marketing authorisation 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

Environmental sustainability: the EIPG perspective

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Piero Iamartino

Although the impact of medicines on the environment has been highlighted since the 70s of the last century with the emergence of the first reports of pollution in surface waters, it is only since the beginning of the 2000s that specific regulatory interventions have been designed to promote the identification of the different sources of pollution and the determination of possible actions to be taken.

The obligation to submit the result of an environmental risk assessment of a medicinal product at the same time as the application for marketing authorisation was introduced only after the publication of the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) guideline issued by EMA in 2006, which sets out the guidelines and describes a series of standard tests to be performed. However, this first piece of legislation immediately highlighted limitations as it was applied only to the marketing of medicines from that moment on, without considering the contribution of medicines with the same active ingredient and neglecting the evaluation of those already authorised and on the market.

Over the following years, the problem of the environmental impact of medicines was tackled more extensively with the launch of several projects promoted by the European Commission in partnership with the EFPIA (IMI: Chem21, iPiE and Premier) which have deepened the characterisation of environmental risks, with the identification of priority criteria to be assigned to interventions and the development of models and tools to measure the sustainability of the processes of manufacture, in particular of active substances.

These important projects in recent years have been added to the initiatives undertaken at the European level with the publication in 2020 of the new European pharmaceutical strategy which defines some specific objectives for the mitigation of the environmental impact of medicines that will be reflected in the upcoming revision of European pharmaceutical legislation and which are part of the broader regulatory acts for the ecological transition envisaged by the Green Deal European.

In light of the above, a gradual transformation of some processes and operating methods carried out by the European pharmaceutical industry is envisaged, starting from the development of a new medicinal product to its distribution and, similarly, adequate regulatory interventions will have to be envisaged on the management of the correct use and disposal of medicinal products since the environmental impact of this last phase of the life cycle of a medicinal product is predominant.

Although these changes involve all professionals working in the pharmaceutical industry, a key role is played by the industrial pharmacist who, due to his professional profile dictated by his university curriculum, has the fundamental knowledge bases to occupy different positions in the industry, covering the entire path of medicine from its conception and manufacture as an active ingredient, its development as a medicinal product and its distribution on the market.

With this in mind, EIPG has started the preparation of a document that analyses the main critical areas of the entire production process of a medicinal product and sets out its position on the interventions considered a priority in a perspective of changes that will lead to the inclusion of new methods alternative material resources and will require new skills.

The first critical area examined is the manufacture of the active ingredient, both for its impact as such on the environment and for the process applied to its manufacture. The problem is particularly relevant for small molecules, while it is substantially insignificant for large molecules and even less so for products based on the use of cellular tissues or biological structures (ATMPs). The fundamental parameters to be considered are the environmental toxicity and the bio-degradability of the product. The problem is how to reconcile these two parameters with the chemical-physical and biopharmaceutical characteristics that an active ingredient must possess to be administered, absorbed and then carry out the desired pharmacological activity. The effort required in the design and screening phase of a new small molecule is the identification of a structural parameter that makes it more eco-friendly without compromising its purpose. Although this criticality does not arise in the case of large molecules and ATMPs, for these active ingredients the environmental impact due to higher energy consumption attributable to the need for low-temperature storage conditions may prevail.

About the production process of small molecules, which today still represent the largest percentage of active ingredients in development and on the market, it is essential to definitively introduce the application of the principles of Green Chemistry, as highlighted by the most recent studies (IMI Premier Project). The prospect is that of a progressive change in the synthesis processes with the use of reagents and less toxic solvents that are entirely recyclable and reusable, as well as the development of a synthesis route that allows the least number of operations, generating the least amount of waste and maintaining the best possible efficiency. It is desirable to increase biocatalysis processes as well as the introduction of more incisive treatments in the management of industrial wastewater to accentuate chemical degradation before their transfer to eternity.

A second large critical area where important changes are expected is the manufacturing processes of the medicine from the active substance to its availability for distribution on the market. Also in this area, interventions can be identified to optimize the use of the resources used, with particular reference to energy consumption and the use of water. These two parameters are already the subject of numerous studies for the development of new energy containment processes with the introduction of innovative plant solutions, and further improvements are expected considering the benefits that derive from them in terms of efficiency and therefore costs.

