ema Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

The European Medicines Regulatory Network Data Standardisation Strategy


by Giuliana Miglierini The availability of interoperable data is a “must” to ensure the smooth sharing, use and re-use of data along the entire regulatory process. A new document - the European Medicines Regulatory Network Data Standardisation Strategy - has Read more

ICMRA published a Reflection paper on remote inspections


by Giuliana Miglierini Remote inspections have become a widely used approach since the last two years to ensure the oversight of the compliance of pharmaceutical productions to regulatory requirements, as the prolonged lockdown periods determined by the pandemic made very Read more

EMA’s Q&A on the integration of EudraGMDP and OMS


by Giuliana Miglierini A new step in the integration at the central level of data needed to manage regulatory procedures is going to be activated on 28 January 2022: starting from this date, member states’ national competent authorities (NCAs) shall Read more


EMA’s Q&A on the integration of EudraGMDP and OMS

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by Giuliana Miglierini

A new step in the integration at the central level of data needed to manage regulatory procedures is going to be activated on 28 January 2022: starting from this date, member states’ national competent authorities (NCAs) shall use the data available in EMA’s Organisation Management System (OMS) to issue all type of certificates regulated under the EudraGMDP database, for human, veterinary and experimental medicines, as well as active substances (API).

A Questions & Answers guideline on the integration of EUdraGMDP and OMS has been released by EMA; the document reflects the points of discussion which arose in the course of a webinar organised by EMA to better inform about the new modalities for the release of the certificates and other services provided through the OMS system, and how to face the change request process.

The new procedures to uniquely identify the interested parties

As discussed few weeks ago on this blog, the use of the OMS dictionary became mandatory for all centrally authorised products (CAPs) since 1st November 2021. The integration of OMS with EudraGMDP database is a specific requirement arising from the new Veterinary Medicinal Products Regulation ((EU) 2019/6), which will become fully applicable on 28 January 2022.

The new procedures refer to different types of certificates, including the Manufacturing and Importation Authorisations (MIA), the Wholesale Distributor Authorisations (WDA), GMP and GDP certificates and API Registration certificates. GDP certificates will maintain their current validity, with re-inspections to occur after 5 years at the latest. Any new GMP certificate/authorisation for Clinical trials issued after 28 January 2022 will be also impacted. CEP certificates of suitability issued by the EDQM fall out of the scope of EudraGMDP, and are thus not impacted.

Should there be two different organisations with the same legal address, each of them will have a distinct ORG ID in the system; a single organisation with two different locations will have two LOC IDs. Multiples ORG IDs will be generated for marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) located in one country and having subsidiaries in other countries, as the identification is specific to the single subsidiary/location. A particular case may be represented by India, where some plots are recognised as one address by National postal services. In that case, just one LOC ID will be available; on the contrary, should the plot be not recognised as a single address, different LOC IDs will be generated.

In case of a single warehouse for human and veterinary medicines for a single company with a single address, the OMS will only have 1 contact; in these instances, NCAs will select if the certificate applies to human or veterinary medicinal products.

In the case of transfer of the location under another organisation, the OMS system is provided with the technical functionality to move the location from an organisation to another. Nevertheless, advices EMA, the activation of this procedure requires a careful verification and validation of the supporting documentation in order to avoid breaking the business rules of both EudraGMDP and OMS.

Changes requests and Super users

Since the end of January, NCAs shall extract from the OMS database all data relative to the specific organisation (i.e. name and location address details, including the legally registered address).

It is thus of paramount importance that all interested parties which appear on documents recorded in EudraGMDP – i.e. pharmaceutical companies, contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs), importers and distributors, both EU and non-EU – shall verify the correctness of their data registered in the database prior to the submission of any new or updated application for manufacturing or wholesale distribution authorisation with national competent authorities.

Should the submission of a change request be needed, anyone among the interested parties may provide to file it with EMA. Change requests can be submitted starting from 28 January 2022; the requests have to be validated by EMA against the reference sources (e.g. Trade registry and Postal services) before the OMS Data stewards can proceed to change the data in the system.

The availability of the correct information is particularly important in the case of CMOs located in extra-EEA countries, and which may request inspections or need to update their GMP certificates. EMA’s advices companies to promptly liaise with their partners to manage in due time any change request needed to correct data recorded in the OMS.

The “Organisation Super users” can verify all of the users affiliated to their respective organization through the EMA’s Account management portal; they can also change the user roles and users affiliated at any point in time. EMA suggests companies to have at least two Super users, in order to guarantee one of them is always available and active. A single Super user can be affiliated with different organisations.

Other answers provided by the guideline

The Q&As guideline published by EMA consists of 87 questions and their corresponding answers. Question n°2 addresses the issue of the legal basis of GDP certificates for Veterinary medicines: as the new Regulation and its associated secondary legislative acts still do not include such a legal basis, EMA will update the GDP module of EudraGMDP after January 2022 in order to provide consistency in the approach. It shall thus be possible for NCAs to voluntary use the database to record GDP certificates for companies distributing veterinary medicines. The guideline also indicates that national competent authorities are prepared to the handle the new framework and can plan in advance activities needed in the near time to issue WDA and API Registration certificates for veterinary Organisation.

