EMVS Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

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

Environmental sustainability: the EIPG perspective


Piero Iamartino Although the impact of medicines on the environment has been highlighted since the 70s of the last century with the emergence of the first reports of pollution in surface waters, it is only since the beginning of the Read more

EC Communication (part 1): How to address critical medicines shortages

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by Giuliana Miglierini

As announced on 3 October in the speech given by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides at European Parliament Plenary Session, the EU Commission has published on 24 October its Communication on medicine shortages and strategic healthcare autonomy.

The planned actions are firstly targeted to prevent and mitigate on the short-term critical medicine shortages, thus avoiding the reoccurrence of situations such as those experienced in the 2022. Mid- and long-term actions have been also addressed to support the strategic autonomy of the European pharmaceutical supply chain. Among these is the creation of a Critical Medicines Alliance, to start operations in early 2024.

Improving the management of critical shortages of medicines and ensuring a steady security of supply for the EU has been our priority since day one. We need a single market for medicines in the EU and a new approach to better tackle shortages of critical medicines. Today we are putting forward collective actions to work closer with the industry and help Member States improve the security of supply for the coming winter and in the long-term.” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

In this first post, we will examine actions in the field of medicines shortages, leaving the medium and long-term ones to a following article (part 2).

Prepared for future winters

The first goal of the EU Commission is to avoid situations of shortages of critical antibiotics such as those that occurred last year. To this instance, the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have already identified key antibiotics potentially at risk of critical shortages in the winter season, also in future years.

Immediately after the release of the Communication by the Commission, EMA published the details of the announced new European Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism for medicines, the MSSG Solidarity Mechanism.

The mechanism was developed by EMA’s Medicines Shortages Steering Group (MSSG), on the basis of the informal experience made during the pandemic. In case of critical shortages escalated to the MSSG for coordination at European level to request assistance, other member states may be of help through the rescEU stockpile mechanism to redistribute medicines from available stocks. The activation of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), via its 24/7 available European Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), aims to coordinate and logistically support the voluntary transfer of medicines, and it should represent the last resort, after the interested member state had exhausted all other possibilities.

The MSSG also developed a Toolkit including recommendations on how to tackle shortages of critical medicines. Among others are the monitoring of available stocks, supply and demand, interactions with marketing authorisation holders and manufacturers for increasing the manufacturing capacity and for the fair distribution of medicinal products, the implementation of regulatory flexibilities and actions aimed to improve communication to the public and international cooperation with other regulators to early identify critical shortages.

The other actions to tackle shortages

The first version of the Union list of critical medicines is expected to be released by the end of 2023. It will allow the development of further actions, on the basis of the analysis of the vulnerabilities of the supply chain of selected medicines to occur by April 2024.

In addition to the practical recommendations relative to demand forecasting at national level, the Commission is working on an EU Mechanism for Demand Signalling that should better support the collective EU public sector in its decisions. A new European Shortages Monitoring Platform for reporting information regarding available stocks and shortages of medicines is expected to start operating in 2025. Many future actions shall be supported using artificial intelligence to extract information about trends in demand and supply from existing data.

At the regulatory level, a new Joint Action has been announced for early 2024 to promote the effective use of flexibility as well as of measures applied at national level (i.e. magistral preparations of local pharmacies). Regulatory flexibilities may include, among others, the quick authorisation of alternatives, the approval of alternative suppliers of raw materials or finished products, or the temporary extension of shelf-life.

Another initiative announced for 2024 should see the issuing of an EU guidance on procurement of medicines, better detailing the already existing tools and practices supporting the security of supply. In the meantime, an EU joint procurement for antibiotics and treatments for respiratory viruses should be activated for the incoming winter.

The Communication contains some recommendations for member states and the pharmaceutical industry. The former are called to monitor and fully enforce the supply obligations of companies, to develop effective communication plans, and to consider how national procurement rules and criteria can increase security of supply. Industrial stakeholders should continuously monitor the evolution of demand and supply of critical medicines, assuring to the full the supply obligation under EU law. Early communication of critical situations to regulators should also occur, as well as the implementation of recommendations, both on regulatory flexibilities and on the elements of the pharmaceutical revision that could already be applied.

Comments from the stakeholders

The interested pharmaceutical associations promptly reacted to the EU Commission’s Communication.