Among the parameters closely linked to the medicinal product that shows a significant environmental impact, attention must be paid to the packaging materials used in the pharmaceutical industry. A priority intervention must focus on certain widely used plastic materials that are difficult to dispose of and not recyclable, identifying alternative materials with the consequent need to study their compatibility with the medicinal product, especially if used in direct contact, and their impact on the stability profile of the same, as required by the reference standards. Other objectives should be the choice of secondary packaging materials that can be easily recycled by the end user, as well as the reduction of their volume, also favoured by the digitization of the information materials related to them. The implementation of these interventions will require adjustments both to the packaging lines used in the pharmaceutical industry and to the alternative ways of managing products in the transport and distribution phase, with a marked increase in studies for the reuse of packaging materials in line with the principles of the circular economy.

The prospects of the expected changes in the path from the active substance to the medicine will have to be accompanied by an assessment of the possibilities of intervening in the supply chain used by the pharmaceutical industry involving suppliers of active ingredients, materials and medicines. The regulatory guidelines and commitments on actions to improve environmental sustainability will require a progressive review in the management and evaluation of suppliers according to their ability to apply the ecosustainability criteria of their processes, giving preference to those who take this path.

The above analysis, limited to the areas of greatest environmental criticality, highlights the transformations that are expected in the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years with the implementation of the provisions that will be progressively adopted at the European level. We think there should be good coordination between the impositions for environmental sustainability and the need to adhere to pharmaceutical regulatory requirements to facilitate the implementation of changes. This coordination is essential as innovation will be the guiding criterion for the introduction of the required changes to meet the sustainability objectives.


The new Annex 21 to GMPs

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new Annex 21 to GMPs (C(2022) 843 final) that EIPG gave a significant contribution in reviewing the original draft and thoroughly presented it within a webinar to its members on August 2020, was published by the European Commission on 16 February 2022; the document provides a guideline on the import of medicinal products from extra-EU countries. The new annex will entry into force six months after its publication, on 21 August 2022. Its contents should be read in parallel with the EU Guide to Good Manufacturing Practice for Medicinal Products and its other annexes, those requirements continue to apply as appropriate.

Annex 21 details the GMP requirements referred to human, investigational and/or veterinary medicinal products imported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) by holders of a Manufacturing Import Authorisation (MIA). The new Annex does not apply to medicinal products entering the EU/EEA for export only, as they do not undergo any process or release aimed to place them on the internal market. Fiscal transactions are also not considered as a part of the new annex.

The main principles

According to Annex 21, once a batch of a medicinal product has been physically imported in a EU/EEA country, including clearance by the custom authority of the entrance territory, it is subject to the Qualified Person (QP) certification or confirmation. Manufacturing operations in accordance with the marketing authorisation or clinical trial authorisation can be run on imported bulk and intermediate products prior to the QP certification/confirmation. To this regard, all importation responsibilities for both medicinal products and bulks/intermediates must be carried out at specific sites authorised under a MIA. These include the site of physical importation and the site of QP certification (for imported medicinal products) or QP confirmation (for bulk or intermediate products undergoing further processing).

Marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) for imported products authorised in the EU remain in any case the sole responsible for placing the products in the European/EEA market. Annex 21 requires sites responsible for QP certification to verify an ongoing stability program is in place at the third country site where manufacturing is performed. This last one has to transmit to the QP all the information needed to verify the ongoing product quality, and relevant documentation (i.e. protocols, results and reports) should be available for inspection at the site responsible for QP certification. QP’s responsibilities also extend to the verification that reference and retention samples are available in accordance to Annex 19 of the GMPs, and that safety features are placed on the packaging, if required.

Importation sites should be adequately organised and equipped to ensure the proper performance of activities on imported products. More specifically, a segregated quarantine area should be available to store the incoming products until the occurrence of release for further processing or QP certification/confirmation.

European GMP rules or equivalent standards shall be followed for the manufacturing of medicinal products in third countries due to be imported in the EU. The manufacturing process has to comply to the one described in the Marketing Authorisation (MA), the clinical trial authorization (CTA) and the relevant quality agreement in place between the MAH and the manufacturer. The respect of EU GMP rules or equivalent standards should be documented through regular monitoring and periodic on-site audits of the third country manufacturing sites, to be implemented by the site responsible for QP certification or by a third party on its behalf.

