ICRMA Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

A new member within EIPG


The European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG) is pleased to announce the Romanian Association (AFFI) as its newest member following the annual General Assembly of EIPG in Rome (20th-21st April 2024). Commenting on the continued growth of EIPG’s membership, EIPG President Read more

The EU Parliament voted its position on the Unitary SPC


by Giuliana Miglierini The intersecting pathways of revision of the pharmaceutical and intellectual property legislations recently marked the adoption of the EU Parliament’s position on the new unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) system, parallel to the recast of the current Read more

Reform of pharma legislation: the debate on regulatory data protection


by Giuliana Miglierini As the definition of the final contents of many new pieces of the overall revision of the pharmaceutical legislation is approaching, many voices commented the possible impact the new scheme for regulatory data protection (RDP) may have Read more

EMA’s 3-year work plan for the Quality domain

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European Medicines Agency has released the input notes made by the GMDP Inspectors Working Group (IWG) as for the drafting of the 3-year workplan for the Quality domain. The document, which reflects the objectives of the Network Strategy and Regulatory Science Strategy, addresses many aspects which may affect the overall efficiency of the pharmaceutical supply chain, both at the routine and specific level.

The document identifies a number of strategic goals aimed at improving the overall integrity and resilience of the pharmaceutical supply chain and the product quality, and to optimise the im-pact of new technologies. Description of the tactical goals follows, i.e., the projects and actions to be activated in order to reach the above-mentioned strategic objectives.

Improved traceability of the supply chain

Strategical goals include the enhancement of traceability, oversight and security for both the human and veterinary medicine supply chain. Four different actions are planned at the tactical level, starting from a better sharing of information regarding manufacturers, distributors, pro-ducts and their respective compliance. To this instance, actions to improve EudraGMDP records are expected.

Inspections of the repositories system should also be tackled by means of a liaison with the Ex-pert Group in inspectional procedures. The implementation of the new Veterinary Regulation should be addressed paying attention both to GDP for veterinary medicines and active substances. Improvement of the inspection capacity may benefit from the development of a specific training curriculum for GDP inspectors; to this instance, the IWG suggests a possible collaboration with PIC/S, through the EU4Health Joint Action 11 and the associated Work Programme 6.

Enhanced inspector capacity

Another strategic goal set forth by the GMDP IWG aims to improve inspector capacity building at EU and international level. To this regard, suggested actions include the support to the international API programme, comprehensive of the provisions of the new Veterinary Regulation related to API inspections and controls. Veterinary specific GMP guideline annexes 4 and 5 should be harmonised in collaboration with PIC/S. The collaboration should also include ongoing initiatives on inspection reliance, in order to better identify barriers preventing member states from accepting inspection results from other trusted authorities. PIC/S and the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Agencies (ICRMA) should also collaborate with the GMDP IWG to reach an agreement on shared definitions, best practices and harmonised approaches for distant assessment and hybrid inspections. The pilot programme for sterile inspections should be also finalised, with participation of all member states. Routine assessor-inspector joint inspections are suggested, as well as a training course specific to the new Annex 1.

The development of a harmonised, EU level guidance on data integrity is the tool identified by the GMDP IWG to reinforce responsibility of marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) for product quality. This goal may be achieved by adapting the current guidance published in the form of Q&As into Chapter 4 and Annex 11 of the GMP Guide, in collaboration with the WHO and PIC/S. A better attention on MAHs responsibilities and to the supervision of API manufacturers should also build upon the recommendations contained in EMA’s lessons learnt report (LLE) on Nitrosamines.

Critical manufacturing sites and new technologies

The review of long-term risks resulting from dependency on limited number of manufacturers and sites should support a better supply chain resilience. The review should be aimed to the identification of sites manufacturing a significant number of products or producing medical pro-ducts for a significant number of markets within the European economical area (EEA). The GMDP IWG also suggests performing cooperative supervision of these sites between member states and other strategic partners.