EFPIA particularly welcomed the structural measures to address the industrial dimension of medicines shortages in the medium and long term, as the Critical Medicines Alliance. The development of solutions targeting the specific root causes of shortages, and measures aimed at mitigating shortages in the short term should be “proportionate and provide efficient, workable solutions that serve public health needs”. EFPIA asks for the industry to be included in the design and implementation of new processes and highlighted the “missed opportunity” represented by sharing of the information stored in the European Medicines Verification System (EMVS).

In response to Member State and Parliament calls for a Critical Medicines Act, this communication is a positive first step for the security of supply of medicines. Medicines for Europe will partner with the EU to implement these important reforms”, said Medicines for Europe President, Elisabeth Stampa. The associations ask, among others, for a strategic EU reserve of essential medicines, and EU funds and State aid projects to incentivise investments in greener and more secure manufacturing processes for essential medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). Digitalisation of the regulatory system and harmonisation of pack sizes and presentations would be also helpful.

European community pharmacists also welcomed the Communication, as it may help to avoid new, severe medicine shortages like the one experienced last winter. “PGEU’s annual survey confirms that shortages exist in all EU countries across all types of medicines, causing detriment to patients’ health, waste of resources and frustration. Every day, we spend hours managing shortages and finding solutions to guarantee continuity of treatment for our patients”, commented PGEU President Koen Straetmans. As for the common strategic approach to stockpiling, according to PGEU it should be guaranteed that stocks will not be to such an extent as to jeopardize the general supply of medicines, nor they should generate unnecessary waste.

EuropaBio, representing the biotech industry, positively commented on the Communication and highlighted that EU actions should not be limited to essential medicines, but should target also the growing dependency on third countries for innovation medicines.


HERA reports on stockpiling of antimicrobials

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) has published the two final reports, prepared by McKinsey Solutions for the European Commission, describing respectively the results obtained during the first and second phases of the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) feasibility study on stockpiling.

Antibiotic resistance represents a major threat for human health, as many active substances are losing efficacy towards many bacterial species. The first report (deliverables D1–D5) focuses on the mapping exercise run during the project and aimed to assessing the current situation, identifying vulnerabilities, and reviewing the stockpiling systems currently available in the EU and at the global level.

The second report (deliverables D6-D7) discusses the vulnerabilities identified in the previous phase and the potential tools and solutions to address them, including the assessment of available options for stockpiling of antimicrobials at EU level.

Mapping of the current situation

According to the first report, 32 classes of antibiotics were identified as critical with respect to the need to ensure continued access to patients in order to offer sufficient therapeutic and prophylactic options against systemic bacterial infections.

The analysis proceeded further to identify narrower sets of antibiotics most useful to treat infections due to common pathogens with acquired antibiotic resistance: a first subset of 20 substances was indicated as specially relevant as first- or last-line/reserve therapies against AMR pathogens, and from this a shorter sublist of 13 was identified as last-line/reserve therapies for severe and potentially lethal infections.

The report did not identified any critical market withdrawal of antibiotic substances from the EU market, even though some criticalities may occur in some member states. Alternatives with better efficacy and/or safety profiles are still available on the market for the six substances identified as fully withdrawn.

According to the report, stockpiling at the EU level might not have a direct impact on the mitigation of market-driven trends. Improved monitoring of potentially critical future withdrawals would be needed to enable early detection of shortages and establishment of counteractions.

Innovation in the field of new antibiotics is still largely insufficient, with only six substances currently in phase 3 clinical development. These might prove useful especially as the ultimate reserve line of therapy after exhaustion of the currently available therapeutic options. The report suggests that, upon reaching approval, these innovative substances could be considered for future stockpiling or incentives to facilitate launch in the EU.

The analysis of supply chain vulnerabilities aimed to identify higher priority antibiotics as possible candidates for stockpiling. The report highlights that the analysis was “significantly limited by a lack of outside-in transparency”. Potential single points of failure and/or past disruptions in most supply chains were identified for the 32 critical antimicrobial classes, but the lack of capacity data made the in-depth analysis particularly difficult.

Six representative sets of antibiotic substances were assessed, for five of which less than 25% of API manufacturing occurs in the EU. Similar trends have been also observed for the remaining 26 classes. The supply of critical intermediates (i.e., 6-APA and 7-ACA) appears particularly worrying and may potentially lead to a future shortage of that specific antibiotic/class in the case of a shock. HERA report warns against the possible risks related to potential vulnerability to trade disruptions and unforeseen geopolitical shocks, which may lead to a significant shortage in case of failure of just a single manufacturing site, independent of its location.

