manufacturers Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

UK will participate to European research programmes

by Giuliana Miglierini The divergent road opened as a consequence of the Brexit, in January 2021, between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) is now converging again as for the possibility for UK researchers to participate to Read more

Insights to the Industrial Pharmacist role for the future

A concept paper from EIPG Advisory Group on Competencies vol.2, 2023 This paper is an update of the previous EIPG paper and intends to raise awareness of the changing requirements of the professional profile of Industrial Pharmacists for Pharmacists at Read more

EMA’s reflection paper on AI in the pharmaceutical lifecycle

by Giuliana Miglierini The rapidly evolving role of artificial intelligence (AI) and its possible application in the pharmaceutical field led the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to publish a draft Reflection paper on the use of AI along the entire lifecycle Read more

EMA’s recommendations to prevent medicines shortages

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By Giuliana Miglierini

Continuity of medicinal product supply is still representing a key issue for European countries. The HMA/EMA Task Force on the Availability of Authorised Medicines for Human and Veterinary Use has published a new guidance document in the form of recommendations for the industry on best practices to be adopted to prevent shortages of human medicines.

The recommendations are targeted at marketing authorisation holders (MAHs), wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers. The specific role of each actor is detailed, and highlights are provided on how to optimally approach the prevention and mitigation of shortages. The document refers to the harmonised definition of shortage agreed by EMA and HMA, i.e. “A shortage of a medicinal product for human or veterinary use occurs when supply does not meet demand at a national level“.

Different players for different roles

The pharmaceutical supply chain is characterised by many different actors, each of which plays a specific role in the development, manufacturing and distribution of medicinal products.

Marketing authorisation holders are the ultimate responsible for the monitoring of all activities needed to timely produce and distribute their products. This means MAHs should oversight the entire supply chain, from suppliers of active ingredients (APIs) to end users, in order to continually align demand with supply, evaluate the actual impact of a shortage, and establish the more suitable prevention or mitigation strategies. According to the guidance, reference should be made to the “ISPE Drug shortages prevention plan – Holistic view from root cause to prevention” in order to build a suitable quality culture integrated into product lifecycle; compliance to ICH Q10 is also recommended.

Manufacturers include both APIs suppliers and producers of the medicinal product, which should possess a in depth knowledge of their processes and issues that may impact on product availability. This is even more true for contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs), as a problem with their manufacturing capacity may impact many different customers. Wholesale distributors have general visibility of stock levels and product flow and can identify early signals of a potential medicine shortage. They are subject to national laws as for their obligations to ensure continuity of supply to patients.

As for institutions, national competent authorities (NCAs) are responsible for the coordination of the response to a shortage by means of regulatory tools and strategies. Existing regulatory flexibility can be used, while NCAs cannot intervene in pricing, sourcing, and clinical practice. NCAs are also responsible to communicate actual shortages from their websites.

EMA’s responsibilities relate to shortages of centrally authorised products and coordination of the EU response to supply issues due to major events or public health emergencies. The Agency is also responsible for the publication of a public catalogue for shortages assessed by the CHMP and/or PRAC committees, and for the publication of information on critical shortages monitored at EU level.

National health service providers are responsible for the setting up of policy and operational aspects needed to guarantee the timely access to medicines (i.e. reimbursement schemes, purchasing arrangements, clinical guidelines, etc.). In case of a shortage, they are called to indicate available alternatives, and to issue specific clinical guidance for healthcare professionals if needed.

The overall sustainability and accountability of health systems is the major goal for national Ministries of Health, to be tackled by mean of legislative initiatives. End users include healthcare professionals responsible for appropriate prescribing and for the identification of available alternatives in the case of a shortage affecting their patients. Timely information to patients, in particular for specific diseases, may be provided by patients representative groups, which may also collect feedback on the impact of shortages for patients.

Ten recommendations to prevent shortages

The guidance highlights the importance to notify as soon as possible to NCAs any potential or actual shortage, in order to timely face the increased demand for alternative product suppliers. To this instance, MAHs and wholesalers are in the best position to monitor available stocks and report at early stages about possible issues.

An improved transparency would be needed as for the provided shortage information, to avoid patients’ concerns and the consequent risk of stockpiling and to avoid duplication of efforts. To this instance, MAHs are called to provide all available information requested by the notification form, including also multi-country information (e.g. related to API suppliers).

