European Commission Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

A concept paper on the revision of Annex 11


This concept paper addresses the need to update Annex 11, Computerised Systems, of the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guideline. Annex 11 is common to the member states of the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) as well as to Read more

What happens after IP loss of protection


by Giuliana Miglierini What does it happen under a competitiveness perspective once intellectual property (IP) protection for medicinal products expired? And what is the impact of the new entries on generics and biosimilars already in the market? The role of competitor Read more

The FDA warns about the manufacture medicinal and non-pharmaceutical products on the same equipment


by Giuliana Miglierini A Warning Letter, sent in September 2022 by the US FDA to a German company after an inspection, addresses the possibility to use the same equipment for the manufacturing of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products. The FDA reject Read more

ACT EU’s Workplan 2022-2026

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The implementation phase of the Accelerating Clinical Trials in the EU (ACT EU) initiative, launched in January 2022 by the European Commission, started with the publication of the2022-2026 Workplan jointly drafted by the Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA).

The final target is to renew how clinical trials are designed and managed, so to improve the attractiveness of Europe for clinical research and the integration of results in the current practice of the European health system.

The 2022-2026 Workplan details the actions and deliverables planned according to the ten priorities identified by ACT EU. The drafting of the document took as primary reference also the recommendations of the European Medicines Regulatory Network (EMRN) strategy to 2025 and the European Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe.

Steps towards the full implementation of the CTR

The first priority of action should see the completion by the end of 2022 of the mapping of already existing initiatives within the EMRN and ethics infrastructure. This exercise represents a fundamental step to achieve a detailed picture of the current clinical trials regulatory landscape, characterised by the presence of various expert groups working in different areas.

The results of the mapping will form the basis to plan and implement a new strategy for the governance of the entire framework governing clinical trials, including the clarification of roles and responsibilities to the Network and its stakeholders. The expected outcome is the rationalisation and better coordination of the work done by different expert groups and working parties, as reflected by a new regulatory network responsibility assignment (RACI) matrix. The analysis and setting up of the new framework should start from the core governance bodies (Clinical Trials Coordination and Advisory Group (CTAG), Clinical Trials Coordination Group (CTCG), Commission Expert Group on Clinical Trials (CTEG) and Good Clinical Practice Inspectors Working Group (GCP IWG)), to then extend to other parts of the Network further.

The full implementation of the Clinical Trials regulation (Reg. (EU) 536/2014) by mean of the launch of monthly KPIs tracking of the planned activities is another key action. A survey to identify issues for sponsors and the consequent implementation of a process to prioritise and solve them are planned for the second half of 2022. The beginning of 2023 should see the launch of a scheme to better support large multinational clinical trials, particularly those run in the academic setting. One year later, at the beginning of 2024, a one-stop shop to support academic sponsors should also be launched.

An important action for the success of ACT EU should see the creation of a multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) to enable the interaction and regular dialogue of the many different stakeholders working in the field of clinical trials under different perspectives, both at the European and member state level. The platform should be launched by Q2 2023, with the first events run under its umbrella planned for Q3 and is expected to help in the identification of key advances in clinical trial methods, technology, and science.

Methodological updates in clinical trials

Another key step in the renewal of the European framework for clinical trials is linked to the updating of the ICH E6(R2) guideline on “Good Clinical Practice” (GCP). A targeted multi-stakeholder workshop on this theme is planned for Q1 2023, while the resulting changes should be implemented in EU guidance documents by Q3 2023. New GCPs should take into better consideration the emerging designs for clinical trials and the availability of new sources for data and are expected to “provide flexibility when appropriate to facilitate the use of technological innovations in clinical trials”. This action also includes the development of a communication and change management strategy to support the transition to the revised GCP guideline, and the updating of other relevant EU guidelines impacted by the change.

The opportunity to introduce innovative clinical trial designs and methodologies shall be addressed starting from decentralised clinical trials (DCT), with the publication of a DCT recommendation paper by the end of 2022. A workshop on complex clinical trials should be also organized to discuss issues linked to study design, such us umbrella trials and basket trials or master protocols. New technologies may support innovative approaches to the recruitment of eligible study participants and new ways to capture data during clinical trials. The publication of key methodologies guidance is an expected deliverable, together with a improved link between innovation and scientific advice.

A new EU clinical trials data analytics strategy is expected to be published by the end of 2022, while the first half of next year should see the development of a publicly accessible EU clinical trials dashboard and a workshop to identify topics of common interest for researchers, policy makers, and funders. These activities are targeted to fully exploit the opportunities offered by data analytics, so to identify complex trends from the large base of data about clinical trials collected by the EMRN. The existence of multiple data sources is a main barrier currently affecting the possibility to access, process and interpret these data.

Another priority is to plan and launch a targeted communication campaign to engage all enablers of clinical trials, including data protection experts, academia, SMEs, funders, Health Technology Assessment (HTA) bodies and healthcare professionals. Up to 2024, this action will also support sponsors in remembering the importance of training linked to the application of the CTR and the mandatory use of the Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS). All other communication needs across all priority actions will also be handled under this action.

Scientific advice, safety monitoring and harmonised training

The current framework sees the involvement of different actors who interact with sponsors at different stages of product development to provide them with scientific advice. A simplification of the overall process should be pursued by grouping of key actors in clinical trials scientific advice in the EU, “with the aim of critically analysing the existing landscape in line with stakeholder needs”. The Workplan indicates several pilot phases should be run to identify the better way to address this topic, which should benefit especially academic or SMEs sponsors that may have less experience of regulatory processes. Planned activities include a enhanced intra-network information exchange, the running of a survey among stakeholders and the operation of a first pilot phase by Q4 2024, to then optimise and expand the advice process upon results.