The feasibility study also mapped the already existing or planned stockpiling systems, so to use this information to better design the new, EU-level stockpiling system. Four different levels were identified, ranging from the EU’s and member states’ systems to multilateral and/or international NGO stockpiles, stockpiles/inventories in the commercial value chain, and extra-EU national stockpiles.

At the EU and EFTA national level, 13 countries reported a national stockpile that includes antimicrobials, even if greatly differing as for the chosen model. The rescEU system was identified at the EU level as the most relevant mechanism potentially useful to complement and/or integrate with a publicly managed physical stockpile of antibiotics.

The Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility (GDF) was identified as one of the international models of interest, together with the US Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The GDF includes more than 2,000 partners and acts as the largest purchaser and supplier of medicines to treat tuberculosis in the public sector globally. The suggestion is for HERA and the European Commission to collaborate with the GDF in case of a TB-related demand spike. The SNS may represent a significant example of how to address many of the criticalities highlighted by the report.

How to better address stockpiling of antibiotics

The second report builds on the above-mentioned observations to go deeper in analysing from different perspectives and targets the possible approaches to the stockpiling of antibiotics. The indication is for HERA to consider using existing initiatives (e.g., rescEU, the EU’s Joint Procurement Agreement and the Emergency Response Coordination Centre) and to work closely with EU member states and other EU agencies (i.e., EMA and the ECDC).

An important warning was also made: stockpiling is just “a short-term mechanism. It does not alter the fundamental market environment. It can only represent one part of any answer to the challenges faced by health agencies including HERA, whether AMR-related or otherwise”.

A sudden and unpredictable surge in demand and an interruption to supply are the two archetypes analysed to better identify how to address stockpiling.

More than 30 potential demand scenarios were considered, leading to the identification of one high priority stockpiling candidate (higher demand for anti-mycobacterial medicines due to a surge of imported tuberculosis cases) and other three important, but not yet prioritised scenarios. These include stockpiling against the accidental or deliberate release of a bacterial pathogen, treating bacterial super-infections due to a viral pandemic, and the potential rapid spread of an AMR pathogen in the current European context.

Stockpiling for supply chain disruptions was also assessed, leading to the conclusion that alternative products are available as substitutes in the great majority of cases. A point of attention is represented by cross-class substitution, that might provoke different side effects for different groups of patients and could represent a potential factor for the promotion of AMR. More complex treatment procedures (e.g., i.m. vs oral administration), higher costs for healthcare systems and organisational issues for providers should also be considered.

Virtual stockpiling to be managed through the new European Shortages Monitoring Platform (ESMP) or the existing European Medicines Verification System (EMVS) would increase transparency of the system. A mandate or incentives to support private sector physical stockpiling was considered as the most feasible option available. Efforts should be made by the EU Commission to better characterise the relationships between the economic sustainability of limited generics productions (e.g. oral formulations for paediatric use of narrow-spectrum genericised penicillins) and the risk of shortages.

Five lines of possible action

The second report identifies five possible lines for future action aimed to strengthen the antibiotic supply chain and improve the stockpiling feasibility. At first instance, it would be important to improve transparency and reporting, so to better enable the availability of targeted preparedness and response measures.

This might include the harmonisation and extension of mandatory reporting of medicine shortages across the EU, the possibility for HERA to access regulatory data from agencies and information from marketing authorisation holders on supply chain setup and inventories in the case of a healthcare emergency situation, the implementation of an opt-out mechanism from stockpiling obligations at final product level, and the introduction of a general extension of reporting requirements for the supply chain of antibiotic products sold in the EU.

The second line of possible action addresses how to lower wastage in existing private and public inventories and stockpiles. Available options include regulatory measures and limited financial support for drug stability studies or for packaging options able to maintain product quality over longer periods of time.

Facilitation and regulatory support for mutual recognition of national level approvals for antibiotics might help to improve the flexibility of existing inventories and stockpiles, so as to better mitigate the shortages occurring in some member states.

Other two complementary approaches have been identified as potentially useful to improve the supply chain resilience of the EU antibiotics market. On one hand, diversified and in-market antibiotic manufacturing capacities and capabilities could be supported by targeted incentives and investments. On the other, the maintenance of reserve/convertible manufacturing capacity for hard-to-make substances might be also supported, so to better face the need to rapidly compensate the increased requests from patients should disruptions occur.