Even if the use of OMS is yet mandatory for CAPs only, the Q&As guideline indicates that NCAs need to ensure that the relevant organisations are available in OMS before submitting information into the system, both for CAPs and non-CAPs. The suggestion is thus to ensure that the OMS data is present and correct for all organisations/sites, even if its use in electronic application forms (eAF) is not mandatory for the time being.

Details of manufacturing sites such as buildings or plots are not registered in OMS, but they have to be included in the GMP certificate; this extra information will be inserted in the ‘Restrictions’ section of the certificate. There is no change to the procedures for the issuing of GMP certificates.

When a change to an organisation occur in the OMS, the dictionary part of EudraGMDP gets refreshed, but no change is reflected in the documents already issued unless there is a specific action on them. The synchronisation between the two databases occurs on the following business day after the change was registered.

In case of transfer of the company to a new location, the change has to be registered in the OMS before new certificates can be issued; according to the guideline, this should not represent a problem while the current certificate are still valid.

During the webinar some doubts have been expressed as for the possible confusion arising from the guidance document “Manufacturer organisations in the OMS dictionary” (EMA/465039/2018), which divides OMS data responsibility for manufacturers and MAHs/Applicants. This document shall be reviewed by the Agency, says EMA’s guideline.


Draft Guideline on the acceptability of names for human medicinal products

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The scope of this guideline is to provide information on the overall procedure for submitting and reviewing the acceptability of proposed (invented) names for human medicinal products processed through the centralised procedure, as well as detailed guidance on the criteria applied by the Name Review Group (NRG) when reviewing the acceptability of names. The main aim is to promote patient safety as an essential principle.

Based on the experience gathered by the NRG since the last revision of the guideline in May 2014, it became apparent that some areas of the guideline would benefit from further clarifications, in particular with regards to the requirements for acceptability of proposed (invented)1 names of medicinal products processed through the centralised procedure.

This 7th update of the guideline further clarifies specific aspects of the criteria applied to address safety and public health concerns, international non-proprietary names issues and product-specific concerns in proposed (invented) names. This update also provides further information on the conditional acceptability of invented names and the process for bilateral negotiations and proposes changes to the duration of the validity of an (invented) name and the review process of the NRG.

Consultation dates: 16/12/2021 to 16/03/2022

Reference number: EMA/CHMP/287710/2014 Rev. 7


EMA’s OMS has turned mandatory for centrally authorised products

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Since November 1st, 2021, the use of the Organisation Management Service (OMS) became mandatory for all Centrally Authorised Products (CAPs). The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has published a Questions & Answers document to better explain the new procedures, that will impact the source of data to be used to exactly identify the organisations filing CAP procedures with EMA.

The progression in the implementation of the new provisions

The use of the OMS system is now compulsory for all organisations filing CAP submissions, with the final goal to improve the interoperability of data and the overall efficiency of the regulatory process. Should applicants lack to use OMS data, the relevant applications will be filtered out of the EMA’a validation procedure and sent back to the applicant for remedial action.

The OMS data management service was launched in 2015, and applied to electronic application forms (eAFs) since 2017, and then to many other types of procedures. The availability of OMS data may prove critical to allow the smooth implementation, in early 2022, of the new Clinical Trial Information System (CTIS) and of the Clinical Trial application procedure; during the next year, EMA plans to integrate the OMS also with the Union Product Database (UPD), Variation applications (via DADI project) and Manufacturing/Importers Authorisations (MIAs), Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections and Wholesale distribution authorisations (via EudraGMDP).

Validated OMS data also need to be used with reference to the “applicant” and “contact person affiliated organisation” sections of pre-submission applications. With the new eAF release (eAF V.1.25.0.0) for Medical Devices, the compulsory use of OMS data will also refer to the “Device Manufacturer”, “Notified Body” and “Companion diagnostic” sections.

Remediation in case of lack to use OMS data includes the insertion of all relevant information in the OMS database before updating and re-submitting the application form. Should applicants not provide sufficient responses, the application may be completely or partially invalidated.

Discussions are undergoing to further extend the use of OMS data also to National Procedures (NP); according to EMA, this may be turn inevitable in the next couple of years, as current eAF forms will be progressively replaced by web-based application forms (through the DADI project), being the latter the same for centrally and nationally authorised products by design.

Any question on the use of the OMS can be sent to EMA’s e-mail addresses specified in the Q&As document.

What is new for applicants

The use of OMS master data (the so-called “OMS Dictionary”) is now mandatory for both Human and Veterinary centralised procedures, namely those making use of eAFs (initial marketing authorization applications, variations applications, and renewals) and well as other procedures (see the Q&A document for more detail). The name and contact details of the contact person are not OMS data, and do not need to be registered with the system; historical organisational data do not have to be registered as well.

To manage a CAP procedure, applicants now need to first register their organisation data with the OMS, or request the update of data already registered by submitting a “Change Request” before filing of the regulatory application.

All requests will be assessed by EMA OMS Data stewards, that will also update data in the systems if the requirements are met. This validation step is fundamental to avoid duplication of data, as all information is checked against the same reference sources (i.e. national business registry, DUNS and/or GMP/MIA certificates) and standardised according to the OMS rules agreed with the Network. The Service Level Agreement provide for EMA to process 75% of OMS requests within five working days and 90% within ten working days. Changes will become visible in the eAF the day after they had been processed, and only upon active refresh of the relevant lists.

