, together with the criticalities posed by the proposed transition. In particular, broad derogations should be considered to allow sufficient time to first “identify all PFAS uses in medical technologies and to subsequently move to alternatives where these are proven to be technically viable, available besides in conformity with the sector-specific MD and IVD Regulations so as fit for the intended purpose”. In this case too, the need to manage complex supply chains would require a realistic timeline in order to address dependencies, and long development timelines and steps to ensure compliance with the sectorial legislation.


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.