Review of the pharmaceutical legislation, the proposals of the industrial associations

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The Staff Working Document on “Vulnerabilities of the global supply chains of medicines” published by the European Commission on 17 October 2022 identified several issues related to the current, often difficult situation experienced by pharmaceutical supply chains. Among these are the increasing complexity and specialisation, challenges linked to the production process and technologies, the lack of geographical diversification and other dependencies, the need to unlock the potential of data to improve supply and demand predictability, and a perceived regulatory complexity.

The same issues have been widely debated under different perspectives during recent months as a possible contribution to the current revision of the pharmaceutical legislation, a major goal of the EU Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe together with the New Industrial Strategy for Europe.

The structured dialogue with stakeholders has been the tool chosen to facilitate the interaction and exchange of opinions in order to optimise the development and implementation of the new pieces of legislation. We resume some of the latest proposals arising from the main industrial associations on how to better achieve this very challenging objective.

EFPIA proposals for action

In November 2022, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations published a report to illustrate its proposals for action to tackle shortages of medicines and to improve the efficiency and robustness of the supply chain.

Five key principles form the basis of nine operative proposals. A standard definition of a shortage and an interoperable IT European monitoring/notification system would be needed in order to build a harmonised EU prevention and mitigation system. Epidemiological data are deemed essential to better analyse patient demand, so to improve transparency in the overall supply chain by means of the European Medicines Verification System (EMVS). Targeted shortage prevention plans (SPP) should be developed to prevent the risk of shortages for critical products and to manage safety stocks on a risk-based approach. Regulatory mitigation measures for shortages would also be of help in improving flexibility. At the global level, the maintenance of global open supply chains should be the goal, supported by the strong existing EU manufacturing and R&D footprint, and where appropriate, targeted incentives for the diversification of supply chains.

The current revision of EU pharmaceutical legislation is a golden opportunity to reverse the trends of the last 25 years. It is our once-in-a-generation chance to reinvent the regulatory framework to ensure we have a modern approach that matches our ambition to be a hub of medical innovation”, writes EFPIA’s director general Nathalie Moll in a recent post, published on the association’s website.

In its Regulatory roadmap to Innovation of January 2023, EFPIA focused on how to achieve a more agile and streamlined regulatory framework, so to shorten the period needed for approval of a new active substance (currently 426 days, vs 244 days in the USA, 306 in Canada, 313 in Japan or 315 in Australia). Innovative approaches to clinical trials, including complex clinical trials (CCTs) and decentralised trials (DCTs), and the development of clear guidance on the use and regulatory acceptance of real-world data (RWD) and real-world evidence (RWE) are among the eight areas of possible immediate actions identified by EFPIA.

A dynamic regulatory assessment pathway based on early and iterative dialogue on data, international data standards and technology, and cloud-based submission modalities would support EMA and HTAs in accepting iterative data generation as part of the evaluation procedures.

As for drug-device combinations and in-vitro diagnostics, EFPIA suggests adopting an integrated EU pathway for the assessment, including the possibility for parallel advice with Notified Bodies. A clearer definition of unmet medical need would also be needed, as well as the full digitalisation of regulatory processes. A common definition of shortage coupled to the setting up of a European reporting system (possibly the already existing EMVS) would support the collection of real-time information and activation of alerts. Epidemiological data should be elaborated and released by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).

The Variation Regulation is also under review by the EU Commission. EFPIA’s proposal is to incorporate the considerations for pharmaceutical product lifecycle management set forth by the ICH Q12 guideline, and to develop a vaccine-specific annex to the Variation guideline.

EFPIA also identified four areas requiring legislative change to accelerate pharmaceutical innovation in Europe. These include the possibility to redesign EMA’s committee structure in order to speed up the efficiency of regulatory assessment and decision-making process from EMA approval to EC decision.

Expedited regulatory pathways (ERP) are still of limited use in the EU, according to EFPIA. The suggestion is to embed the PRIME scheme in the new legislation to ensure its optimal use and allocation of sufficient resources. The creation of a new legal category for drug-device combination products, to be regulated as medicinal products, would also accelerate the approval of this increasingly important type of therapeutic option.

The transition from paper leaflets to electronic product information (ePI) should be also supported within the new pharmaceutical legislation, while considering the still present difficulties that may be experienced by elders and people not having access to computers or mobile devices. A new, centralised ePI repository/database would also be needed.