MAHs should also have a shortage prevention plan in place, addressing the entire life cycle of the specific product from sourcing of raw materials to manufacturing capacity and distribution. Wholesale distributors are also called to develop similar plans focusing on their specific role. Prevention plans should include an analysis of vulnerabilities and risks of interruption of supply, the assessment of the robustness of the supply chain arrangements and controls as well as of the need of revalidation, and the availability of a medicine shortage risk register to identify products of clinical importance by therapeutic use and availability of alternatives.

MAHs and wholesalers should also have a shortage management plan to be activated in case of issues with the availability of a certain product. To this instance, the capacity of available alternative manufacturing sites is critical, including CMOs which should always be kept timely informed by MAHs. A possible approach suggested by the guidance sees the development of a dashboard to continuously monitor signals for potential supply disruption. Procedures to identify true shortage points would also be needed to overcome the current limitation of the automated order systems.

The punctual implementation of Pharmaceutical Quality System according to ICH Q10 and ICH Q12 is also deemed fundamental to prevent any delay related to regulatory procedures that may impact on product availability. Product quality reviews (PQRs) are suggested as a possible tool to capture appropriate data and trends for continuous improvement.

The overall resilience of the supply chain should be supported by the justification of the adoption of the just-in-time supply model, particularly when limited alternatives are available. MAHs and wholesalers should guarantee the availability of suitable contingency stocks to face any unexpected delay.

Sub-optimal communication among different stakeholders should be also addressed by means of an improved cooperation, including a two-way communication system extending also to potential or actual shortages. Critical points of attention are identified in the intra-company communication between different departments, those between local MAH representatives and manufacturer, and the availability of information on stock levels to entities entitled to supply medicines to the public via ordering portals. Specific criteria for communication, together with the description of key processes and supply chain maps should be developed by each stakeholder.

Stockpiling is another critical practice to be avoided in order to ensure the fair and timely distribution of medicines. To this instance, healthcare professionals are called not to order or dispense more stock than normal in case of shortage, while MAH stock allocation practices between different countries should also take into account the clinical need of patients, and not just economic factors. Parallel trade should be also avoided as far as possible. NCAs should duly justify any decision to limit this practice, while companies should seek advice from their relevant authorities of the exporting country in case of critical shortages.

PIC/S new guidance documents for GDP inspectors

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By Giuliana Miglierini

Two new guidance documents for GDP inspectors have been issued by the Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme (PIC/S) Expert Circle on GDP, and are available on the PIC/S’ website.

The ‘AideMemoire on the Inspection of Good Distribution Practice for Medicinal Products in the Supply Chain’ (PI 0441) and a ‘Questions & Answers (Q&A) document regarding the PIC/S GDP Guide’ (PS/INF 22/2017) both entered into force on 1 February 2023.

Main contents of the AideMemoire

The AideMemoire aims to support GDP inspectors in the understanding the process of GDP inspections. The document is expected to be used for training and planning of inspections. Its adoption is voluntary, as the PIC/S GDP Guide for inspections is a legally nonbinding document unless it has been declared a legal standard in the jurisdiction of a PIC/S Participating Authority. The AideMemoire addresses inspections in wholesale distribution sites of entities holding a wholesale distribution licence according to national legislation (i.e. including importing, exporting, holding, or supplying distributors), as well as manufacturers performing any distribution activities. GDP inspections should be thorough and conducted under normal operating conditions.

The AideMemoire is organised in the form of 10 tables that could be used by inspectors as check lists of items to be investigated during inspections of manufacturers and wholesale distributors.

The first table addresses general aspects of GDP inspections, such as the accuracy of the Licence/ application in detailing relevant activities and products. Lists of prescription only medicines (POM), sales without prescription (P), or General sales list/Over the counter (GSL) products are some examples, together all other possible items that may be handled by wholesales distributors, including medical gases, products requiring storage at low temperature and controlled drugs according to national laws.

Preliminary activities also include the review of previous inspections and the assessment of corrective/preventative actions (CAPAs) outlined in the company response. Change should also be verified, namely in the case of high risk operations that may affect the risk profile of the organisation.

Table 2 lists items referred to Quality management. Inspectors should check, for example, the availability of procedures and logs for change control and deviation management. Quality Risk Management (QRM) principles should have been applied to outsourced activities, leading to the definition of specific activities falling under GDP rules, approval, auditing of suppliers, etc. An appropriate procedure should be available also for activities referring to Management review and monitoring and QRM.

Issues referring to personnel are discussed in table 3. An organisation chart and job descriptions should be available, the latter reflecting also key responsibilities and indication of Designated Responsible Persons. Inspectors should verify GDP training received by personnel, also with reference to specific aspects such as falsified medicines or temperaturesensitive products. Availability of a regular GDP training programme and training records should be checked. Personnel should have received specific training in SOPs relevant to their role, to be adequately assessed and documented. These should also include aspects relative to health, hygiene and clothing requirements.