The QP of the importation site is also responsible for the verification of testing requirements, in order to confirm the compliance of the imported products to the authorised specifications detailed in the MA. The verification of testing requirements can be avoided only in the case a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) or an Agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products (ACAA) is in place between the European Union and the third country where the production of the medicinal product is located.

All agreements between the different entities involved in the manufacturing and importation process, including the MAH and/or sponsor, should be in the written form, as indicated by Chapter 7 of the EU GMP Guide.

The Pharmaceutical Quality System of the importing site

According to the European legislation (Chapter 1 of the EU GMP Guide), all activities performed in the EU with reference to the manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical products should fall under to umbrella of the company’s Pharmaceutical Quality System (PQS). This is also true for sites involved with importation activities, those PQS should reflect the scope of the activities carried out. A specific procedure should be established to manage complaints, quality defects and product recalls.

More in detail, the new Annex 21 establishes that sites responsible for QP certification of imported products (including the case of further processing before export with the exception of investigational medicinal products) have to run periodic Product Quality Reviews (PQR). In this case too, the respective responsibilities of the parties involved in compiling the Reviews should be specified by written agreements. Should the sampling of the imported product be conducted in a third country (in accordance with Annex 16 of the GMPs), the the PQR should also include an assessment of the basis for continued reliance on the sampling practice. A review of deviations encountered during transportation up to the point of batch certification should be also available, and a comparison should be run to assess the correspondence of analytical results from importation testing with those listed by the Certificate of Analysis generated by the third country manufacturer.

Full documentation available at MIA sites

The QP’s certification/confirmation step for an imported batch has to be paralleled by the availability of the full batch documentation at the corresponding MIA holder’s site; in case of need, this site may also have access to documents supporting batch certification, according to Annex 16. Other MIA holders involved in the process may access batch documentation for their respective needs and responsibilities, as detailed in the written agreements. A risk assessment is needed to justify the frequency for the review of the full batch documentation at the site responsible for QP certification/confirmation; the so established periodicity should be included in the PQS.

Annex 21 also lists the type of documents that should be available at the importation sites, including the details of transportation and receipt of the product, and relevant ordering and delivery documentation. This last one should specify the site of origin of the product, the one of physical importation and shipping details (including transportation route, temperature monitoring records, and customs documentation). Appropriate documentation should be also available to confirm reconciliation of the quantities of batches which underwent subdivision and were imported separately.

Requirements set forth in Chapter 4 of the GMPs apply to the retention of the documentation; the availability at the third country manufacturing site of an adequate record retention policy equivalent to EU requirements shall be assessed by the site responsible for QP certification. Should it be appropriate, translations of original documents and certificates should be provided to improve understanding.


Steps towards the final approval of the IP action plan

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The end of 2021 may see the final approval of many pieces of the new legislative framework announced in November 2020 by the European Commission. An important piece of this puzzle is represented by the IP Action Plan, governing the protection of intellectual property (IP); a step forward in this direction is represented by the resolution of 11 November 2021 on the Own-initiative report of the European Parliament.

The final text licensed in single reading is the result of the examination of the initial draft report – issued in May 2020 by the Committee for Legal Affairs, rapporteur Marion Walsmann – by several other Committees (IMCO, DEVE, CULT, AGRI).

The main points of the resolution

The resolution recognises the importance for the European economy of a balanced protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR). In years 2012-2016, the knowledge-intensive industries generated almost 30% of all jobs and almost 45% of total economic activity (in terms of Gross Domestic Product, GDP) in the EU; the IPR-intensive industries account for 93% of total EU exports of goods.

Europe’s recovery and resilience capacity is also highly impacted, as demonstrated by the pandemic when shortages of certain medicinal products and vaccines occurred. The EU Parliament acknowledges the role played by intellectual property in increasing the overall value of companies,especially the small-and-medium size ones (SMEs).

A current limitation to IP protection in Europe is represented by the still fragmented situation across different member states, which often leads to parallel national validation procedures and litigation for European patents. To this instance, the Parliament suggests the establishment of an IP coordinator at European level, to harmonise the approach to EU IP policy and enhance cooperation between the different bodies involved in the process (i.e. national IP authorities, Commission Directorates-General, EPO, EUIPO, WIPO, etc).