The business process which makes use of OMS data is usually responsible to submit such a request, but it can arise also form other parties. More specifically, EMA advises the user who needs to use the data should take the lead in updating it. This may prove relevant, for example, to ensure all manufacturer organisations are included in the OMS Dictionary as needed.

EMA warns applicants to consider the turnaround time for processing the OMS change request when planning to submit applications: even if the application forms will not immediately change and everything may appear as usual, the background process has been now modified and may need additional activities to validate the change requests.

Changes in the eAF templates are planned to remove the free text fields for CAP applications, but until the new models will be available, the free text field for “organisations” should not be used. Planned availability and entry into force of the new versions are December 2021 for Human procedures (v1.26.0.0) and January 28th, 2022 for Veterinary procedures (in line with the veterinary regulation).

How to access the OMS

EMA’s data management system refers to four different domains of data, including the substance, the product, the organisation and referential (SPOR) master data in pharmaceutical regulatory processes.

The SPOR portal provides access to the respective four specific areas of service (e.g. SMS for substances, PMS for products, OMS for organisations and RMS for referential). SPOR is the mechanism used by EMA to implement the ISO IDMP standards, as required by articles 25 and 26 of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 520/2012. Organisation master data, even if not covered by ISO IDMP, have been considered by EMA, National Competent Authorities and Industry in Europe to be essential in order to make the master data operating model work.

Applicants need to create an EMA account with SPOR user roles to conduct additional tasks, such as requesting changes to data, translating data or managing user preferences. Already granted credentials to access other active accounts for any EMA-hosted website or online application can also be used. OMS data can now no longer be captured in other EMA databases.

OMS master data include the organisation name and address, labelled by mean of unique identities (ID) (i.e. ‘Organisation_ID’ and ‘Location_ID’). Different categories of organisations are possible (i.e. ‘Industry’, ‘Regulatory Authority’ or ‘Educational Institution’), and of different size (i.e. ‘Micro’, ‘Small’, or ‘Medium’). The role played by a certain organisation is context-specific and cannot be defined within the OMS.


Steps forward towards the new framework for HTA

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The long-waited European regulation on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) was adopted by the Council of Europe on November 9, and it has now to pass through the final endorsement of the European Parliament as the last step before publication in the EU Official Journal. The regulation will entry into force three years and twenty days after publication.

The first proposal of a new HTA regulation was made in January 2018 by the EU Commission; the final political agreement between the Council and the EU Parliament was reached in June 2021. The position of the Council of Europe on the draft regulation at first reading was also published.

The provisions of the new HTA regulation will apply to medicinal products, medical devices (for example pacemakers, dialysis equipment or infusion pumps) or medical and surgical procedures, as well as measures for disease prevention, diagnosis or treatment used in healthcare.

The adoption of this law is another demonstration of how EU countries, when acting together, can achieve very practical results for their citizens. This new law will benefit patients, producers of health technologies and our health systems.”, said Janez Poklukar, the Slovenian minister for health.

Cooperation and joint activities

Joint clinical assessments and joint scientific consultations are central concepts of the HTA regulation: a target that would require the active cooperation of all member states in order to efficiently identify emerging health technologies. Administrative procedures shall be greatly simplified and become more cost-efficient, as manufacturers of health technologies (especially small companies) should be required to submit once-only all data and documentation for a certain technology at the EU level. These will form the basis for national competent authorities to run all joint activities, including scientific advice and clinical assessment.

The added value of new health technologies compared to the existing ones will be a main driver to guide the assessment activities, so to take informed decisions on pricing or reimbursement.

Joint scientific consultations may also include the exchange of relevant information between national authorities and manufacturers on development plans for the technology under assessment, so to favour the availability of all the evidence required to meet regulatory expectations.

The new Heads of Agencies Group

While waiting for the formal adoption of the new HTA regulation by the EU Parliament, other activities are ongoing to set up the operative framework needed to guarantee the smooth activation of all planned collaborative efforts.

The newly formed Heads of Agencies Group (HAG) is an initiative aimed to support the implementation of common joint work approach on all HTA activities at the EU level, according to the new model of cooperation among national authorities established by the regulation.

The new HTA-focused collaborative network for high-level strategic exchange and discussion was launched on 29 September 2021 by the heads of 19 European HTA agencies, which elected Prof. Rui Santos Ivo (INFARMED, Portugal) as its Chair, and Prof. Dominique Le Guludec (HAS, France) and Dr. Trygve Ottersen (NIPH, Norway) as Vice-Chairs. The secretariat of the Group has been established at the Dutch Health Care Institute (ZIN).

All HAG’s activities will be based on a joint Memorandum of Understanding. The Group will work during the next three years to support national systems to be prepared for the entry into force of the HTA regulation, including the availability of the needed capacity. HAG will also support the joint technical and scientific work performed by HTA bodies across Europe, and it will advise policymakers and other relevant institutions – both at the EU and national level – on issues related to cooperation in HTA.