The check list referred to Premises and Equipment is detailed in table 4. It includes among others items reflecting segregation requirements (e.g. identification, design and management of segregation areas) for hazardous or radioactive products, falsified medicines, products not authorised for the approved market, expired products, etc.

Cleaning and pest control procedures are also addressed in this section, as well as temperature and environmental controls and the appropriate monitoring of fridge or cold storage conditions. As for the equipment, inspectors should verify planned maintenance and calibration and their respective records. Alarms should also be checked, as well as computerised systems including validation, security and access restrictions. Appropriate qualification and validation procedures should be in place for all relevant equipment according to QRM principles, and risk assessment should be also available.

Table 5 lists all items referring to documentation management, including procedures and records. The qualification and approval of suppliers and customers according to QRM principles is addressed in Table 6, discussing Operations. This section also addresses the availability of goods receipts to be checked against purchase orders, including details of the temperature conditions during transportation and checks at receipt for products with special storage requirements or nonconforming products. Stock rotation according to the First Expiry First Out principle (FEFO) should be verified by inspectors, among items referred to storage. Aspects referring to the security of the premises also fall under this section, as well as the destruction of expired/ obsolete goods. Inspectors should address also picking operations, supply notes and records and procedures for import/export.

Table 7 refers to the management of complaints, returns, suspected falsified medical products and recalls, which should all be handled according to relevant procedures. Requirements and documentation to be verified for outsourced activities are listed in table 8. These include for example the availability of quality agreements, and contracts including clear responsibilities and audits schedules.

Procedures, plans and records referring to selfinspections are listed in table 9. Items to be verified by GDP inspectors include among others the selection of auditors, their training and independence, CAPAs implementation and verification. The last table addresses issues relative to transportation, including planning, outsourcing, temperature monitoring, GDP training of drivers, etc.

Q&As on PIC/S GDP Guide (PE 0111)

The second document published by PIC/S consists in a list of Questions & Answers specifically referred to the PIC/S GDP Guide (PE 0111). Contents are organised in the form of a table detailing the relevant chapter number and title, paragraph number, question and answer. The latter also make reference to other paragraphs of the GDP Guide to be considered. The sequence of topics is similar to that of the previously examined guidance document for inspectors.

Questions referred to Chapter 1 address issues referred to Quality management and Quality system, outsourced activities, management review and monitoring. Effectiveness of the QS, for example, may be measured by inspectors with reference to deviations and CAPA analysis or to the impact of QRM functions. Frequency of periodic review and responsibilities for ensuring GDP compliance of outsourced activities are also addressed.

Personnel and definition of responsibilities, including key positions and delegation, are detailed in Chapter 2, while Q&As referred to Premises and Equipment go deeper in contents of Chapter 3 (i.e. including the definition of “acceptable temperature limits” and use of Mean Kinetic Temperature for monitoring).

The following chapters and related Q&As address the proper management of Documentation (Ch. 4) and Operations (Ch. 5). The later details some aspects of suppliers and customers qualification, storage, picking. The management of complaints, returns and particular categories of medicinal products refers to Chapter 6. As for outsourced activities (Ch. 7), Q&As addresses onsite auditing, while selfinspections are treated in Chapter 8. Q&As referred to Transportation (Ch. 9), for example, refer to national legislations as for the need for the transportation company to hold a wholesaler licence.

MDCG, a position paper on the capacity of notified bodies

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The lack of a suitable capacity of notified bodies (NBs) is one of the main issues still pending after the entry into force of the new Medical Device Regulation (MDR) (EU) 2017/745 and In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) (EU) 2017/746. The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) discussed some suggestions on how to address the problem within a position paper published in August 2022.

Even if the document does not represent an official guideline, it describes some critical points to be considered by manufacturers and notified bodies in order to face the great challenge of the re-certification of medical devices and in vitro diagnostics according to the new rules. Should this not occur in time, many products may exit the market at the end of the transition period, potentially leading to a supply crisis greatly impacting on the health of patients and the normal functioning of healthcare institutions.

The MDCG position paper answers the request of EU Health ministers advanced during the EPSCO Council meeting on 14 June 2022 to figure out some immediate measures to face the problem. The final goal of the document is to improve the efficiency in the application of the current regulatory framework, with no reduction of requirements to be fulfilled by manufacturers. Waivers from applicable conformity assessments procedures should be considered only in relation to an interest of public health, patient’s safety, or health.

