by Giuliana Miglierini
Starting in 2022, the Real-Time Remote Inspections (RTEMIS) programme, established by the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & HealthCare (EDQM) as a pilot in November 2020 to provide a tool to face travel restrictions due to Covid-19, has turned permanent. Companies applying for Certificates of suitability to the monographs of the European Pharmacopoeia (CEPs) may thus receive a notification for a RTEMIS inspection, as a part of the activities of the EDQM. The Directorate is responsible in cooperation with the participating agencies, for assessing the GMP compliance and CEPs applications relative to manufacturing sites of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). The final GMP certificate issued from the NCA incorporates, following the positive closure of a remote inspection clearly states that the inspection was performed as a “distant assessment”.
Companies can adhere to the RTEMIS programme on a voluntary basis; the tool will complement the other modalities available to the EDQM to inspect manufacturers of pharmaceutical active ingredients, i.e. on-site inspections and documentation-based GMP assessment. As for on-site inspections, RTEMIS is also subject to the payment of fees. According to the Directorate, remote inspections cannot replace the on-site ones in terms of value and effectiveness, but many prove useful to assess GMP compliance for companies which have been already inspected. The RTEMIS scheme will thus form the third pillar for the supervision of GMP compliance of API manufacturers registered in the EDQM’s CEP scheme.
To qualify for an RTEMIS inspection, the concerned company should make available a suitable IT infrastructure and hardware to support the remote interaction with the EDQM’s team. To this regard, the notification letter will also include details about the expected infrastructural requirements; interested companies can contact the EDQM HelpDesk for further information.
The pilot phase to validate the RTEMIS scheme for remote inspections ran by the EDQM with reference to several manufacturing sites in India, selected on the basis of their GMP compliance history and a risk assessment, and which participated to the project on a voluntary basis. According to EDQM, suitable Corrective and Preventative Action Plans were developed by the inspected companies to address minor and major deficiencies identified during the inspections, leading to a degree in GMP conformity that the Directorate indicates as “satisfactory”.
Key factors for remote inspections
The pilot phase of the RTEMIS programme closed at the end of 2021 and led to the identification of several key factors to be respected in order to guarantee the success of remote inspections. During this period, RTEMIS inspections ran by the EDQM with the support of European Economic Area (EEA) inspectorates.
At a minimum, an appropriate IT infrastructure and hardware at the inspected site should be available to support a stable connection with the EDQM’s inspectors. During the preparatory phase of the inspection great attention should be paid to choose a suitable web conference application, running connectivity tests before the established date for the inspection, as well as a secure platform for the sharing of all relevant documentation (often in advance of the inspection). The selection of the IT tool to be used can benefit of the initial support from the EDQM’s IT department. Another important feature that should be always kept in mind refers to the possibility to run parallel sessions of discussion between the inspectors’ team and the staff and experts of the inspected company.
In remote inspections, participants are often located far apart, for example EDQM’s inspectors based in Strasbourg (F) may interact with an inspected company in China or India. The great difference in time zone requires a great flexibility on both sides to set the schedule for connections. Flexibility is also needed to face the many challenges posed by remote inspections, often requiring approaches significantly different from the traditional ones used for on-site inspections. Digital connected tools such as smart glasses may be used, for example, by the staff at the inspected site to allow inspectors to perform a real-time virtual tour of the plants.
New forms for CEPs applications
The EDQM also updated all forms to be used to apply for the release of Certificates of Suitability to the European Pharmacopoeia monographs. The forms to be used in case of a new application, revisions and sister files are available at the dedicated page of the EDQM’s website
The revision is intended to facilitate the transfer of data the EDQM’s new IT tools, which have been implemented starting 1 April 2022. The new forms also better reflect data available within the EMA’s SPOR – Organisation Management Services (OMS) system, including company details, names and addresses. The EDQM recommend communicating other additional data linked to the ones present in EMA’s website, i.e. the ORG_ID and LOC_ID.
Applicants should also insert localisation data for their manufacturing sites, in the form of GPS coordinates. To this instance, the internationally recognised WGS 84 system should be used, using latitude and longitude (with the + and – symbols) expressed in degrees to at least five decimal places, as described in policy document PA/PH/CEP (10) 118.
Tables detailing the marketed medicinal products containing a certain active substance and the respective list of accepted Active Substance Master Files/Drug Master Files (ASMFs/DMFs) have been also updated, in order to better reflect the commercialisation history of the products and the quality assessments already performed.
EDQM also advises companies to use the form “change of contact details” as the preferred tool to inform the Directorate about the change of the contact person for one or more CEP dossiers (ref. policy document PA/PH/CEP (10) 86).
