ICMRA Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Lessons learnt to transition from Horizon 2020 to the new FP10


by Giuliana Miglierini The European Commission published the ex post evaluation of Horizon 2020 (H2020), the FP8 framework programme for research and innovation (R&I) run in years 2014-2020. The report identifies several areas of possible improvement, which may be taken into Read more

Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023


by Giuliana Miglierini Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023 The European Medicines Agency published its annual highlights, showing 77 medicines were recommended for marketing authorisation, and just 3 received a negative opinion (withdrawals were 19). In 2023 some highly expected Read more

Webinar: Oral Colon Drug Delivery - Design Strategies


EIPG webinar Next EIPG webinar is to be held on Wednesday 21st of February 2024 at 17.00 CET (16.00 GMT) in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork. Anastasia Foppoli, will discuss on the various approaches and the general aspects Read more


EC Communication (part 2): a Critical Medicines Alliance to support European pharma supply chain

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by Giuliana Miglierini

After last week’s examination of the first part of the Commission’s Communication, specifically targeted to short-term actions to prevent and mitigate critical medicine shortages, in this second post we will address the announced mid- and long-term structural measures, focused on the creation of the Critical Medicines Alliance, the diversification of supply chains and the role of international partnerships.

The Critical Medicines Alliance

The second part of the Commission’s Communication details the structural measures to strengthen the secure supply of pharmaceuticals in the EU, with particular reference to critical medicines. An objective that, according to the Commission, may require the development of new pieces of legislation, such as the EU Critical Medicines Act. To this instance, the preparatory study should be launched by the end of 2023, and followed by the impact assessment.

In the meantime, the improved coordination of the industrial approach to the management of shortages in the EU should be pursued by the Critical Medicines Alliance, to be created in early 2024. The Alliance will bring together all involved stakeholders; its activities should start from a shared analysis of vulnerabilities in the supply chain of the critical medicines on the Union list (i.e over-dependency on a limited number of external suppliers, limited diversification possibilities, limited production capacities, etc).

The result of this exercise should be the identification of useful tools to address vulnerabilities of a limited number of critical medicines with the highest risk of shortages and impact on healthcare systems. To this regard, several lines of actions are identified in the Communication, starting from the issuing of a dedicated guidance and common criteria for the coordinated procurement of critical medicines (e.g. green production and prioritisation of supplies in Euro-pe at times of critical shortages). A better quantification of demand and the consequent possibility to compensate and incentivise industry for its effort in these directions are other expected outcomes.

Medium-term contractual incentives are proposed as a tool to improve predictability of supply and to attract new manufacturing investments in Europe, together with the use of capacity reservation contracts modelled on EU FABs. These last instruments were launched by the HERA Authority during the pandemic in order to reserve manufacturing capacities for vaccines and obtain a priority right for their manufacturing in case of a future public health emergency.

The second line of action of the Alliance would address the diversification of global supply chains for critical medicines, including the identification of priority countries to be involved in strategic partnerships on the security of supply (see also below).

The third pillar should see the Alliance involved in the coordination and harmonisation of efforts to identify security of supply needs for critical medicines, on the basis of the above-mentioned identified vulnerabilities. Actions cited by the Communication, such as the Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) coordinated at the EU level, should be compatible with the state aid framework. The Alliance may also represent the dedicated location where member states may better discuss the possibility of a new Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) focusing on sustainable manufacturing of critical medicines (including off patent medicines).

Stockpiling, skills and financial support

EU stockpiling of critical medicines is another area of activity of the Critical Medicines Alliance. The goal is to overcome current limitations typical of national stockpile programmes; the development of a common strategic approach and a Joint Action on stockpiling has been announced for the first half of 2024, based on the previously mentioned vulnerability analysis and on the experience of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM, that will continue to be part of the EU approach) and the rescEU stockpile.

The Alliance should also address the need for new and updated skills to work in the pharmaceutical sector, so to cope with the increasing impact of digitalisation, the evolution of the regulatory environment and the green transition. Pharmacists are cited in the Communication, as their curricula could be easily adjusted to accommodate education and training on new skills. Attention should be paid to increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates. A Pact for Skills is the measure identified to actively involve key actors in educational and training activities aimed to fill industry skills gaps.