The establishment of clinical trial safety monitoring is another central theme of action, that should see member states involved in a coordinated work-sharing assessment. Key activities should include the identification of safe CT KPIs by the end of 2022 and a review of IT functionalities for safety, and it will be run in strict connection with the EU4Health Joint Action Safety Assessment Cooperation and Facilitated Conduct of Clinical Trials (SAFE CT). Training of safety assessors and the development of a harmonised curriculum thereof shall be also considered, as well as the alignment of safety procedures for emerging safety issues potentially impacting clinical trials.

The development of a training curriculum informed by regulatory experience should support the creation of a renewed educational ‘ecosystem’ characterised by bidirectional exchanges to enable training on clinical trials. This action is target mainly to better engage universities and SMEs, and it should include also training provided by actors other than the regulatory network.


EMA’s Industry stakeholders group (ISG)

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The Industrial Stakeholder Group (ISG) is a new initiative recently launched by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to favour the dialogue with the industrial stakeholders. The first meeting of the ISG, the 21 June 2022, focused on the mandate of the Group and on the three priority topics to be addressed during the pilot phase: the Emergency Task Force (ETF), the issue of shortages of medicines and medical devices and the medical device expert panels.

The initiative is part of the activities planned by EMA for the implementation of its extended mandated, as for Regulation (EU) 2022/123.

The mandate of the ISG

The main scope of the ISG is to provide a dedicate forum to capture the industrial point of view and proactively inform on open issues during the implementation of EMA’s extended mandate. The ISG will focus on human medicines and will complement other existing tools, such as industry platform meetings, bilateral meetings, topic or project related meetings. The outcomes obtained from the pilot phase will form the basis of an analysis to evaluate if to extend the scope to other initiatives.

The Chair of the ISG is nominated by the Agency’s Executive Director; the group is composed by one member and one alternate from selected EU industry organisations relevant to the subject of discussion, on the basis of a call for expression of interest. Additional representatives of selected organisations and observers may also participate to specific meetings, according to the topics on the agenda. Observers include the European Commission, EMA’s committees (e.g. CHMP, ETF, CMDh, SPOC WP, SMMG), the EU Network, Notified bodies; ad-hoc observers may be also invited from member states and stakeholder groups.

Appointed members will be responsible to liaise with the respective industrial rganisations, so to contribute the discussion with their point of view and to keep them updated on the outcomes of the ISG meetings. The current schedule includes four quarterly meetings per year; the next two are fixed for the 26 September and 22 November 2022. The summary report of each meeting will be available in EMA’s website.

The Emergency Task Force

The new Emergency Task Force (ETF) builds upon the experience gathered during the pandemic and acts within EMA to advise and support on medicines for public health emergencies and preparedness.

The ETF is in charge of coordinating all efforts following the declaration of a public health emergency by health authorities, in strict coordination with all other relevant bodies including the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (DG HERA), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the WHO and the European Commission.

The new ETF started operating on the new mandate on 22 April. Its composition is based on expertise, and it includes representatives of EMA’s Scientific Committees and Working Parties as well as selected patients and healthcare professionals and clinical trials experts from various member states.

There are three distinct area of activities for the Task Force. Scientific advice and support to clinical trials for the development of medicines to be used during the emergency will be directly managed and assessed by the ETF, free of charge and flowing a fast-track procedure. The new streamlined procedure should lead to the outcome in 20 days; deceleration criteria are also considered, i.e. premature evidence to address the medical need, high workload or lack of urgency. Expected benefits include the reduction of the use of medicines with insufficient evidence of efficacy and the increase of safe and harmonised use across the EU of new products from the pipelines ahead of authorisation. Activities of the ETF will cover all stages of development, from pre-authorisation (e.g. rolling applications or paediatric plans) to post-authorisation (e.g. major changes), investigational products and compassionate use.

The systematic assessment of the available evidence on medicines will be the focus of the scientific reviews, while recommendations will target medicines not yet authorised or topics of particular scientific or public interest. These may include, for example, the monitoring of new outbreaks and epidemics and the information on potential radiological, chemical or bioterrorism agents.

All lists of medicines under assessment to address a declared emergency will be made public to increase transparency, as well as the CHMP opinions on the use of medicines not yet authorised, Product Information, EPARs end Risk Management Plans.

Two dedicated mailboxes are also available, the first for sponsors of clinical trials to request EMA/ETF support for facilitating CTA and approval and sponsors agreement to conduct larger multinational trials ([email protected]), the second for manufacturers to discuss with EMA/ETF their development programs or plans for scientific advice prior to any kind of formal submission ([email protected]).

Shortages of medicines

EMA’s extended mandate in this area include the monitoring and mitigation of shortages of critical medicines and medical devices, and the setting up, maintenance and management of the European Shortages Monitoring Platform (ESMP). The action also includes the establishment of the Medicines Shortages Steering Group (MSSG), which will be supported by the Working Party of singles points of contacts in the members states (the EU SPOC Network) and a network of contact points from pharmaceutical companies (the i-SPOC system). A corresponding Executive Steering Group on Shortages of Medical Devices (MDSSG), to be created by February 2023, will be in charge of adopting the list of categories of critical medical devices and to monitor their supply and demand.

According to Regulation (EU) 2022/123, pharmaceutical companies are required to identify a i-SPOC to act as the reference contact for EMA should the Marketing Authorisation Holder (MAH) have medicinal products be included in the lists of critical medicines. All information has to be provided through the IRIS platform; the registration process opened on 28 June 2022 and is comprehensive of two steps (the IAM preliminary requirement for the creation of the account and the following IRIS submission).