Current members of the group include the following national authorities involved in HTA activities: AEMPS (Spain), AIFA (Italy), AGENAS (Italy), AIHTA (Austria), INFARMED (Portugal), KCE (Belgium), NIPH (Norway), G-BA (Germany), HAS (France), HIQA (Ireland), IQWiG (Germany), FIMEA (Finland), NCPE (Ireland), REDETS (Spain), RER (Italy), RIZIV-INAMI (Belgium), NOMA (Norway), TLV (Sweden) and ZIN (The Netherlands).

The EUnetHTA 21 consortium

After the closing of its third Joint Action (2016-2020), which paved the way to the permanent HTA working structure for Europe (encompassing more than 80 HTA bodies), the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA) has published a HTA White Paper as the final document resuming lessons learned up to now that may prove relevant for the implementation of the next phase of the HTA joint cooperation.

This new phase in the life of the Network, that now goes under the name of EUnetHTA 21, is no more a Joint Action; a joint consortium has been created instead, led by the Dutch HTA body ZIN and including the following HTA agencies: AEMPS (Spain), AIFA (Italy), AIHTA (Austria), GBA (Germany), HAS (France), INFARMED (Portugal), IQWIG (Germany), KCE (Belgium), NCPE (Ireland), NIPN (Hungary), NOMA (Norway) and TLV (Sweden). The consortium will provide support to the future European HTA system to be established according to the upcoming regulation.

EUnetHTA 21 is funded by a two-years’ Service Contract for the Provision of Joint Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Work Supporting the Continuation of EU Cooperation on HTA, signed on 17 September 2021 by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA).

The first Stakeholder Kick-Off online meeting of the consortium is scheduled on 3 December

2021; the discussion will focus on the illustration of the governance principles, the planned interactions with stakeholders in the form of public consultations and the presentation of deliverables planned for the next two years.

The first Open Call for consultation

EUnetHTA 21 has already launched its first Open Call , targeted to the pharmaceutical industry with reference to four different Joint Scientific Consultations (JSC, previously referred to as Early Dialogues). The Call is open until 7 December 2021; some other four slots for JSC are expected to be activated during the period of activities of EUnetHTA 21.

The medicinal products to access these four first slots will be selected on the basis of the results of the Open Call, within two weeks from its closure; the following Joint Scientific Consultations are expected to start in January 2022. According to EUnetHTA, the procedure to be used for JSC shall remain essentially unchanged, with just minor adjustments; an updated guidance document should be soon available.

JSCs are a pillar of the new HTA regulation, aimed to provide non-binding scientific advice to developers of new products, after completion of the feasibility or proof of concept studies and prior to the activation of pivotal clinical trials, in order to improve the quality and appropriateness of the data to be used for future HTA assessment. This type of evaluation will run in parallel to EMA’s scientific advice procedures.

Early exchange of relevant information between applicants and both regulatory (EMA) and HTA agencies represents the core of the process, so to optimise the integration of the different requirements to be included in the study design across multiple European member states. These might refer, for example, to the choice of comparators or relevant outcomes, to the quality of life and/or patient groups (both for pivotal trials and post-launch studies), as well as to the economic evidence generation plan.


Commission establishes portfolio of 10 most promising treatments for Covid-19

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The second phase in the development of new medicines to treat Covid-19 – a part of the EU Strategy on Covid-19 Therapeutics launched in May 2021 – has reached a cornerstone with the announcement made by the European Commission of a first portfolio list of ten potential Covid-19 therapeutic candidates likely to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The only medicine authorised up to now at EU-level to treat Covid-19 is remdesivir.

The choice of the molecules to be included in the list was based on independent scientific advice by an expert group, and it is aimed to offer new treatment opportunities for patients affected by the disease in a way complementary to the preventive action of the already available vaccines. The strategy shall contribute to the achievement of the European Health Union, and it has been modelled on the example of the EU Vaccines Strategy.

Once available in the European market, the new medicines are expected to contribute to the reduction of hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19. “We have already signed four joint procurement contracts for different Covid-19 treatments and we stand ready to negotiate more. Our goal is to authorise at least three therapeutics in the coming weeks and possibly two more by the end of the year and help Member States gain access to them as soon as possible.”, said the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides.

Three different categories of therapeutics

The initial list of ten candidates includes three different categories of therapeutics, and it may evolve in future according to the emerging of new scientific evidence.

Antiviral monoclonal antibodies have been identified as the most efficacious approach to be used in the earliest stages of infection. This category includes the following medicinal products under development:

  • Ronapreve, a combination of two monocolonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Roche.
  • Xevudy (sotrovimab) from Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline.
  • Evusheld, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies tixagevimab and cilgavimab from Astra-Zeneca.

The second category refers to oral antivirals, in this case too for early treatment; it includes the following candidates:

  • Molnupiravir from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and MSD.
  • PF-07321332 from Pfizer.
  • AT-527 from Atea Pharmaceuticals and Roche.

Hospitalised patients may also benefit from the use of immunomodulators; four different possible candidates have been selected within this category:

  • Actemra (tocilizumab) from Roche Holding.
  • Kineret (anakinra) from Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.
  • Olumiant (baricitinib) from Eli Lilly.
  • Lenzilumab from Humanigen.

The scrutiny and selection of the most promising therapeutic options took into consideration 82 different molecules in late-stage clinical development. The analysis assumed that different types of products are needed for different patient populations and at different stages and severity of the disease. This scrutiny exercise was completely separate from the standard scientific assessment of the regulatory dossiers submitted for the candidates, that will be performed by EMA in order to issue the recommendation for final marketing authorisation by the EU Commission.