The Alliance would also play a significant role in better leverage and align EU and national funding: a goal deemed important in order to support improved long-term investment predictability for the private sector, and to avoid duplication of efforts. Among other tools cited by the Communication to reach it, the proposed Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP) is also inclusive of pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies and medical technologies. The creation of a Sovereignty Seal to promote synergies amongst existing programmes, and the Technical Support Instrument to enhance the administrative capacity of member states in managing shortages and producing critical medicines are among other proposed tools.

Diversification of supply chains

A second, fundamental line of action identified by the Commission addresses how to better diversify the complex, global pharmaceutical supply chain, also by means of new international partnerships with third countries. According to the Communication, the EU industry needs to have access to a broad range of essential inputs; to this regard, new strategic partnerships with third countries for production of critical medicines and active ingredients should be based on concrete actions of mutual interest.

The EU has 42 preferential trade agreements in place with 74 different trading partners, and a new one is under negotiation with India. The Commission also recalled the importance of bilateral meetings with China on issues affecting access to medicines supply chains, and of the dialogue with Latin America.

An improved regulatory convergence is another main objective of the planned actions at the international level, so to increase GMP compliance of medicinal products marketed in the EU and manufactured by extra-UE partners. To this instance, the Communication mentions the work of international bodies such as the ICH (International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use) and ICMRA (International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities) for the harmonisation of standards for pharmaceuticals, and the WHO support to improved regulatory convergence. Many free trade and mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) signed by the EU also contain this type of obligation, and in some cases the sharing of non-sensitive market knowledge to anticipate possible problems too.

A new network of international partners should be created by the Commission within a year, in conformity with applicable state aid and antitrust rules. The network activities would focus on crisis preparedness and supply diversification. The Communication mentions also different international initiatives already in place, such as the Global Gateway to support local manufacturing of health products and announced another Team European Initiative in Africa on health security and pandemic preparedness and response. Another ongoing initiative is the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Partnership on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies. The EU will also continue to support the provision of critical medicines in humanitarian contexts.



ICMRA report on best practices against antimicrobial resistance

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the consequence of mutations that allow microbes to survive pharmacological treatment. Resistant strains can often be tackled only by a limited number of therapeutic options: according to a systematic analysis published in The Lancet, an estimated 1.27 million deaths occurred in 2019 due to unresponsiveness to available medicines.

As a part of its effort against AMR, the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA) has published a report discussing successful regulatory and non-regulatory best practices in the field of AMR.

The report was drafted by ICMRA’s Work Group led by Health Canada, and inclusive also of the European Medicines Agency, UK’s MHRA, and regulators from Japan, Argentina, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sweden. For each of the nine case studies, Annex 2 presents a table summarising the problem under examination, the proposed solution, results and consequent recommendations.

Regulatory flexibility

The US’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) focused on innovative approaches to developing supporting data packages required for regulatory review of certain non-traditional therapies. Public-private partnerships are the preferred vehicle to manage R&D projects and to reach regulatory approval by the FDA. The main targets for BARDA are new antimicrobials to treat antibiotic-resistant secondary bacterial infections and bioterrorism infections. Selected proposals shall lead to the development of candidate medical countermeasures (MCMs), based on a regulatory master plan inclusive of a tentative schedule for regulatory milestones. Partners may also benefit from BARDA’s expertise in the field of animal studies, flexible manufacturing and clinical study design. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed with the FDA to provide a coordinated framework for the development of MCMs.

Antimicrobials for veterinary use

Antimicrobials for veterinary use include some products for human use. It is thus important to act in the animal sector to limit the selection pressure for the development and spread of resistant pathogens in both animals and humans.

The project led by Health Canada in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) focused on the implementation of the Veterinary Antimicrobial Sales Reporting (VASR) system, aimed to collect data on the total quantity of antimicrobials sold or compounded by animal species. The activation of the system in 2018 followed some changes to Canada’s Food and Drugs Regulation (FDR): manufacturers and importers have to report annual sales of medically important antimicrobials intended for veterinary use based on active ingredients listed in List A. The acquired data are collected and screened by the Veterinary Drugs Directorate and validated and analysed by PHAC’s CIPARS.