A better understanding of the possible implications resulting from the introduction of new manufacturing technologies has been also deemed important to regulate the new supply chains. To this instance, the indication of the IWG is to consider if a specific GMP annex would be re-quired in order to support the adoption of new and innovative technologies. As for decentralised manufacturing, this topic should also be evaluated in the GMP Guide to medicinal products other than advanced therapies.

Amendments to current guidelines

The document of the GMDP IWG details the specific guidelines that would need consideration in view of the proposed interventions.

Many actions are planned to achieve their objectives by the end of 2023. More specifically, the IWG expects to provide the EU Commission with the final text of the GMP for novel veterinary medicinal products and for autogenous veterinary vaccines. GMPs should be also revised to include Nitrosamines LLE recommendations to MAHs, so to ensure adequate quality agreements are in place with manufacturers.

The same deadline should apply to the development of specific training material on ICH Q9, addressing risk identification and risk management. This action would support EU members of the Expert Working Group (EWG) and should be coordinated with the dedicated PIC/S expert circle. A similar action is planned with respect to ICH Q12 on lifecycle management and ICH Q7 (GMP for active substances), as well as to other quality guidelines for veterinary medicines. The GMDP IWG is also expected to support the EWG in developing the new ICH Q13 guideline on continuous manufacturing.

Annex 15 on the Qualification and Validation may be revised by Q2 2024 in order to include considerations on new technology in facilities, products and processes, including also the possible extension of LLE recommendations to APIs.

The end of 2024 is the date indicated for the review of GMPs for advanced therapy medicinal products in order to include the new provisions of the revised Annex 1. The same deadline applies to the possible revision of Annex 16 on the certification by a Qualified Person and batch release, in order to provide further guidance on batch traceability according to LLE recommendations. The end of next year may see also the drafting of the final text of Annex 4 on the manufacture of veterinary medicinal products other than the immunological ones, based on comments received on the concept paper and the resulting draft text. A similar action is planned for Annex 5 on the manufacture of immunological veterinary medicinal products.

Chapter 4 (Documentation) and Annex 11 (Computerised systems) of the GMP Guide should be revised to assure data integrity in the context of GMP. The proposed deadline for these actions is Q1 2026.

Support to scientific advice and communication

A specific chapter of the GMDP IWG document is dedicated to actions deemed to support scientific advice activities. In this case too, target dates are provided for the completion of the different actions. These include the provision to the EU Commission of scientific advice on GMP standards to be included in the implementing act on GMP for veterinary medicinal products and active substances.

At the international level, the IWG plans to continue its efforts to reach a better convergence through existing mutual recognition platforms and programmes and to support the EU Commission to establish and maintain mutual recognition agreements. Collaborations with ICRMA, the EDQM, Chinese and Indian regulators should be also continued, as well as the dialogue with interested parties and stakeholders.



ICMRA, two pilot programmes to optimise regulatory assessment and inspections

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by Giuliana Miglierini

New flexible modalities for the management of regulatory procedures are becoming progressively accepted even for routine activities, upon the experience built during the pandemic. Efforts are ongoing at the global level in order to better harmonise the new approaches. To this instance, the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA) has launched two pilot programmes focused, respectively, on the collaborative assessments of chemistry, manufacturing and control (CMC) and Post-Approval Change (PAC) submissions and related regulatory actions and on hybrid inspections.

Each programme is expected to last 1-1.5 years and should see the involvement of at least two regulatory regions, each one conducting three assessments or collaborative hybrid inspections. Recommendations resulting from the pilots shall be published in 2023, representing the basis of an initial common framework for collaborative assessment and hybrid inspections. The initiative follows the results of a workshop organised by ICMRA in July 2021, during which emerged the need for more convergence and reliance across regulatory authorities in order to support the timely supply of critical medicines.

ICRMA has invited industrial sponsors to participate to the initiative, with particular reference to those planning to file an application for a new product or for post approval changes of already approved products to more than one regulatory agency. All details and the procedure for application are available at this link.

Therapeutics which may be object of the submission include both small molecules and biological products. The submission may refer to products for the treatment of Covid-19, other medically necessary/critical medicines or products granted for access to fast-track procedures such as the Breakthrough (US), PRIME (EU) or Sakigake (JP) schemes.