Steps towards the approval of the selected candidates

As announced by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, half of the selected candidate therapeutics may reach approval by EMA by the end of 2021. These include products for which the rolling review is already ongoing or that have applied for marketing authorisation to the European Medicines Agency. Pre-requisite for the approval is the final demonstration of their quality, safety, and efficacy; there is still the possibility some of the products in the list shall not be authorized should the scientific evidence provided to EMA be considered not enough robust to meet the regulatory requirements.

Four other candidates are still in early phase of development and have already received scientific advice from the Agency; their rolling review shall begin as soon as enough clinical data will be available. The further development of these products will benefit by an innovation booster to support development activities.

As said, this is just a first list of promising therapeutics to treat Covid-19; some other approaches are expected to be identified as a consequence of the activation of several new initiatives by the EU Commission. Among these are the setting up of the interactive mapping platform for promising therapeutics which represents one of the first targets of action for the newly created Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) (we wrote about this in October’s newsletter). The Commission also announced the activation within few weeks of the HERA website, where contact details and practical guidance for interested companies shall be found.

A pan-European matchmaking event for therapeutics industrial production has been also announced; this effort will focus on the development of new and repurposed Covid-19 therapeutics and it is aimed to mobilise the EU’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity.

The criteria used to select the candidate therapeutics

The European Commission published also a Q&A note to better explain the process that led to the selection of the ten promising therapeutics to be included in the list.

The portfolio of the selected products (authorised and under development) has been established by the expert sub-group on Covid-19 therapeutics (part of the expert group on SARS-CoV-2 variants) upon request of the Commission. The criteria used to run the analysis were approved by Member States in the Human Pharmaceutical Committee.

They include the evaluation of the pharmacological rationale on the basis of the available evidence of the potential role played by the single medicinal product in the treatment of Covid-19, its stage of development and availability of relevant data from clinical trials, the absence of (new) major identified safety issues, and the ability to answer to unmet clinical need and/or bring therapeutic added value. For some product categories, the efficacy against new SARSCoV-2 variants has been also evaluated.

Other points included in the assessment refer to the route of administration, treatment regimen, and formulation, and the company’s intention to access EMA’s early stage scientific advice procedures. The analysis run by the expert group did not focused on more industrial aspects, i.e. manufacturing, production volumes, prices and access conditions; these will be part of the considerations made by the Commission in order to activate its support instruments.

As for the three different categories of selected products, antiviral monoclonal antibodies are intended to mimic the action of natural antibodies generated by the immune system against coronavirus. They can exert both a curative and a preventive action against the infection, in particular in the earliest stages of the disease. They are usually administered by injection.

Oral antivirals are small molecules aimed to block the activity and replication of the virus. These too are early interventions targeted to prevent damage in tissues and organs and offer the advantage of administration as tablets or capsules, thus favouring compliance. Other plus identified by the expert group are a higher resistance to variants, and the therapeutic action maintained also in vaccinated patients.

Immunomodulators aim to regulate the excessive reaction of the immune systems against the virus, thus preventing the risk of hospitalisation. They represent a symptomatic treatment option for patients at severe stage of progression of the disease despite vaccination and antiviral therapy.


A new role for EMA and a pilot project for the repurposing of medicines

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by Giuliana Miglierini

A draft agreement was reached at the end of October between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to reinforce the mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) with reference to crisis preparedness and management for medicinal products and medical devices. “EU-level preparation and coordination are two essential ingredients to fight future health crises. Thanks to this deal we are adding an essential new building block to upgrade the EU’s health architecture. It will allow the EU’s Medicines Agency to make sure we have the medicines needed to deal with public health emergencies”, said Janez Poklukar, the Slovenian minister for health.

The revision of EMA mandate is part of the broader activities announced by the EU Commission in November 2020 to achieve the European Health Union; these also include the reinforcement of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and a draft law on cross-border health threats. The establishment of the new Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), announced in September 2021, is also part of the package. The draft agreement shall now be endorsed both by the Council and the Parliament before entering into force.

Three new key targets for EMA

The draft agreement reached by the Council and Parliament negotiators focuses on three main areas. The first one refers to the definition of a major event and how to recognise it: these shall be events likely to pose a serious risk to public health in relation to medicinal products, as acknowledged by a positive opinion from the Medicines Shortages Steering Group, and which may trigger specific actions such as the adoption of a list of critical medicinal products to fight the health threat.

Solid funding from the Union budget shall be also provided to EMA in order to support the work of the new steering groups, task force, working parties and expert panels. The availability of provisions for adequate data protection is important to guarantee the full compliance to the GDPR regulation and other EU data protection rules, and the safe transfer of personal data relevant to EMA’s activities (e.g. data from clinical trials).

EMA shall play an improved role in the monitoring and management of shortages of medicines and medical devices, a critical activity for the availability of the products needed during public health emergencies. Other points of the agreement include the timely development of high-quality, safe and efficacious medicinal products, and the creation of a new EMA’s structure specific for expert panels in charge of the assessment of high-risk medical devices and of essential advice on crisis preparedness and management.