Regulatory agilities during the Covid-19 pandemic

Regulatory flexibility has been one of the main tools used to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Health Canada’s main goal was to expedite the regulatory review of health products without compromising their safety, efficacy and quality standards. A temporary regulatory pathway was introduced in September 2020 by a Interim Order, and new transition measures were approved in September 2021 to allow the review, authorisation and oversight of Covid-19 medicines under the FDR. A procurement strategy for Covid vaccines, treatments and diagnostics was also adopted by the Government, based on advanced purchasing agreements with different companies. Another Interim Order allowed the activation of a temporary regulatory pathway to facilitate clinical trials of candidate Covid-19 products. Flexibilities to Drug Establishment Licensing (DEL) and GMPs were also introduced, and collaborations with other international regulatory bodies activated (including the EMA open pilot).

Non-prescription availability of antibiotics

UK’s MHRA focused on the case of tyrothricin-containing lozenges, a combination product available for sale at pharmacies since 1968, and that underwent a restriction of prescribing in 2018, following a NHS’s guidance advising prescriptions for the treatment of acute sore throats should not be routinely offered in primary care. The UK’s Commission on Human Medicine considered MHRA’s request of advice on the feasibility to remove the product from the market. As a result, the MHRA interacted with the Marketing authorisation holder to verify the possibility of a reformulation to exclude the antibiotic active ingredient. The action of impacted also on the education of the wider public towards the responsible use of antibiotics.

Reimbursement models for novel antimicrobials

The Public Health Agency of Sweden addressed the issue of antimicrobial market failure. Not all the few available antibiotics launched during the last decade are accessible in all European countries, due in some instances to unfavourable sales prospects. A pilot project was launched in 2018 to test a new, partially delinked reimbursement model based on a minimum annual guaranteed revenue at nation level for the pharmaceutical company (on the basis of estimated clinical needs). Security of supply of antibiotics within 24 hours and a security stock located in Sweden were the requests to interested companies.

Selective antibiograms to inform antimicrobial choice

The choice of the most appropriate antimicrobial is usually based on an antibiogram, a laboratory test used to evaluate the susceptibility and resistance profile of bacterial isolates to various antimicrobial active ingredients. The Swedish Medical Products Agency (SMPA) focused on the use and selective reporting of antibiograms of urinary cultures for Enterobacteriaceae from patients with symptoms of cystitis. The analysis included six different antibiotics for men and five for women, since the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin is no longer recommended to treat cystitis in women. This selective reporting allowed to decrease fluoroquinolone prescriptions of 46% in 15 years.

Feedback on prescriber data

SMPA also provided some feedback to prescribers on their antibiotic prescribing practices. The tool was implemented at the national, regional, local and also individual level, in order to raise knowledge and information, and influence prescription habits. Prescribers’ data at a high resolution level (prescriber identifying codes) are used to elaborate relevant trends. Statistics on antibiotic use at regional and national level are freely accessible at the National Board of Health and Welfare website.

Common infections in outpatient care

The Sweden’s Rainbow Pamphlet provides treatment recommendations for common infections in outpatient care. The initiative was launched in 2010 by the Swedish Strategic Programme for the Rational Use of Antimicrobial Agents and Surveillance of Resistance (STRAMA); it can be accessed in paper form or through the STRAMA mobile application. The use of the Rainbow pamphlet has been supported also by communication campaigns targeted both to healthcare professionals and the public.

Methods for monitoring AMR in the environment

The monitoring of antibiotics’ diffusion in the environment is relevant with respect to the One- Health approach, which focuses on the harmonised surveillance across human, veterinary and food sectors.

The SMPA launched two projects aimed to better identify indicators to be used for the monitoring of antibiotic resistance in the environment: EMBARK (Establishing a Monitoring Baseline for Antimicrobial Resistance in Key environments) and Antibiotikasmart Sverige (Antibiotic Smart Sweden). The current main gaps in knowledge include the abundance and prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and mobile genetic elements (MGEs) occurring naturally. Furthermore, antimicrobials may enter the environment at different points along the lifecycle of human and veterinary medical products, with processes still to be fully clarified.


Artificial intelligence in medicine regulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EMA