Medicines for Europe, focus on access and prevention of shortages

The 2022 of Medicines for Europe (MfE), representing the generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines industry, focused its lobbying activities mainly on access to medicines and prevention/ mitigation of shortages.

The economic and geopolitical crisis highly impacted the sector, which suffers strict price caps requirements in market policies. In a recent letter to the EU institutions, Medicines for Europe highlights the possible link between the shortages of amoxicillin and amoxiclav antibiotics and the low pricing and procurement policies in place in many EU member states.

There are significant risks of more medicine shortages in 2023”, writes the association, which may be tackled by concrete policy reforms and industry commitments.

The economic model for generic medicines in Europe is identified as the structural root cause of shortages, requiring manufacturers to run their plants at the maximum capacity in order to “remain profitable as GMP rules require continuous investment in manufacturing plant upgrades”. This leaves little space to accommodate requests for increased production in order to face shortages. Other measures that, for MfE, impacted on the consolidation of supply chains and generic markets include the requests set forth by the Falsified medicines directive, as well as the Brexit, the Covid emergency and the current war scenarios.

The letter also identifies some possible short- and medium-term measures useful to mitigate the risk of shortages and improve the efficiency of the generic’s supply chains.

The first ones include the request for more regulatory flexibility for packaging, to facilitate the distribution of the available products in different member states. Clearer thresholds for nitrosamines and the need to avoid new regulations that may have a disproportionate impact on low margin medicines are also suggested. A better dialogue on immediate measures to tackle the cost of inflation on generic medicines would also be beneficial, says MfE, which also agrees on the need to better estimate demand surges on the basis of available data and epidemiological analysis.

The association of the generic and biosimilar industry shares also the importance of a rapid digitalisation of the medicines regulatory network in order to fully exploit the potential of big data. On the medium-term (2025), this may prove important to achieve objective related to the implementation of the ePI, the reduction of variations, the management of API sources, the harmonisation of packs and a better handling of requirements at national level.

Suggested actions at the legislative level include the introduction of legal guidance on the implementation of the criteria established by the Public Procurement Directive. The Transparency Directive may take example from Canada, where prices for generics varies according to the variation of the demand. A Medicine Security Act might represent the legislative tool to support investments in manufacturing diversification and greener technologies.

MfE also highlights some threats resulting from political choices such as national stockpiling requirements, that can increase costs and reduce cross-country solidarity. A preferred approach would be that of the European strategic reserve concept, based on rolling reserves. The real usefulness of joint procurement should also be better evaluated, especially with reference to OTC and other medicines directly dispensed by community pharmacies.

A note published in November 2022 focused on the still greatly unused potential of value-added medicines, a sector which according to MfE may benefit by a re-evaluation of the current innovation model, leading to a increased attention to the entire lifecycle of a medicine and on off-patent molecules. The request to the EU Commission is to fully acknowledge value added medicines in the EU pharmaceutical legislation as a separate group of medicines, with its own dedicated regulatory pathway and proportionate data exclusivity incentives.

The vision of the ATMP sector

The vision of the advanced therapies (ATMPs) sector, represented by the Alliance for Regenerative Medice (ARM), was illustrated in an event held in November 2022 at the European Parliament.

The declining competitiveness of the EU and how to ensure patients’ access to transformative treatments have been subjects of the debate. Many of the newly approved treatments fall under the ATMP categories of medicinal products (cell and gene therapies, tissue therapies), that according to ARM would require a better suited policy and regulatory framework to fully exploit their potential. “The same policies and approaches that brought us yesterday’s biomedical innovation simply will not work for the cell and gene therapies of today and tomorrow. The EU has led before — and can lead once again — but the time to act is now.” said Timothy D. Hunt, chief executive officer of ARM.

According to data by ARM, the number of ongoing industry clinical trials in Europe involving ATMPs is increasing very slowly (just 2% at the end of June 2022). More in detail, only one phase 1 study was initiated in Europe in the first half of 2022, says the association, and the region accounted for just 11% of new trials involving ATMPs and started in the same period. Many EU’s approved advanced therapies are also suffering, with 23 ATMPs withdrawn from the market. The reduced interest of the sector towards Europe is also acknowledged by the declining number of developers headquarters (-2% vs the previous five years): a trend opposite to that of North America and, especially, the Asia-Pacific region