manufacturing site Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

PIC/S Annual Report 2021

by Giuliana Miglierini The Annual Report of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC/S) resumes the many activities and results achieved in 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic that required remote coordination and on-line virtual meetings. To this regard, a written procedure Read more

Joint implementation plan for the IVDR regulation

by Giuliana Miglierini Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (IVDR), establishing the new legislative framework for in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs), will entry into force on 26 May 2022. The Medical Device Coordination Group (MDCG) has published an updated version of the Read more

Key issues in technical due diligences

by Giuliana Miglierini Financial due diligence is a central theme when discussing mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Not less important for the determination of the fair value of the deal and the actual possibility to integrate the businesses are technical due Read more

Revision of the PIC/S GMP Guide: Annex 13 and Annex 16

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

The entry into force of EU Regulation 536/2014 “Clinical trials”, at the end of January, resulted in the parallel updating of some international guidelines. In particular, a new version of the GMP Guide PE016 was published by PIC/S (Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme) on 1st February 2022. The revision included Annex 13 on the manufacturing of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMPs), and the new Annex 16 on the certification and batch release to be performed by Authorised Persons (AP) (click here to access all PIC/S guidance related to GMP). The revision of PIC/s guidelines is aimed to reflect the last changes occurred in the corresponding EMA documents, so to maintain the alignment between the two regulatory references (as established by the cooperation agreement between EMA and PIC/S). PIC/S has invited all non- EEA Participating Authorities and applicants to transpose the new Annexes 13 and 16 into their own GMP Guides.

The new Annex 16

Annex 16 represents a completely new addition to the PIC/S GMP guide; the EU Annex 16 (part of the EU GMP Guide) was initially considered to be too EU-specific and difficult to transpose for PIC/S purposes. Following a consultation in 2017, PIC/S Participating Authorities agreed to make an attempt to transpose EU Annex 16, as the adaptation may support a better harmonisation of GMP standards at the international level.

Annex 16 refers to both human and veterinary medicinal products which are subject to the PIC/S Participating Authority or are made for export. Furthermore, the Annex applies to investigational medicinal products for human use, “subject to any difference in the legal provisions and more specific guidance published by PIC/S Participating Authorities under national law”. With reference to imported medicinal products, each PIC/S Participating Authority may independently and voluntary decide whether to adopt the guidance as a legally-binding standard.

Certain types of medicinal products (e.g. blood and immunological products) are not addressed by the Annex, as they are regulated by national laws and fall under the competences of National authorities; to this instance, Annex 16 applies to the certification process performed by the AP and to the subsequent release of the batches.

The marketing authorisation holder (MAH) remains the sole responsible for the safety, quality and efficacy of the marketed products. Authorised Persons are required to check each single batch to verify compliance to national and GMP requirements, as well as to those detailed within the marketing authorisation (MA). After certification by the AP, batches of finished products can be transferred to saleable stock and/or export. Specific and documented agreements are needed should this require transfer to a site different from the certification’s one. Authorised Persons should be clearly identifiable, with reference to any quality defect leading to investigation or batch recall. APs certifying the release of the finished product are responsible for verifying the conditions of storage and transport for the batch and the sample, if sent separately, and of all testing required upon importation (including sampling, where needed).

A formal Quality Risk Management (QRM) process is required when sampling is performed at a manufacturing site located in another jurisdiction; Annex 16 provides detailed guidance on the elements to be considered in this exercise. Documentation of the continuous training received by the AP in charge of certification and batch release should be always available, with specific reference to the product type, production processes, technical advances and changes to GMP.

Annex 16 provides detailed guidance on how to conduct the process of certification of each batch of finished product, independently of the number of sites involved. With reference to specific manufacturing or control steps performed at different sites, their respective AP has to provide confirmation of the performed activities, sharing responsibilities with the AP in charge of the final batch release.

The certification process should take into consideration the entire supply chain of both the active substance and the finished product, including manufacturing sites of the starting and packaging materials. The AP responsible for certification should be able to access results of the audits performed at the sites involved, in order to check the consistency of all activities with those described in the MA and within GMPs. Audits run by third parties should reflect requirements set forth in Chapter 7 of the PIC/S GMP Guide.

In particular, suppliers of active substances should comply with GMP and GDP requirements relating to the supply of the active ingredient used to the finished product manufacturing. Excipients should also fulfil GMP requirements, and be possibly manufactured and supplied in accordance with the PI 045-1 guideline. Specific guidance may also apply for other types of products, i.e. biological active substances and medicinal products for human use or radiopharmaceuticals. Annex 16 provides templates for the confirmation letters to be used for the partial manufacturing of a medicinal product and for the content of Batch Certificates.

The revision of Annex 13

Annex 13 has been revised in order to reflect the contents of the new EU Regulation n. 536/2014 on clinical trials, which will replace EU Annex 13. PIC/S Annex 13 discusses the manufacturing of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMP), apart from the reconstitution phase, which is not considered to be part of the process. Provisions set forth by Annex 13 should be taken into consideration with reference to the re-labelling or re-packaging of IMPs and to the preparation of radiopharmaceuticals used as diagnostic investigational medicinal products, occurring in hospitals, health centres or clinics and performed by pharmacists or other persons legally authorised in the country concerned.

All activities should refer to an appropriate Pharmaceutical Quality System to be in place, according to requirements set forth in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the PIC/S GMP Guide.

 The characteristics of IMPs may intrinsically evolve along the development process, as new data become available that may require changes to, for example, the formulation or the dosage form. This has to be reflected into the respective product specifications and manufacturing instructions, that should also evolve in parallel and be fully traceable and documented. Annex 13 indicates that all deviations should be registered and investigated, and preventive and corrective actions put in place. The new Annex provides detailed guidance on the different items to be considered within the product specification file, as well as for the proper management of personnel, premises and equipment.

All the documentation generated during the clinical development phases should fulfil requirements specified by the PIC/S GMP Guide, Part I, Chapter 4. To this instance, relevant documentation includes specifications and instructions, orders, manufacturing formulae and processing instructions, packaging instructions and batch records. Detailed guidance is provided also for production, including packaging materials and manufacturing operations, the modification of comparator products, blinding operations, and the packaging and labelling of the IMP. Annex 13 also offers guidance on how to perform quality control and batch release, and how to address outsourced operations, complaints and recalls and or the destruction of batches of IMP products.

ICMRA published a Reflection paper on remote inspections

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.