The position paper consists of nineteen points addressing the issue under its different perspectives, the first eleven of which refer to the increase of notified bodies’ capacity. The MDCG calls on all stakeholders to collaborate in order to smoothly implement the suggested actions, a process that will be monitored by the MDCG itself.

How to increase the capacity of NBs

Hybrid audits should be the elective tool notified bodies may use where appropriate to timely and efficiently run conformity assessment. Duplication of activities should be also avoided. To this instance, the suggestion is to “develop a framework for leveraging evidence, or components thereof, from previous assessments” run according to previous Directives. A pre-condition to activate this possibility is that the previous assessment has been judged “valid and properly substantiated also with regard to the MDR/IVDR requirements and the device” by a duly qualified notified body personnel.

A flexible approach may also apply to the combination of audits for legacy devices and actions needed to guarantee their ‘appropriate surveillance’. Combined audits may be used particularly for legacy devices whose application for MDR/IVDR certification is under review by a NB, thus moving the focus more towards the assessment of compliance with the new rules. To this instance, the MDCG also announced the intention to produce a specific guidance on ‘appropriate surveillanceunder Article 110(3) IVDR and to update MDCG 2022-4.

Already existing guidance may also be reviewed to reduce the administrative burden for NBs, and remove limitations related to the scope of documentation not required by MDR/IVDR.

A fundamental piece of the new European infrastructure for medical devices and IVDs is represented by the centralised Eudamed database, which should be timely fed by NBs with all relevant information using machine-to-machine procedures. Double registrations should be avoided as much as possible.

New notified bodies are essential in order to increase capacity. To this instance, the MDCG suggests supporting training, coaching and internship activities for their personnel. The rationalisation of internal administrative procedures is also deemed important.

Time for re-assessment of NBs is undergoing a review by the European Commission, which is expected to result in the publication of new Delegated Acts. The proposal is to move from the current first re-assessment at three years after notification (and then every 4th year) to up to five years after notification, on the basis of a flexible approach. There are currently ten re-assessments planned in 2022, twelve in 2023 and 11 in 2024. According to the MDCG, the new timeframe for re-assessment would allow national designating authorities to free resources to assess new NBs, while existing ones could process higher numbers of first MDR/ IVDR certifications.

Assessment, designation and notification of conformity assessment bodies (including the European Commission) are also called to reduce their timeframes and improve the efficiency of their processes, keeping unaltered the requirements to be met. The possibility to add specific codes to the designation of NBs shall be also explored by the MDCG. The Group is also committed to prioritise some ongoing actions which may impact on NB’s capacity (i.e. revision of section III.6. of MDCG 2019-6 revision 3).

MDCG’s guidance documents should be seen as an aid “to apply the legal requirements in a harmonised way, providing possible solutions endorsed by the MDCG”. Nevertheless, demonstration of the compliance to requirements should always benefit of a certain flexibility. A reasonable time should also be granted to integrate the new guidance in the relevant systems and/ or to apply them, suggests the MDCG.

Suggestions for the manufacturers

Under the perspective of manufacturers of MDs and IVDs, costs to access NBs may play an important role, especially for small-and-medium companies (SMEs). The MDCG position paper recalls NBs to the obligation to make their standard fees publicly available, possibly in a way that might be easily compared. Specific access schemes should be also in place to make available some capacity to SMEs and other first-time applicants for conformity assessment.

Manufacturers should also refer to notice MDCG 2022-11 to ensure timely compliance with MDR requirements. IVDs should not left behind, even if this category of products benefits of one more year for the transition to new rules compered to medical devices.

Structured dialogue is the suggested tool to improve the collaboration between manufacturers and notified bodies along the entire process of conformity assessment aimed at regulatory procedures, should this approach turn to be useful in order to improve the overall efficiency and predictability.

A timely communication to manufacturers by mean of webinars, workshops, targeted feedback and informative sessions is also deemed important in order to allow for a better preparedness, with a particular attention to SMEs and first-time applicants. The MDCG also suggest NBs to develop common guidelines for manufacturers to assist them in the application phase, containing explicative examples of typical non-conformities and details on he preparation and content of technical documentation. National authorities and industry associations are called as well to contribute to the dissemination of relevant information across their stakeholders.

Specific guidance should be issued by the MDCG to support a simpler conformity assessment of some aspects of legacy and orphan devices denoted by a demonstrable track record of safety. The development of a specific definition of “orphan devices” is also planned.

An improved dialogue between NBs and medicines authorities, and cases where expedited review would be possible is also supported in order to speed up consultations on medical devices incorporating an ancillary medicinal substance and companion diagnostics.

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.