Scheduled milestones will see the establishment of a list of the main therapeutic groups for hospital care (due by 2 August 2022), the registration of i-SPOCs from MAHs (by 2 September 2022), and the definition of shortages of medical devices and in vitro diagnostics (by 2 February 2023). The ESMP platform is expected to go live by 2 February 2025, and will represent a single reference point to make information available on shortages, supply and demand of medical products, including the marketing status and cessation.

Expert panels on medical devices

Regulation (EU) 2022/123 establishes the hangover of expert panels on medical devices from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) to EMA, thus adding a completing new type of activity for the Agency.

The new Secretariat is coordinating the activities of the Screening panel composed by 70 experts in charge of the decision whether to provide a scientific opinion, eleven thematic expert panels and expert panels sub-groups (for a total of approx. 130 experts), and a Coordination Committee inclusive of the Chair and vice-Chair of all the expert panels.

The main task of the expert panels is to provide opinion to the notified bodies for certain high-risk medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic, for the assessment of their clinical and/or performance evaluation. EMA is specifically involved in the coordination of the Clinical Evaluation Consultation Procedure (CECP) for medical devices and Performance Evaluation Consultation Procedure (PECP) for in-vitro diagnostics. Further details on the procedures and their interfaces with the ETF is available here.


EIC: challenges for the governance and opportunities for innovation

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European Innovation Council (EIC) was launched in March 2021 by the EU Commission to support the growth of highly innovative startup companies. Since then, the programme experienced some difficulties to become fully operative, as delays occurred with companies requesting grant-only or grant-first support and with the decision-making procedures for companies requesting blended finance or equity-only investments.

According to the Commission, this situation is a result of the restructuring of the EIC Fund to better reflect Horizon Europe legislation and the outcomes of the pilot phase. Negotiations are also ongoing with an external fund manager of the EIC Fund and are expected to close by the end of June. Internal discussions in the European Commission and IT problems are among the possible causes of the delays, reported Politico. A situation that is highly impacting on the selected companies, that are hampered from proceeding with the timely development of their business.

The difficult governance of the EIC prompted the European Parliament to start an investigation, led by Horizon Europe’s rapporteur Christian Ehler, to better clarify the issues undermining the EIC functioning (see more on ScienceBusiness). Mr. Ehler asked the stakeholders to provide inputs by 14 June; the final outcomes of the investigation will be summarised in a non-legislative report on the implementation of the EIC.

The idea behind the report is to get the debate about the future of the EIC out in the open and provide the Parliament’s perspective on it. As co-legislator we have a duty to ensure the Commission implements the legislation we approved,” said Christian Ehler.

The EIC Accelerator

Available investments for startups and SMEs under the EIC Accelerator programme total €2.5 million for grants and €0.5 to €15 million equity investments through the EIC Fund. Higher investments are possible to support the development of technologies of strategic European interest.

A fast assessment procedure was introduced in 2021 to submit new projects at any time. A tailored business coaching support is available to successful candidates to draft the full applications, which are then evaluated at regular cut-off dates approximately every three months. The Commission announced it is finalising its decision-making procedure for the grant and equity components to companies selected for blended finance during the 2021 cut-offs. This is expected to allow the signature of contracts for the grant component of blended finance in a couple of days after the closure of the decision-making procedure, followed by the payment of a pre-financing of the grant one week later. A due diligence is needed to support the investment decision by the EIC Fund for the equity component, that will thus occur few weeks or months later.

The current status of the EIC Accelerator

According to the European Commission, 65 companies were selected for funding under the EIC Accelerator programme for the June 2021 cut-off, following the evaluation of their full application. Of these, 29 companies requested grant-only or grant-first support and 31 requested blended finance, including a grant component and equity investment. Contracts for six grant-only or grant-first companies were still to be signed as of 13 May 2022. The grant component is expected to close by early June 2022, while for the equity investment component and equity-only closure of the investment agreement is expected after June.

Some other 99 companies were selected for support in the October 2021 cut-off. Only one contract of the overall 34 companies that requested grant-only or grant-first support has been signed. Signature of the grant component for companies that selected blended finance is planned in July 2022, followed by the equity component and equity-only projects from the summer up to the end of the year.

The third cut-off round of March 2022 saw the selection of some other 74 companies, over a total of more than 1000 applications. Selected companies will each receive grants and/or equity investments up to €17.5 million. The next cut-offs for full applications is 15 June and 7 October.

Deep-tech training needed

A report published in April 2022 by the EIC Pilot Expert Group suggests the creation of two new deep-tech training programmes to better support the development of human entrepreneurial talent while fostering technological solutions. “We argue that EIC can’t succeed without including in its mandate the objective of proactively realising the entrepreneurial talent of Europe’s brilliant scientists”, write the members of the Expert Group in the foreword of the document.

The EIC Trailblazer Programme and the Pioneer Programme are the tools identified to reach this challenging goal. Both of the programmes should be implemented in a phased manner using pilot projects to allow for experimentation and learning, according to the recommendations set forth in the report. A main expected outcome is the creation of a new generation of deep-tech entrepreneurs, the EIC Innovators, able to better evaluate how their technologies are fitting into the world for commercialisation and impact.

The EIC Trailblazer Programme is targeted to support talented PhD candidates and postdocs that are part of projects funded by the EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition. These EIC Trailblazer Fellows may receive a deep tech training programme, aimed to work as an internal accelerator and an elite programme targeting proto-entrepreneurs. A special prize and/or grant may also be considered to recognise scientific and entrepreneurial talents.

The Pioneer programme would allow for deep-tech add-on modules sponsored by the EIC to complement existing programmes delivered at the local level, in member states and potentially EU associated countries. Beneficiaries would include talented scientists that one day may apply for EIC funding, the “proto-EIC Innovators”.