How to tackle shortages of medicines

According to the EU Parliament, two “shortages steering groups” (for medicines and medical devices, respectively) shall be created by EMA; if needed, these groups may also include expert advice from relevant stakeholders (e.g. patients and medical professionals, marketing authorization holders, wholesale distributors, etc.).

Parliament negotiators highlighted the importance to achieve a high transparency of the process, including avoidance of interests related to industry sectors for members of the two groups; summaries of the proceedings and recommendations shall be also made publicly available.

A European Shortages Monitoring Platform shall be created by EMA to facilitate the collection of information on shortages, supply and demand of medicinal products; a public webpage with information on shortages of critical medicines and medical devices shall be also made available.

As already occurred during the Covid pandemic, future public health emergencies may boost the development of new medicines and medical devices. Sponsors of clinical trials conducted during health emergencies will be required to make the study protocol publicly available in the EU clinical trials register at the start of the trial, as well as a summary of the results. Following the granting of the marketing authorisation, EMA will also publish product information with details of the conditions of use and clinical data received (e.g. anonymised personal data and no commercially confidential information).

With this agreement, Parliament makes both the Agency and all actors in the supply chain more transparent, involving them more in the process and fostering synergies between EU agencies. Moreover, we pave the way to promoting clinical trials for the development of vaccines and treatments, boosting transparency on those issues. In short, more transparency, more participation, more coordination, more effective monitoring and more prevention”, said Rapporteur Nicolás González Casares (S&D, ES).

EMA’s pilot project for the repurposing of medicines

The repurposing of already approved and marketed medicines is another key action put in place to ensure improved response capacity in case of future health emergencies.

A new pilot project to support the repurposing of off-patent medicines has been launched by EMA and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA), with special focus on not-for-profit organisations and the academia as the main actors to carry out research activities needed to support the regulatory submission for the new indication. The initiative follows the outcomes reached by the European Commission’s Expert Group on Safe and Timely Access to Medicines for Patients (STAMP).

Interested sponsors may access EMA’s specific scientific advice upon submission of the drug repurposing submission form to the e-mail address [email protected] by 28 February 2022. More information is available in a Question-and-Answer document. The pilot will last until scientific advice for the selected repurposing candidate projects; filing of an application by a pharmaceutical company for the new indication is another target. Final results of the project will be published by EMA.

Comments from the industry

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA) welcomed the proposed framework for the repurposing of authorised medicines. “This pilot launch comes at a timely moment to test whether a streamlined and more transparent regulatory pathway for repurposing of off-patent established products increases the chances of including existing scientific evidence into regulatory assessment. One of the goals of the pilot is to raise awareness regarding the standards required for regulatory-ready evidence on the road to further increase availability of authorised therapeutic use”, said the chair of EFPIA’s Regulatory Strategy Committee Alan Morrison.

Innovation on existing, well-known molecules through repurposing can deliver huge benefits for patients, according to Medicines for Europe. The Association of the generic and biosimilar industry supports the pilot project as a way to generate robust data packages and to translate research into access for patients. A sustainable innovation ecosystem for off-patent medicine is the expected final outcome, possibly including also reformulation of existing medicines, new strengths or adaptation for specific patient groups (i.e. paediatric populations). “These investments must also be recognised in pricing and reimbursement policies to make access a reality for all patients”, writes Medicines for Europe.


The new guideline on combination products between medicines and medical devices

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new “Guideline on quality documentation for medicinal products when used with a medical device” (EMA/CHMP/QWP/BWP/259165/2019), adopted by the European Medicines Agency in July 2021, will come into force starting 1st January 2022.

The first draft of the guideline was presented in May 2019; according to EMA, the document aims to solve the often observed issues of inconsistent and/or incomplete data submitted to competent authorities. It also considers the amendment to Annex I of Directive 2001/83/EC introduced by Article 117 of the new Medical Devices Regulation ((EU)2017/745, MDR).

A Questions and Answers document to support in the implementation of the MDR and In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Regulations ((EU) 2017/746) was also published by EMA in June 2021.

Three different combinations with medical devices

The guideline applies to the product-specific quality aspects of a medical device/device part, that may have an impact on the quality, safety and/or efficacy of the associated medicinal product, as defined by a specific risk assessment. The submitted documentation is part of the Quality part of a marketing authorisation dossier. Makers has also to prove the conformity of the device/device part to MDR’s requirements by mean of a EU Declaration of Conformity or CE certification released by the Notified Body that assessed the device.

The products covered by the new guideline include integral products made up of an integral and not reusable combination of the medical device/device part and the medicinal product (where the action of the medicinal product is principal), medical devices placed on the market co-packaged with a medicinal product, and referenced medicinal products to be used in conjunction with a specific medical device described in the product information (SmPC and/or package leaflet) and obtained separately by the user. The classification in one of the above mentioned categories of medicine/device combination impacts the information that should be submitted to competent authorities.

The guideline applies also to medicinal products intended to be used with a Class I medical devices, with electromechanical devices (including active implantable devices), electronic add-ons and digital elements of devices (if expected to impact the benefit-risk assessment of the medicinal product from a quality perspective). Combined advanced therapy products defined under Article 2(1)(d) of the ATMP Regulation fall out of the scope of Article 117, as well as veterinary products, in-vitro diagnostic devices (including companion diagnostics), system and procedure packs regulated under Article 22 of the MDR.