The Parliament also recognised the role IP plays in the pharmaceutical sector, where the availability of incentives greatly favours the development of new and innovative treatments. The resolution asks the Commission to support the innovative potential of European companies “on the basis of a comprehensive IP regime”, so to guarantee effective protection for R&D investments and favour fair returns through licensing. The availability of open technology standards has been valued as an important competitive element on the wider, global scenario.

Many different types of incentives are suggested by the Parliament’s resolution as useful to support micro-enterprises and SMEs in filing and managing their intellectual property, including IP vouchers, IP Scan and other Commission and EUIPO initiatives to support simple registration procedures and low administrative fees. The newly created European IP Information Centre may represents a fundamental reference point to increase knowledge in the field. The Parliament also suggests to introducing an EU-level utility model protection, not yet available, as a possible fast and low-cost protection tool to protect technical inventions.

Unitary patents and improved market competition

Still missing members states are urged to adhere to the enhanced cooperation scheme for the creation of a Unitary Patent Protection (UPP) and to ratify the Protocol to the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on provisional application (PPA). The activation of this unique Court in charge of the examination of litigations would allow for a more efficient process and for lowering legal costs and improving legal certainty.

Fragmentation remains an issue also with respect to Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs): to this instance, the resolution asks the Commission to issue guidelines for member states and to provide a legislative proposal based on an exhaustive impact assessment. A major criticality to be solved is represented by the unitary patent not providing a unique SPC title valid across the EU; the own-initiative report also suggests the extension of the EPO’s mandate, so that examination of SPC applications could be carried out on the basis of unified rules.

Other important points needing attention to improve the presence of generic and biosimilar medicines in the EU are the abuse of divisional patent applications and patent linkage, which should also see an intervention by the Commission. The Parliament also opened the possibility of a revision of the Bolar exemption, which allows clinical trials on patented products needed to reach marketing authorisation of a generic or biosimilar version not to be regarded as infringements of patent rights or SPCs. This may also support the immediate market entry after the expiration of patent rights and SPCs. The Commission is called also to ensure the effectiveness and better coordination of compulsory licensing in order to provide access to medicines needed in case of health emergencies.

The resolution also addresses the theme of standard essential patents, which currently often leads to litigations, and it calls for the revision of the 20-years old system for design protection. Transparency on results obtained from publicly funded R&D is also recommended. The Parliament suggests artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies may play an important role in tackling counterfeiting practices and guarantee traceability of goods, as they may contribute to a better enforcement of intellectual property rights along the whole supply chain. The Commission should also work to establish clearer criteria for the protection of inventions created by the AI, without human intervention.

Comments from the industry

The European Parliament has clearly voted for a strong and fair IP system by underlining the importance of timely generic and biosimilar medicine competition. The misuse of divisional patents, the need to enlarge the scope of bolar to include API and all regulatory and administrative steps, and the long overdue ban anti-competitive patent linkage are well known problems that the Commission should address in the IP Action Plan. The Parliament has voted; the Commission must act.”, said Adrian van den Hoven, Director General at Medicines for Europe.

A major point in the implementation of the new European policies is represented by the review the Commission is going to conduct in 2024 to assess the effective achievement of goals of the SPC manufacturing waiver, which entered into force in July 2019 and is expected to start producing effects in the second half of 2022.

Many of the themes discussed in the Parliament’s resolution were debated during a webinar organized by Medicines for Europe, with the participation of representatives from the European Commission and the European Patent Office.

EFPIA, representing the innovator pharmaceutical industry, focused its attention on the impact of past EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on drug spending, timing of countries’ access to new medicines after global launch, investments overall and in pharmaceuticals, and clinical trial participation. A report by IQVIA published in the Federation’s website addresses the impact of IP protection on these elements. Results confirm the central role of the pharmaceutical sector as the most R&D intensive industry in the world, with R&D spending averaging over 15% of revenue. A strong IP protection framework available at the level of EU FTAs favours the attractiveness for investments in the EU and its FTA partner countries. According to the report, an expanded IP protection appears not to be linked to the generation of a higher pharmaceutical spending; drugs’ share of healthcare spending is claimed to stay flat or fall after an FTA, and prices for medicines to rise more slowly than the level of inflation. A stronger IP index, adds IQVIA, is also correlated with increased clinical trial activity in a country, bringing both clinical and economic benefits.