Comments from research-intensive universities

The Guild of European research-intensive universities published a statement to contribute to MEP Christian Ehler’s initiative of a report on the implementation of the EIC. A better recognition of the role of universities’ Technology transfer offices (TTOs) as key actors in enabling researchers to develop their results for commercial and societal purposes is the key message of the Guild. To this instance, duplication of activities of the TTOs in terms of project management and support services should be avoided. Concerns are also highlighted with reference to the standard Intellectual Property (IP) provisions in the EIC Pathfinder and Transition schemes, as they might negatively affect the functioning of already well-performing TTOs without strengthening the capacities of weaker TTOs.

A positive experience is also acknowledged as for the EIC Transition scheme, that supports universities and their spin-offs with appropriate financial support for proof-of-concept projects. The Guild asks for the extension of this funding scheme to support an higher number of innovative projects.

An example of funded project

Swedish company Bico (formerly Cellink) is an example of EIC-funded project which saw a very rapid growth of its business, achieving $ 1 billion in market valuation in the first five years of activity. Founded in 2016, the company is now leader in the bioink sector and is developing new bio-printing technologies to be used for 3D printing of organs and tissues, so to overcome the lack of donors, reduce shortages and improve drug development.

Bioprinting is only one of the technologies included in Bico’s portfolio; gene therapy, gene editing, CRISPR, diagnostics are also investigated. The company built up from the first universal bioink created by Professor Paul Gatenholm (Chalmers University), a special biomaterial that enables human cells to grow outside the body and perform all the vital functions.



IVD regulation in force: new MDCG guidelines and criticalities for innovation in diagnostics

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new regulation on in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDR, Regulation (EU) 2017/746) entered into force on 26 May 2022. The new rules define a completely renewed framework for the development, validation and use of these important tools supporting the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, prediction, prognosis, treatment or alleviation of a disease, in line with technological advances and progress in medical science. “Diagnostic medical devices are key for lifesaving and innovative healthcare solutions. Today we are marking a big step forward for the patients and the diagnostics industry in the EU. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of accurate and safe diagnostics, and having stronger rules in place is a key element in ensuring this is the case for EU patients.”, said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

The European Commission also published a Q&A document to facilitate the comprehension of the new framework.

The main contents of the IVDR

The risk-based approach for the classification and development of in vitro diagnostics is at the core of the IVDR. There are four different classes of IVDs: class A (low individual risk and low public health risk), class B (moderate individual risk and/or low public health risk), class C (high individual risk and/or moderate public health risk) and class D (high individual risk and high public health risk). The assessment of the quality, safety and performance of IVDs by independent notified bodies shall be based on more detailed and stringent rules. Higher-risk categories will also be subject to further assessment by newly created scientific bodies acting under the auspices of the European Commission, such as the expert panels and the network of EU reference laboratories. Twelve expert panels have been established up to now.

Each single IVD will be associated to a Unique Device Identifier (UDI), so to facilitate its traceability along the entire life cycle. The identifier will also serve to locate the relevant information about a diagnostic marketed in the EU within the European database of medical devices (EUDAMED), where also a summary of safety and performance will be publicly available for medium- and high-risk devices. The database will also contain information about all economic operators and provide a repository for the certificates issued by notified bodies.

The new regulation strengthened the framework for post-marketing surveillance of IVDs, asking for a closer coordination of the vigilance activities by all member countries. The IVDR also introduced reinforced rules on clinical evidence and performance evaluation, including an EU-wide coordinated procedure for authorising multi-centre performance studies, and a specific regime for devices manufactured and used in the same health institution (in-house devices).

Difficulties in the timely implementation of the (EU) 2017/746 regulation may still be possible due to the lack of a sufficient number of notified bodies, as only seven have been designated up to now, established in only four countries (Germany, France, the Netherlands and Slovakia), while eleven other applications were pending in May 2022. To solve this issue, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 was adopted. A transition period up to May 2025 applies to devices that require a notified body certificate already under the previous Directive (around 8%, vs about 80% according to the IVDR); other classes of IVDs benefit of different transition periods (May 2025 for class D, May 2026 for class C and May 2027 for class B and A sterile).

Q&As on the interface with the Clinical Trial regulation and UDI

The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) published a Q&A document (MDCG 2022-10) to provide guidance on the interface between Regulation (EU) 536/2014 on clinical trials for medicinal products for human use (CTR) and the IVDR.

The guideline addresses the requirements for assays used in clinical trials, that may include IVDs carrying a CE mark for the intended purpose, IVDs developed in-house and devices for performance studies. Only the devices falling on the definition of an IVD with regards to their intended purpose are subject to the IVD legislation. The guideline also provides suggestions on assays likely to be considered IVDs, as they are used for medical management decisions of trial subjects within the trial.

Another Q&A guideline (MDCG 2022-7) provides clarifications on how to apply the Unique Device Identification system to both medical devices and in vitro diagnostics.

Topics covered by the document include the need for a new UDI-DI assignment in case the number of items in a device package changes or for single-use reprocessed devices, the requirement for economic operators to maintain a registry of all UDIs of the devices which they have supplied or with which they have been supplied, or the requirement of a new UDI-DI for substance-based medical devices, in case of formula quantity changes or additional claims.

The MDCG also addressed the assignment and use of the Basic UDI-DI and the determination of the ‘grouping’ for design or manufacturing characteristics, including the case of devices comprising a patient and a physician facing module, and the contents of the Declaration of Conformity (DoC). Labelling is also addressed, as well as rules for systems and procedure packs (SPPs) and configurable devices, as well as those applying to retail point of sale, promotional packs and marketing related samples.

The impact of the IVDR on innovation

The issues linked to the IVDR implementation and their impact on innovation and diagnostic laboratories, including the development and use of in-house devices, have been analysed by the BioMed Alliance In Vitro Diagnostics Task Force, and published in HemaSphere.