Interested sponsors are required to check with the involved facility’s management to ensure readiness for inspection and possibility to host a collaborative hybrid inspection, with a particular attention to the availability of suitable IT infrastructures and interpretation services, and the possibility to coordinate at least two inspectorates across different time-zones.

Applications are open since 15 June 2022 and have to be forwarded using the EudraLink secure file transfer application provided by EMA. After a rolling review of the applications, starting of the first pilot is scheduled for September 2022.

The general objectives

The main goals of the initiative include the definition of best practices and standards in the quality assessment of CMC-related post-approval changes and collaborative hybrid inspections. A single list of questions to the sponsor or manufacturer should also be delivered, and answers be shared with the participating quality assessors and inspectors.

The exercise should lead to the identification of misalignments and potential areas of harmonization across participating regulatory regions. An improved convergence and collaboration among regulators in specific data expectations and assessment approaches for the assessment of manufacturing facilities for Pre-Approval and Pre-License Applications (PAIs & PLIs) and reviewing PACs and PAC Management Protocols may also be supported by the analysis of the data acquired during the two programmes.

Hybrid inspections

Hybrid inspections are based on the collaboration of at least two different National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs), one of which in charge of the on-site inspection activities, the second acting as a remote inspectorate. The respective tasks shall be coordinated and run using virtual technologies, so to enable real-time collaboration in the inspection activities, which should target facilities and products of interest for multiple regulatory agencies (see more details here and here).

The pilot is expected to reduce the need of multiple inspections or facility assessments and to support the identification of the best virtual platforms and information technology (i.e., video) to facilitate concurrent on-site inspection and distant assessment. Focus on the development of a common framework to accommodate time zone differences between the facility location and the distant inspectorates is also expected.

Best practices to prepare and conduct the hybrid inspection are another important outcome, as both the on-site and distant inspectorates needs to obtain from the activities all the information needed to run their respective assessments.

In the critical field of GMP expectations, a possible target of the pilot may be represented by how the inspection is reported and how deficiencies are classified by different regulators. Aligned reports and protocols may also support the sharing of information with other interested ICRMA inspectorates. In any case, each participating authority remains the sole responsible for the evaluation of the outcomes of the inspection and the enforcement of any consequent action, according to its own reference legal framework.

A final protocol describing how to execute a hybrid inspection is a main expected outcome of the fist pilot, to be then applied by the Working Group to evaluate at least 3-5 facilities with at least two regulatory agencies involved in the hybrid assessment.

Collaborative assessment

The second pilot aims to run collaborative quality assessment for a minimum of three different applications and a minimum of three regulatory agencies involved each time. The initial phase of the pilot should see a limited number of regulatory agencies (3-5) participating to the project, on the basis of specific confidentiality agreements.

Sponsors participating to the pilot shall submit a single application for the proposed CMC changes for assessment by multiple regulatory authorities; the initial focus is expected to be on post-approval change management protocols (PACMPs; chapter 4 of ICH Q12) for Covid-19 therapeutics. More in detail, participating regulatory agencies will agree on the procedure to be used for the collaborative assessment. They are expected to share and discuss in advance any information request or comment, prior to the interaction with the applicant. Any participating authority can maintain its independence to issue information requests, but in any case, the so obtained answers shall be shared with other NRAs and assessed on the basis of a common approach, so to avoid the need of multiple independent lists of clarification seeking comments.

The project also aims to achieve a single regulatory decision regarding the joint assessment (see more details here and here).

More specifically, priorities to be addressed should include for example the evaluation of information or data on specifications, stability, and/or PACMP that support site changes or additions.

As for the hybrid inspections, expected outcomes are represented by the identification of the best practices and standards in the quality assessment of post approval changes, including PACMPs, and of potential areas for alignment or harmonisation across regions.

A forum of discussion should be also created in order to facilitate convergence on the basis of such best practices. Each evaluation should lead to the preparation of lessons-learned summaries to share the acquired knowledge; new quality assessment guidance and standards might also be proposed, where appropriate.


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.