Examples of integral products include medicinal products with an embedded sensor performing an ancillary action, single-use prefilled syringes, pens or injectors, drug-releasing intrauterine devices or pre-assembled, non-reusable applicators for vaginal tablets, dry powder inhalers and preassembled, ready-to-use pressurised metered dose inhalers, implants containing medicinal products whose primary purpose is to release the medicinal product. For this type of products, the safety and performance of the device/device part has to reflect the relevant General Safety and Performance Requirements (GSPRs) described in Annex I of the MDR.

Examples of co-packaged or specifically referenced medical devices include spoons and syringes used for oral administration, injectors needles, refillable or reusable pens/injectors, dry powder inhalers and metered dose inhalers, nebulisers and vaporisers and single use or reusable pumps for medicinal product delivery. These two categories of products should comply with the requirements of the applicable medical device legal framework.

The approach to the overall product quality

The discussion of the quality of the device/device part on the Quality Target Product Profile (QTPP), Critical Quality Attributes (CQA) and overall control strategy of the medicinal product has to be included in the regulatory dossier.

More specifically, for integral products the EU Declaration of Conformity or the relevant EU certificate issued by a Notified Body for the device/device part has to be produced. Should this not be possible, the applicant has to provide an opinion (NBO) on the conformity of the device/device part with the relevant GSPRs, issued by a Notified Body enlisted in the NANDO website.

The information provided with the authorisation dossier shall be assessed by the competent authority to determine the overall benefit/risk ratio of the medicinal product. All information relevant to the device/device part has to be submitted using the usual eCTD format. Data on preexisting combination of the device/device part with an already approved medicinal product can be provided on a case-by-case basis and needs to be adequately justified. Early scientific and/or regulatory advice can be activated in the case of particularly innovative and emerging technologies.

The guideline provides a detailed description of the information to be submitted to competent authorities in relation to each of the different types of device/medicinal products combinations.

Reference is made to Module 1 (Product Information), Module 3.2.P (Drug Product), Module 3.2.A.2 (Adventitious Agents Safety Evaluation) and Module 3.2.R (Regional Information, Medical Device). This last section includes the Notified Body Opinion for integral medicinal products in the form of a summary technical report. Usability studies should be also available in the case supporting information is not included in the dossier, and the device/device part has not been used in the intended user population before, or where other aspects of the intended use, including changes to the clinical setting or use environment, are new or different from the intended use as confirmed by the EU certificate issued by a Notified Body or NBO.

The guideline also highlights the need the device/device part should be as advanced as possible in the development process (e.g. meets relevant GSPRs) by the time pivotal clinical trials commence. Any change to the device occurred during the trials has to be described, evaluated and justified with respect to the potential impact on the quality, safety and/or efficacy of the medicinal product. The guideline also provides information on how to manage the life cycle of the integral, co-packaged or referenced medicinal products.


The opportunity for repurposing of oncology medicines

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Rare cancers, which account for approx. 22% of new cases in Europe, represent an area of low business interest for the pharmaceutical industry, due to the limited number of patients compared to the very high costs to develop targeted treatments. It is thus important to consider the possibility for already existing medicines to be repurposed for a new indication. Lower costs of development and risk of failure, and a shorter time frame to reach registration are upon the main advantages of repurposing compared to de novo development, highlights the Policy Brief presented during the Joint meeting of EU Directors for Pharmaceutical Policy & Pharmaceutical Committee of 8 and 9 July 2021.
The experts addressed more specifically the possibility to achieve non-commercial repurposing of off-patent cancer medicines, which are commonly used off-label to treat patients not responsive to other more innovative types of therapies.

The issue of non-commercial development
The request of a new indication for an already marketed medicine has to be submitted by the Marketing authorisation holder (MAH). This greatly hampers the access to noncommercial repurposing by independent research institutions, as they would need to find an agreement with the MAH, the only responsible for all the interactions with regulatory authorities, at the central (EMA) or national level.
Considering the issue from the industrial point of view, this type of external request may prove difficult to be answered positively, when taking into consideration the very low return on investment that can be expected from a repurposed off-patent medicine. Even EU incentives schemes, such as those on data exclusivity and orphan designation, may not be sufficiently attractive for the industry. Current incentives schemes, for example, allow for an additional year of exclusivity in case of a new indication for a well-established substance, a 10-year market exclusivity
plus incentives in case of an authorised medicine granted with orphan designation, or the extension of the supplementary protection certificate for paediatric studies (plus 2 years market exclusivity for orphans).
The following table summarises the main issues and potential solutions involved in the setting of a specific reference framework for the repurposing of off-patent medicines for cancer, as reported in the WHO’s Policy Brief.

Table: Short overview of issues and solutions in repurposing of off-patent medicines for cancer
(Source: Repurposing of medicines – the underrated champion of sustainable innovation. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO)

Many projects active in the EU
The European Commission started looking at the repurposing of medicines with the 2015-2019 project Safe and Timely Access to Medicines for Patients (STAMP). A follow-up phase of this initiative should see the activation in 2021 of a pilot project integrated with the new European Pharmaceutical Strategy.
Several other projects were also funded in the EU, e.g. to better train the academia in Regulatory Science (CSA STARS), use in silico-based approaches to improve the efficacy and precision of drug repurposing (REPO TRIAL) or testing the repurposing of already marketed drugs (e.g. saracatinib to prevent the rare disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive, FOP). A specific action aimed to build a European platform for the repurposing of medicines is also included in Horizon Europe’s Work programme 2021 –2022; furthermore, both the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan and the Pharmaceutical Strategy include actions to support non-commercial development for the repurposing of medicines.