The Task Force identified two main challenges to be faced by the academic diagnostic sector. The first one impacts on the possibility to use in-house IVDs, based on the demonstration that no equivalent CE-IVD kit is present on the market or when the specific needs cannot be met at the appropriate level of performance by an equivalent CE-IVD. The strict exemptions applying to in-house IVDs (e.g. prohibition of transferring to other legal entities, compliance with EN ISO 15189 and justification of use, etc.) may impact also on the potential for innovation in the diagnostic sector.

The second challenge refers to the not so clearly defined boundaries between CE marked-IVDs, modified CE-IVDs, Research Use Only (RUO) tests, and in-house IVDs. The Task Force recalls the immediate applicability of the General Safety and Performance Requirements specified in Annex I of the IVDR, as they have not been included in the approved amendment of the implementation timeline.

Furthermore, only tests meeting economic viability may in the future be transferred from the academia to the industry, while rare or complex tests would probably remain excluded. According to the paper, the cost of diagnostics shall likely increase, and the academa should carefully consider how to support further research into rare or complex diagnostics in order to ensure their availability to patients.

Following the results of a survey among medical societies on current diagnostic practices, several suggestions are made to better support the implementation of the IVDR, namely by mean of the availability of diagnostic equivalents of the European Reference Networks for rare diseases and a concerted action involving all stakeholders. A joint biomarker-to-test pipeline between the IVD industry and research/academic labs would also be useful to facilitate the initial development and local application of innovative diagnostics within healthcare institutions or diagnostic reference networks with specific expertise, to then transfer them to manufacturers above a certain production volume.


The Made in Europe partnership for manufacturing

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The availability of a robust framework to support a sustainable European manufacturing system is undoubtedly a priority in the challenging times we are experiencing. In the pharmaceutical sector, the reshoring of productions of both active ingredients and finished medicinal products is already a key point of the new EU Pharmaceutical Strategy and of the consequent ongoing revision of the legislation governing the sector.

A broader action addressed to the entire European industrial system was launched in 2019 within the framework programme Horizon Europe (HE) 2021-2027: the Made in Europe manufacturing partnership aims to become the main driver for sustainable manufacturing in Europe. The partnership was modelled with the contribution of the European Commission, member states and the European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA); the latter is also the leading entity in charge of coordinating the initiative, which include all actors taking part to the manufacturing ecosystem (i.e. academia, industry, non-governmental organisations and the public sector).

The main goals of the Made in Europe partnership

The two themes of ecological and digital transitions central to the policies of the von der Leyen Commission are the main source of inspiration for the Made in Europe partnership. The availability of a European manufacturing environment able to compete on global scenarios thanks to its technological leadership is the main objective of the initiative. Many challenges need to be faced to reach it, especially in the field of the integration of technologies based on artificial intelligence to fully exploit the potential of industrial data, the reshaping of a circular economy and a high flexibility in response to emerging trends and issues.

The Made in Europe partnership represents a common platform for national and regional manufacturing technology initiatives, including the required disciplines and technologies. The principles governing its actions are described in a guidance document available at the EFFRA website; a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) is also available.

According to the guidance document, manufactured goods represented in 2018 83% of EU exports, and accounted for a annual trade surplus of 286 billion euro. Despite this very high surplus, the document warns it may be not sufficient to cover deficits arising from the purchase of non-manufactured goods and services. Also considering these factors, the balance moved from a surplus of € 22 billion in 2017 to a deficit of € 25 billion in 2018. This situation may now dramatically evolve further, due to the high increase of costs of energy and raw materials experienced in the last month, as a consequence of the war occurring at the Eastern boundaries of the EU. A situation that might make harder for the EU to also face the competition of Asiatic economies.

The guidance document identifies twelve challenges to be faced by the European manufacturing industry, starting from the need to strongly reduce to the minimal level its environmental impact. To this instance, optimisation of resource efficiency and the carbon intensity of the entire supply chains are among the main factors to be addressed, leading to the opportunity for European-made environmental-friendly but high-priced products. This switch also supports the development of circular models for the economy, and the use of next-generation sustainable materials and products, requiring to manage profound changes if the manufacturing systems and related supply chains. Recycling and re-manufacturing may play in the future an important role in redefining products’ life cycle. The resilience and agility of the European manufacturing industry shall be also tackled, in order to limit the impact of sudden crisis, as occurred with the Covid-19 pandemic or now with the Ukraine war. This goal calls for the availability of flexible and reconfigurable production lines within a country or region, suggests the document. The pharmaceutical sector already experienced criticalities during the Covid-19 arising from the dependence from extra-EU supplies; the same applies to all European industrial sectors, and according to the Made in Europe partnership it should be faced through achieving manufacturing sovereignty and technological leadership in key areas and critical value chains. A very challenging objective, that requires a coordinated European effort on manufacturing.

As for competition from other economies, the document warns that big public-private manufacturing partnerships are being launched also in Asia and America (i.e. Made in China). Environmental and social aspects should be jointly considered in the location/relocation of manufacturing companies, to account for the environmental sustainability of the businesses coupled to the requirements arising from a EU’s population mainly living in urban areas.

The challenges of digitalisation

Many of the above-mentioned targets identified by the Made in Europe partnership may benefit from the potential offered by the implementation of digital technologies to accelerate innovation and industrial transformation, thus leading to the improvement of the overall efficiency of manufacturing. Data are becoming a central driver for the creation of value, but companies are called to better understand the data economy also from a non-technological point of view. Cybersecurity should be also carefully addressed, as digitalisation is reflected by a higher vulnerability to cyber attacks.

