GCP Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Patient involvement in the development, regulation and safe use of medicines

by Giuliana Miglierini The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) has published the CIOMS report on “Patient involvement in the development, regulation and safe use of medicines”. The report marks an important step forward towards a harmonised approach to Read more

Webinar: Implementation of Contamination Control Strategy Using the ECA template

The next EIPG webinar will be held in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork on Friday 21st of October 2022 (16.00 CEST), on the implementation of Contamination Control Strategy (CCS) using the ECA* template. This is the second Read more

Real-world evidence for regulatory decision-making

by Giuliana Miglierini Digitalisation is rapidly advancing also in the regulatory field, as a tool to improve the efficiency and accuracy of processes used for the generation and use of data to inform the regulatory decision-making. To this instance, real-world 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.

ICMRA published a Reflection paper on remote inspections

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Remote inspections have become a widely used approach since the last two years to ensure the oversight of the compliance of pharmaceutical productions to regulatory requirements, as the prolonged lockdown periods determined by the pandemic made very difficult the maintenance of the regular schedule for on-site inspections.

A Reflection paper on the so gathered experience has been recently published by the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA); the document addresses from the point of view of regulatory authorities the many issues encountered to establish appropriate modalities to interact at distance with the industrial counterparts by mean of digital technologies and suggests the best practices for the future. The analysis focused especially on remote GCP and GMP inspections.

The Reflection paper was drafted by a working group chaired by the UK MHRA and inclusive of representatives from the US FDA, EMA, Health Canada, Swiss-medic, HPRA Ireland, AEMPS Spain, ANSM France, PEI Germany, MHLW/PMDA Japan, TGA Australia, ANVISA Brazil, HSA Singapore, WHO and Saudi FDA.

The lack of a uniform definitions and approaches

Each national competent authority adopted during the pandemic its own approach to remote inspections, evaluating this type of opportunity on a case-by-case basis, making use of established quality risk management principles and tools to reach their decision (par. 3 of the Reflection paper enlists the more widely used parameters for risk assessment and management).Among the factors entering this preliminary evaluation are the regulatory compliance history of the inspectee, the scope of the inspection (pre-approval, routine or for cause), and the inherent risk associated with the activities conducted by the site, the types of products and the need for the product.

The term used to identify the at distance interaction with the company to be inspected also assumed a quite wide variability; “distant assessment”, “remote evaluation”, “desktop assessment” or “remote assessment” are other frequent declinations used to define oversight procedures run by using digital technologies, both at the national and international level.

The choice of the specific term to identify this sort of practice depends upon many different factors, including the type of inspection and of the involved facilities, and the local national legal frameworks governing inspections as well as protection of personal data. The specific areas or sites to be included in the official review of activities, documents, facilities, records, etc. have proved also highly variable, as they may include not only the manufacturing site, but also investigator sites of a clinical trial, the sponsor’s and/or contract research organisation’s (CRO’s) facilities, or any other establishments deemed appropriate by the regulatory authority running the inspection.

Should the preliminary risk assessment had discouraged the possibility to conduct a remote inspection, the on-site inspections were usually postponed until the termination of lockdown measures in the interested countries. Hybrid or collaborative inspections represent another opportunity used to handle critical cases: the first ones involve the assessment or inspection to be conducted using a mix of remote and on-site activities, the second see two or more regulatory authorities collaborating to perform a conjunct inspection of a specific site.

According to the Reflection paper, it thus appears highly unlikely that a unique and fully harmonized approach to remote inspections in all scenarios might be developed for the future. “While the ICMRA group have found remote inspections an enabling tool to maintain at least a minimal regulatory oversight during the pandemic, it is not the view of the group that remote inspections would fully replace an on-site inspection programme”, states the document.

The main issues encountered

The possibility to conduct inspections, evaluations or assessments at a distance/virtually is based on the implicit availability of a robust IT and communication infrastructure; this has proved a fundamental requirement to smoothly share and review all the relevant documentation and ensure access from remote to systems and plants. Virtual tours of the manufacturing facilities are a typical example, for which the availability of solid “hardware and software that can provide an appropriate field of vision, clarity and stabilisation of the picture, while simultaneously facilitating conversation between the inspector and tour host” is essential to enable the real-time transmission of images and sounds captured by the in charge on-site staff by mean of smart devices or more advanced systems as smart-glasses.

In international inspections, the difference in time-zone and the availability of real-time, online translation services have also proved critical in many instances, especially if parallel sessions of discussion were needed. The possibility for inspectors to access on-line the relevant documentation requires the availability of the inspected company to provide credentials to enter in a read-only mode its proprietary document management systems and repositories. To this instance, confidentiality issues often led many companies to provide access to IT systems by mean of a specifically appointed member of the staff, in charge of accessing in real-time the systems and made available all the documentation as indicated by the inspectors.

The main areas of attention

The Reflection paper identifies four different areas for which remote assessment/inspection proved to be particularly useful during the pandemic period.

In the case of virtual tours, the indication coming from ICRMA experts is to limit the use of prerecorded video tours only in exceptional circumstances, and never for inspection of high-risk activities, as the inspector may not be in the right conditions to effectively verify all details needed to evaluate the suitability of the facility.

Direct access to documentation by inspectors is an expectation, electronically or otherwise, whether the inspection is on-site or remote”, states the Reflection paper. The alternative intervention of site staff may be acceptable, but it should not negatively impact the results of the assessment. Furthermore, this modality may also prove quite time consuming for both the inspector and the inspected company. ICRMA also supports the possibility for regulators to access documentation after the closure meeting, and upon the formal closure of the inspection, in order to facilitate the drafting of the report or to clarify a deficiency already raised.

GCP and GMP inspections

Specific issues for both GCP and GMP inspections are addressed in two dedicated chapters of ICRMA’s Reflection paper.

It should be noted that within the EU remote inspections at investigator sites are not considered to be feasible”, writes ICRMA. The motivation has to be found mainly in the need to avoid any further impact on the clinical sites during an health emergency like the pandemic, andin the issues posed by local frameworks for data protection. The Reflections paper provides a list of clinical areas not suitable for remote inspection.

As for GMP inspections, not all regulatory authorities adopted the same approach during the pandemic; in general terms, this sort of practice has been judged acceptable by ICRMA to handle emergency situations with restrictions to travels in place, but it cannot fully substitute onsite inspections of manufacturing sites. More specifically, the experience of the past two years shows that remote inspection proved unfeasible for sites requiring detailed observation, as those performing aseptic manufacturing or handling potent active ingredients with low Permitted Daily Exposure.