EDQM’s website is also undergoing a complete revision, aimed to improve the user experience and to ensure a quick and easy access to all relevant information. The new version of the site will be accessible from the same web address www.edqm.eu and is expected to be online in April 2022.
EDQM introduces a consultation phase in the management of CEP documents
by Giuliana Miglierini
The new process implemented by the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and HealthCare (EDQM) for the elaboration of documents related to the Certification of Suitability (CEP) procedure includes a newly inserted consultation phase. This new step, which may be public or targeted to specific groups of stakeholders, aims to increase the transparency of the elaboration process and offers stakeholders the possibility to forward comments to the draft documents in order to optimise them.
Transparency and efficiency are also the main goals inspiring the overall new elaboration process, which covers the entire pathway of CEP documents, from development, through consultation, up to final adoption, publication and implementation.
A dedicated page on the EDQMs’s website will host the documents open to consultation, together with the respective instructions for the stakeholders wishing to submit comments. Announcements on new documents available for consultation will be made on EDQM Certification webpages. The CEP Steering Committee will be responsible for the elaboration process for CEP documents, in compliance with the EDQM document CEP Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedure (PA/PH/CEP (01) 1).
The elaboration process will cover both public documents (the main part), as well as those the CEP Steering Committee would indicate as restricted for use by the bodies involved in the CEP procedure. The new process does not cover the Resolution on the Certification procedure, which falls under another specific process established by the Council of Europe.
A guidance to understand the new process
The management of CEP guidelines and operational documents for the CEP procedure has been described in a specific guidance issued in November 2022 by the EDQM’s Certification of Substances Department.
The guidance covers a broad range of documents participating from different perspectives to the CEP procedure. The elaboration of the different types of documents may slightly differ from one another, with possible exemptions from some steps, for example in the case of minor revisions (which in any case always have to be full justified and documented). All CEP documents will be drafted in English; the guidance provides indication of the format to be used to establish the unique reference code for governance documents and technical guidelines (PA/PH/CEP (XX) YY), as well as for the revision number (ZR) where needed.
The EDQM specifies that the implementation date of the newly approved CEP documents will be such to allow interested parties to have enough time to comply with the new or revised requirements.
Governance documents define procedural aspects for the practical implementation of the CEP procedure. The initial draft will be prepared by the EDQM and reviewed and agreed upon by the CEP Steering Committee before entering the consultation phase. Comments collected will serve as the basis to consolidate the final version of the document. A second round of consultation may be needed in case of critical comments preventing finalisation. The adoption of the final document falls under the responsibility of the CEP Steering Committee, which may also indicate the need to improve and re-submit the draft before adoption. Once the final version of the document is available, its publication on the EDQM’s website and implementation will close the process.
Technical guidelines inform about the requirements applicants should fulfil for the submission or evaluation of CEP applications. Their drafting may be initiated also by members of the relevant Technical Advisory Board (TAB), in addition to the EDQM. The TAB is also called to review and agree upon the draft document before the assessment and approval by the CEP Steering Committee and the following consultation phase can take place. The same applies to the consolidation of comments and finalisation of the document, that has to be approved by the relevant TAB. In this case too, a second round of consultation is possible should criticalities arise during the first one, followed by adoption by the CEP Steering Committee (and a possible second round of updating and approval by the TAB, if needed), and publication and implementation.
The management of specific aspects of the procedure can be supported by the issuing of administrative or operational documents. These documents fall under the responsibility of the EDQM, that may consult the CEP Steering Committee of other parties where necessary.
The consultation phase
A specific chapter of the EDQM’s guidance describes the newly inserted consultation phase, those details (type of process and duration) will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the CEP Steering Committee.
In the case of a public consultation, the draft document will be made available at the dedicated page of the EDQM website. The draft may also be sent to identified relevant stakeholder organisations, to ensure a better awareness of the ongoing process.
Targeted consultations aim to obtain feedback from selected stakeholders on specific areas of intervention. In such instances, the forwarding of the draft document will be restricted only to identified interested parties, including regulators and relevant industrial associations or other organisations.
According to the type of document and/or the topic under consultation, the consultation phase may vary in duration. To this instance, the guidance indicates a possible range between 3 weeks and 3 months, with the effective duration to be communicated as a part of the call for consultation. A template will also be available to submit comments, which should be always justified and contain concrete proposals for action to tackle the issue under consideration. All comments and justifications received will be transmitted to the groups in charge of approving and adopting the documents.
At the end of the elaboration process, the final approved versions of CEP documents will be published on the EDQM’s website.