Digitalisation also impacts on the availability of new business models, such as “manufacturing-as-a-service” and “collaborative product-service engineering”. Automated systems governed by artificial intelligence are now widely available in many industrial plants, and attention should be paid to modes of interactions between collaborative robots and human operators. Nevertheless, the availability of trained and skilled human staff is considered as a major barrier and threat by the Made in Europe partnership, particularly for SMEs.

The planned actions

Six different calls for actions in the field of green and digital transitions were launched by the Made in Europe manufacturing partnership within the Horizon Europe work programme 2021-2022. The total available budget is around € 1 billion. Topics of interest included AI enhanced robotic systems for smart manufacturing, zero-defect manufacturing towards zero-waste, laser-based technologies for green manufacturing, manufacturing technologies for bio-based materials, advanced digital technologies for manufacturing, and data-driven distributed industrial environments.

The Made in Europe partnership was also involved in calls about reconfigurable production process chains, products with complex functional surfaces, excellence in distributed control and modular manufacturing, intelligent work piece handling in a full production line, ICT Innovation for manufacturing sustainability in SMEs, and digital tools to support the engineering of a circular economy.

A consultation on possible topics to be included in the HE work programme 2023-2024 is still open to comments and can be accessed by the dedicated webpage at the EFFRA website. A summary document is also available presenting potential recommendations and discussion topics received up to now. New possible lines of actions may address the availability of “excellent, responsive and smart factories & supply chains” , how to achieve a circular products and climate- neutral manufacturing, new use models referred to new integrated business, product-service and production approaches, and models for a human-centered and human-driven manufacturing innovation.


The new Annex 21 to GMPs

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new Annex 21 to GMPs (C(2022) 843 final) that EIPG gave a significant contribution in reviewing the original draft and thoroughly presented it within a webinar to its members on August 2020, was published by the European Commission on 16 February 2022; the document provides a guideline on the import of medicinal products from extra-EU countries. The new annex will entry into force six months after its publication, on 21 August 2022. Its contents should be read in parallel with the EU Guide to Good Manufacturing Practice for Medicinal Products and its other annexes, those requirements continue to apply as appropriate.

Annex 21 details the GMP requirements referred to human, investigational and/or veterinary medicinal products imported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) by holders of a Manufacturing Import Authorisation (MIA). The new Annex does not apply to medicinal products entering the EU/EEA for export only, as they do not undergo any process or release aimed to place them on the internal market. Fiscal transactions are also not considered as a part of the new annex.

The main principles

According to Annex 21, once a batch of a medicinal product has been physically imported in a EU/EEA country, including clearance by the custom authority of the entrance territory, it is subject to the Qualified Person (QP) certification or confirmation. Manufacturing operations in accordance with the marketing authorisation or clinical trial authorisation can be run on imported bulk and intermediate products prior to the QP certification/confirmation. To this regard, all importation responsibilities for both medicinal products and bulks/intermediates must be carried out at specific sites authorised under a MIA. These include the site of physical importation and the site of QP certification (for imported medicinal products) or QP confirmation (for bulk or intermediate products undergoing further processing).

Marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) for imported products authorised in the EU remain in any case the sole responsible for placing the products in the European/EEA market. Annex 21 requires sites responsible for QP certification to verify an ongoing stability program is in place at the third country site where manufacturing is performed. This last one has to transmit to the QP all the information needed to verify the ongoing product quality, and relevant documentation (i.e. protocols, results and reports) should be available for inspection at the site responsible for QP certification. QP’s responsibilities also extend to the verification that reference and retention samples are available in accordance to Annex 19 of the GMPs, and that safety features are placed on the packaging, if required.

Importation sites should be adequately organised and equipped to ensure the proper performance of activities on imported products. More specifically, a segregated quarantine area should be available to store the incoming products until the occurrence of release for further processing or QP certification/confirmation.

European GMP rules or equivalent standards shall be followed for the manufacturing of medicinal products in third countries due to be imported in the EU. The manufacturing process has to comply to the one described in the Marketing Authorisation (MA), the clinical trial authorization (CTA) and the relevant quality agreement in place between the MAH and the manufacturer. The respect of EU GMP rules or equivalent standards should be documented through regular monitoring and periodic on-site audits of the third country manufacturing sites, to be implemented by the site responsible for QP certification or by a third party on its behalf.

The QP of the importation site is also responsible for the verification of testing requirements, in order to confirm the compliance of the imported products to the authorised specifications detailed in the MA. The verification of testing requirements can be avoided only in the case a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) or an Agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products (ACAA) is in place between the European Union and the third country where the production of the medicinal product is located.

All agreements between the different entities involved in the manufacturing and importation process, including the MAH and/or sponsor, should be in the written form, as indicated by Chapter 7 of the EU GMP Guide.

The Pharmaceutical Quality System of the importing site

According to the European legislation (Chapter 1 of the EU GMP Guide), all activities performed in the EU with reference to the manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical products should fall under to umbrella of the company’s Pharmaceutical Quality System (PQS). This is also true for sites involved with importation activities, those PQS should reflect the scope of the activities carried out. A specific procedure should be established to manage complaints, quality defects and product recalls.

More in detail, the new Annex 21 establishes that sites responsible for QP certification of imported products (including the case of further processing before export with the exception of investigational medicinal products) have to run periodic Product Quality Reviews (PQR). In this case too, the respective responsibilities of the parties involved in compiling the Reviews should be specified by written agreements. Should the sampling of the imported product be conducted in a third country (in accordance with Annex 16 of the GMPs), the the PQR should also include an assessment of the basis for continued reliance on the sampling practice. A review of deviations encountered during transportation up to the point of batch certification should be also available, and a comparison should be run to assess the correspondence of analytical results from importation testing with those listed by the Certificate of Analysis generated by the third country manufacturer.