According to the WHO’s Policy Brief, a one-stop shop mechanism could be established in order for selected non-commercial actors, the so-called “Champions”, to act as the coordination point for EU institutions involved in the funding of research activities aimed to repurposing. This action may be complemented by the support to public–private partnerships involving research, registration and manufacturing and targeted to guarantee volumes for non-profitable compounds.
Among possible non-profit institutions to access funding for repurposing research in cancer are the European Organisation for Research on Cancer (EORTC) and the Breast Cancer International Group. An overview of other existing initiatives on repurposing has been offered during the debate by the WHO’s representative, Sarah Garner.

How to address repurposing
Looking for a new indication is just one of the possible points of view from which to look at the repurposing of a medicine. Other possibilities include the development of a new administration route for the same indication, the setup of a combination form instead of the use of separated medicinal products, or the realisation of a drug-medical device combination.
A change of strategy in the war on cancer may be useful, according to Lydie Meheus, Managing Director of the AntiCancer Fund (ACF), and Ciska Verbaanderd.
Keeping cancer development under control may bring more efficacy to the intervention than trying to cure it, said ACF’s representatives. The possible approaches include a hard repurposing, with a medicine being transferred to a completely new therapeutic area on the basis of considerations about the tumor biology and the immunological, metabolic and inflammatory pathways, or a soft repurposing within the oncology field, simply looking to new indications for rare cancers.
From the regulatory point of view, a possible example for EMA on how to address the inclusion of new off-label uses of marketed medicines is given by the FDA, which may request a labeling change when aware of new information beyond the safety ones.

The Champion framework
The Champion framework, proposed as a result of the STAMP project, is intended to facilitate data generation and gathering compliant to regulatory requirements for a new therapeutic use for an authorised active substance or medicine already free from of intellectual property and regulatory protection.
A Champion is typically a not-for-profit organisation, which interacts with the MAH in order to include on-label what was previously off-label, using existing regulatory tools (e.g innovation offices and scientific and/or regulatory advice). The Champion shall coordinate research activities up to full industry engagement and would be responsible for filing the initial request for scientific/regulatory advice on the basis of the available data. The pilot project to be activated to test the framework will be monitored by the Repurposing observatory group (RepOG), which will report to the Pharmaceutical Committee and will issue recommendations on how to deal with these types of procedures.

AI to optimise the chances of success
Artificial intelligence (AI) may play a central role in the identification of suitable medicines to be repurposed for a target indication, as it supports the collection and systematic analysis of very large amounts of data. The process has been used during the Covid pandemic, for example, when five supercomputers analysed more than 6 thousand molecules and identified 40 candidates for repurposing against the viral infection.
AI can be used along drug development process, making it easier to analyse the often complex and interconnected interactions which are at the basis of the observed pharmacological effect (e.g drug-target, protein-protein, drug-drug, drug-disease), explained Prof. Marinka Zitnik, Harvard Medical School.
To this instance, graphic neural networks can be used to identify a drug useful to treat a disease, as it is close to the disease in “pharmacological space”. The analysis may also take into account the possible interactions with other medicines. This is important to better evaluate the possible side effects resulting from co-prescribing; annual costs in treating side effects exceed $177 billion in the US alone, according to Prof. Zitnik.


Artificial intelligence in medicine regulation

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The International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA) sets out recommendations to help regulators to address the challenges that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) poses for global medicines regulation, in a report published on 16 August 2021.

AI includes various technologies (such as statistical models, diverse algorithms and self-modifying systems) that are increasingly being applied across all stages of a medicine’s lifecycle: from preclinical development to clinical trial data recording and analysis, to pharmacovigilance and clinical use optimisation. This range of applications brings with it regulatory challenges, including the transparency of algorithms and their meaning, as well as the risks of AI failures and the wider impact these would have on AI uptake in medicine development and patients’ health.

The report identifies key issues linked to the regulation of future therapies using AI and makes specific recommendations for regulators and stakeholders involved in medicine development to foster the uptake of AI. Some of the main findings and recommendations include:

  • Regulators may need to apply a risk-based approach to assessing and regulating AI, which could be informed through exchange and collaboration in ICMRA;
  • Sponsors, developers and pharmaceutical companies should establish strengthened governance structures to oversee algorithms and AI deployments that are closely linked to the benefit/risk of a medicinal product;
  • Regulatory guidelines for AI development, validation and use with medicinal products should be developed in areas such as data provenance, reliability, transparency and understandability, pharmacovigilance, and real-world monitoring of patient functioning.

The report is based on a horizon-scanning exercise in AI, conducted by the ICMRA Informal Network for Innovation working group and led by EMA. The goal of this network is to identify challenging topics for medicine regulators, to explore the suitability of existing regulatory frameworks and to develop recommendations to adapt regulatory systems in order to facilitate safe and timely access to innovative medicines.

The implementation of the recommendations will be discussed by ICMRA members in the coming months.

Source: EMA