Full documentation available at MIA sites

The QP’s certification/confirmation step for an imported batch has to be paralleled by the availability of the full batch documentation at the corresponding MIA holder’s site; in case of need, this site may also have access to documents supporting batch certification, according to Annex 16. Other MIA holders involved in the process may access batch documentation for their respective needs and responsibilities, as detailed in the written agreements. A risk assessment is needed to justify the frequency for the review of the full batch documentation at the site responsible for QP certification/confirmation; the so established periodicity should be included in the PQS.

Annex 21 also lists the type of documents that should be available at the importation sites, including the details of transportation and receipt of the product, and relevant ordering and delivery documentation. This last one should specify the site of origin of the product, the one of physical importation and shipping details (including transportation route, temperature monitoring records, and customs documentation). Appropriate documentation should be also available to confirm reconciliation of the quantities of batches which underwent subdivision and were imported separately.

Requirements set forth in Chapter 4 of the GMPs apply to the retention of the documentation; the availability at the third country manufacturing site of an adequate record retention policy equivalent to EU requirements shall be assessed by the site responsible for QP certification. Should it be appropriate, translations of original documents and certificates should be provided to improve understanding.



ACT EU: the EU’s vision for the future of clinical trials

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Just few days before the entry into force of the new Clinical Trials Regulation and of the Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS) on 31 January 2022, a new initiative has been announced to completely renew the European framework governing how clinical trials are designed and run. The strategic document ACT EU (Accelerating Clinical Trials in the EU) has been jointly developed by the European Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) and national regulators with the aim to strengthen the European Union as a leading “focal point” for clinical research at the international level.

ACT EU shall support the achievement of the goals established by the European Pharmaceutical Strategy and the European medicines agencies network strategy (EMANS) to 2025. The initiative will be co-led by the European Commission, EMA and HMA; the proposed governance shall find inspiration on the model already in use by the Clinical Trials Information System, with an EUCTR Coordination Group with an adapted mandate and composition. The individual domains which form the overall matrix will be coordinated by the relevant functions available within the network. The formal public communication phase on ACT EU will start after the official endorsement of the initiative by HMA and EMA.

Six objectives and ten priorities of action for 2022-2023

The ACT EU strategy identifies six different goals for the future of European clinical research. Its leading role shall be optimised through a unified European position on clinical trials at the international level, a better ethical oversight and integration of ethics committees into the clinical trial and medicines regulatory lifecycle. Large-scale multinational clinical trials with broader geographical scope shall be incentivised, while reducing the administrative burden for sponsors and investigators.

A special attention will be paid to the generation of decisional evidence for unmet medical needs, rare diseases, and on vaccines and therapeutics for public health crises and pandemics. A truly high level and coordinated scientific advice is indicated as an important element in order to support the trial and marketing authorisation processes. The strategy confirms the need to adopt new patient-oriented medicines development and delivery models with pro-active engagement of all the stakeholders. The availability of an improved capacity both at the development and regulatory level is also deemed important to achieve the goals of the initiative.

These challenging objectives shall be pursued in years 2022-2023 through the activation of a set of ten specific priority lines of action. An initial exercise to map already existing initiatives within the European medicines regulatory network (EMRN) will be run, that will represent the basis for the consequent development of a governance rationalisation strategy. This might include, for example, the alignment of different expert groups and working parties in the EMRN and ethics infrastructure.

The smooth implementation of the Clinical Trials Regulation shall be monitored using a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI), still to be developed; the modernisation of the good clinical practices (GCPs) should occur under specific ICH’s guidance. The attractiveness of Europe for larger, multinational trials should specifically address studies run in the academic setting. Furthermore, the academics and non-profit organisations may also play a leading role in the analysis of data arising from clinical trials.

Further actions will include the availability of a multi-stakeholder platform, including patients, and the engagement in the initiative of all enablers by mean of a targeted communication campaign. A tighter coordination of different aspects relevant to the planning of new clinical trials, i.e. the scientific advice on the trial approval and the design of the study, has been also announced. The increasing use of artificial intelligence and/or machine learning technologies in the clinical domain and issues pertaining complex and decentralised trials, as well as the interface between the In Vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR) and the Clinical Trials Regulation will benefit of new targeted methodological guidelines.

As for safety monitoring of clinical trials, the priority is to start its integration into a pre- and post-marketing safety monitoring framework. At the educational level, the competences needed to face this challenging scenario for the future of clinical trials in the EU will require the activation of specific training curricula, inclusive of modules on drug development and regulatory science with links to universities and SMEs.

Four principles to guide all actions

The complexity of the ACT EU initiative will require also the development of a new approach to make available the resources needed to smoothly run all the planned activities, possibly including the exploitation of the expertise external to the European medicines regulatory network. The strategy indicates the intention to adopt a collaborative and integrative approach, so to achieve a large research impact in the EU.

To this instance, the four principles “Do, Require, Influence, Support” have been identified to guide the execution and coordination of the projects, the requirement of specific guidance to address the expectations on applicants/developers/researchers, the availability of key publications and leadership to support the transformation phase at all levels (including patient, the academic, etc.), and stakeholders interactions suited to support all the above mentioned objectives.

The initial mapping of existing activities should also led to the identification of the budget needed for meetings, inclusive also of the activities relative to stakeholder engagement, training, and communication. Any other activities falling outside the optimisation of the already existing ones would be self-funded by the respective organisations (EC/NCA/EMA).

Comments from EFPIA

According to EFPIA, the announcement of ACT EU represents the beginning of an exciting new phase for clinical research in Europe. The industrial association highlights that the innovative design of many clinical trials, especially the complex ones, requires an increased efficiency.


A study on medicines shortages from the European Commission

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The study on medicines shortages commissioned in March 2020 by the European Commission upon request of the European Parliament and Council has been published; the document, prepared by a consortium led by Technopolis, suggests 16 possible policy measures – both legislative and not-legislative – that the Commission may consider while drafting a new legislative proposal to govern the issue, expected to be announced at the end of 2022.

According to the current EU pharmaceutical legislation (Directive 2001/83/EC), marketing authorization holders (MAHs) have to submit – two months before the temporary or permanent interruption of supply of a certain medicinal product – a pre-notification to the relevant national competent authorities (NCAs) (Article 23a, a part in the case of exceptional circumstances).

The mandate to continue supply to cover the needs of patients, and respective responsibilities of MAHs and wholesale distributors are established by Article 81 of the same directive.

The new study will support some of the achievements set forth in the Pharmaceutical Strategy; another action undertaken to reduce the impact of shortages in the EU is represented by the EU Executive Steering Group on Shortages of Medicines Caused by Major Events, an initiative set up in March 2020 with the contribution of the Commission, EMA and member states.

The Commission study on shortages by Technopolis confirms that current market framework conditions for off-patent medicines play against supply resilience – said Rebecca Guntern, President ad-interim of Medicines for Europe, commenting the release of the study –. As long as healthcare systems only focus on the cheapest possible price for off-patent medicines and do not reward investments to ensure robust supply chains, the only option for companies is to be the cheapest or to leave the market.

The main outcomes of the study

The study on shortages focused its attention on medicines for human use marketed in the EU/ EEA in the period 2004-2020. The main objectives of the exercise include the identification of shortages’ root causes and specific characteristics, the assessment of the adequacy of the current framework (at EU and national level) and of possible solutions to address the problem.

Data from the shortages registries kept by national competent authorities (NCAs) of 22 EU’s countries was only available for years 2007-2020. Commercial data on pharmaceutical sales from IQVIA MIDAS was also used, and extensive consultation with stakeholders was run under different formats.

Central to the 16 recommendations highlighted in the study is the establishment of a centralized and harmonised EU-wide definition of medicine shortages, as well as of harmonised reporting criteria. The latter should aim to collect sufficiently detailed information on key parameters (e.g. product details, MAH, details on the shortage and impact).

Different definitions, systems for notifications and type of information requested are currently in use in the various member states; even the definition of “shortage” agreed in 2019 by EMA and HMA was not considered by stakeholders adequate to differentiate between critical and non-critical shortages. According to the report, this fragmented situation doesn’t allow for the sharing of data and comparative analysis between countries, thus resulting in the overall inefficiency of the system.

Attention should be paid also to the creation of a EU-wide list of medicines subject to critical shortages; specific policies and regulations may be developed on this basis to improve their availability. Medicines typically experiencing shortages are older, off-patent and generics drugs with low profit margins; the main therapeutic areas involved include pain, hypertension, infections and oncology.

The creation of dialogue platforms at the national level is also envisaged, where to exchange the point of view of different supply chain stakeholders (including patients and healthcare providers). The study highlights the high burden shortages create on pharmacists and physicians looking for the best possible treatment alternative for their patients. A possible way to address this issue would see the availability of information about alternative medicines in shortage databases. In many cases, this type of occurrence is referred just to some countries within the EU, thus suggesting inequitable distribution and access rather than global supply issues may play a major role in shortages.

Understanding the root causes

Limited reporting is a key point to be solved in order to improve the understanding of root causes of shortages. According to the study, a reductionist approach to reporting is often used; this makes fully evident just acute causes (e.g. a problem at the production site), but leaves unattended more systemic issues (e.g. consolidation of manufacturing, resulting in a very limited number of production sites) and market-related factors (e.g. single-winner procurement practices).

Quality and manufacturing issues account for approx. half of all cases of shortages, suggest the report; among commercial reasons are market withdrawals and unexpected increases in demand. The information available for the analysis was judged insufficient to exactly asses the potential risks linked to outsourcing of manufacturing activities (including the production of APIs) and parallel distribution.

The proposed recommendations ask for greater transparency of industry supply quotas as well as parallel traders’ and wholesalers’ transactions. Suppliers should establish adequate shortage prevention and mitigation plans; legal obligations for MAHs and wholesalers are suggested in order to maintain a safety stock of (unfinished) products for medicines of major therapeutic interest at EU-level.

A new legislation to tackle shortages

The provisions set forth by Articles 23a and 81 of the Directive have been transposed differently into the single national legislations, often well before the establishment of the shortages registries. Several EU’s countries have acted on their own to strengthen the system, for example establishing mandatory reporting on stock levels and export restrictions. Nevertheless, according to the study available data are not sufficient to draw final conclusions on the costs and efficacy of stock keeping obligations on the level of (notified) shortages in the countries where they were introduced.

A more pro-active approach to the management of medicines shortages by MAHs and distributors may be supported by the availability of a EU-wide and uniform legislation governing financial sanctions to be applied if notification requirements and/or supply responsibilities are not met. Other suggestions include the adoption of common principles for the introduction of national restrictions on intra-EU trade, and the availability of greater flexibilities for emergency imports of specific products in case of market withdrawals and other critical shortages. As for procurement, the study indicates the opportunity to address public procurement tenders also considering the incorporation of requirements for more diversified, multiple tenderers and thereby supply sources.

From a regulatory perspective, the document highlights the opportunity to reduce costs and simplify administrative procedures for the submission of post-approval changes. The availability of an accelerated mutual recognition procedure (MRP) within the EU is also suggested, together with a more efficient use of the Repeat Use Procedure. Improved flexibility should be a target also with respect to the EU-wide regulation governing medicines packaging and labelling, so to allow for the use of digital leaflets and multi-country/multi-language packaging and labelling.