notified bodies Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Lessons learnt to transition from Horizon 2020 to the new FP10


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

Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023


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

Webinar: Oral Colon Drug Delivery - Design Strategies


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

The current status of the transition to the MDR and IVDR regulations

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by Giuliana Miglierini

As the term to apply for the certification of medical devices and in vitro diagnostics according to regulation 607/2023 approaches (24 May 2024), new data have been published by the European Commission on the current status of the procedures. The critical goal for all the stakeholders involved in reaching compliance with the new rules in time is to avoid the risk of seeing many products excluded from the market.

The last release of the Notified Bodies Survey on certifications and applications run under the DG SANTE’ Framework contract reports data from notified bodies (NBs) designated under MDR/ IVDR until 30 June 2023.

The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) also updated its position paperNotice to manufacturers and notified bodies to ensure timely compliance with MDR and IVDR requirements”.

The Notified Bodies Survey on certifications and applications

The Notified Bodies Survey was launched by the European Commission in December 2022 and will close in December 2025. All the 39 notified bodies included in its last release responded to the survey. The majority of them (29) are designated only under the MDR, 9 both under the MDR and IVDR and just 1 only under the IVDR.

Data for medical devices show that there are currently 22.793 total valid certificates referred to Directive 93/42/EEC (MDD) or Directive 90/385/EEC (AIMDD, on active implantable devices). The great majority of them (17.045) will expire during 2024. As for 30 June 2023, there were 13.177 applications filed to comply to the new MDR (+22% compared to October 2022), and 3.899 issued certificates (+32%).

The great part of both applications and certificates refer to devices that need to meet requirements listed in Annex IX (classes I&III and II). Many of the applications and certificates refer to the Quality Management System (QMS, 9.071 and 2.682 respectively), while product ap-plications and certificates were respectively 4.106 and 1.217. A small part of the applications (388) refers to devices incorporating a medicinal substance, thus requiring the activation of the consultation procedure with pharma regulatory authorities (57 issued certificates). The survey also indicates it takes a mean of one to three months to reach signature of the written agreement for applications filed for changes of already MDR issued certificates.

The main reasons for the refusal of the certification include the fact the application is outside the scope of the NB’s designation (47%) or is incomplete (27%). To this instance, the percentage of submissions with a completeness rate > 50% is still low (21% in June 2023, vs 31% in October 2022). The survey also indicates it takes a longer time to obtain MDR QMS + product certificates (13-18 months for 40% of NBs), compared to just the QMS certificate (6-12 months for 45% of NBs).

As for products with no intended medical purpose that fall under the scope of the MDR, the collected data show an increase of the requests to sign a written agreement for a conformity assessment procedure of an Annex XVI product. This trend is expected to continue further in 2024, as well as the estimated transit of MDD certificates for Annex XVI products to the MDR without maintaining the medical purpose for the covered devices.

As for certification applications in accordance with Annex VII section 4.3 of MDR (Application review and contract), the survey reports a total of 15.530 applications and 9.422 signed written agreements (+28% vs the results of the survey closed on 31 March 2023).

The situation for vitro diagnostics

The survey run in October 2022 showed a total of 1.551 valid IVDD certificates. In this case too, the great part of certificates will expire in 2024 (482) and 2025 (866).

The trend of applications and certificates is similar to that of medical devices, with a total of 1.155 applications received as for June 2023 (+22% compared to March 2023) and 500 granted certificates (+51%). Again, the great majority refers to products following Annex IX requirements.

As for class D devices (i.e. IVDs aimed to detect or exposed to transmissible agents which are life-threatening or have a high risk of propagation), the survey reports a total of 231 applications received by June 2023, and 62 certificates. Incomplete applications are again the main reason for refusal of certification. Times required to reach certification are also similar to those seen for medical devices.

MDCG’s amendments to the Notice to NBs and manufacturers

Revision 1 of the MDCG position paper 2022-11 is focused on the new section which calls notified bodies to streamline the certification process, and on the revision of the one referred to manufacturers to submit applications without delay.

The MDCG’s document adds further details to the above seen data from the survey. According to the Coordination Group, the actions taken to facilitate the transition and improve NBs’ capacity (MDCG 2022-14, e.g. use of hybrid audits, deferral of re-assessment of notified bodies, etc.) are showing good results.

Despite the increased number of notified bodies designated under the MDR and the IVDR (40 and 12, respectively), the MDCG highlights that data from the survey indicates limited progress for both the applications and certifications. “This shows that manufacturers tend to transfer at different times devices to be included in the same certificate. Whilst this approach is understandable, it might create issues in planning and in the capacity of notified bodies”, wrote the Coordination Group, also underlining the more worrisome situation for IVDs.

On this basis, the MDCG calls the manufacturers “to make the best possible use of the additional time provided by the amendments of the MDR and IVDR by submitting applications for conformity assessment in good time”.

The position paper also comments on the need to file complete and high-quality applications, so to avoid undue delays in the certification process, possibly before the end of 2023 as strongly recommended by notified bodies.

Manufacturers are also expected to regularly provide data on their devices, to increase transparency, improve the exchange of information on specific medical devices and support institutions and Member States in preparing for changes to product ranges.

As for notified bodies, the MDCG asks them to make the certification process more efficient, transparent, and predictable. Streamlined procedures should be the main objective, together with the need to operate in accordance with consistent, fair, and reasonable terms and conditions.

The position paper highlights the importance for notified bodies to provide regulatory guidance and technical information to manufacturers on how to apply for the conformity assessment procedure, so to avoid any issue and delay with the application and certification process.

The MDCG also recalls the importance to support small and medium size companies, and to organise structured dialogues with manufacturers as a part of the normal pre-application and conformity assessment activities. Notified bodies are also expected to regularly provide data on the progress made as for certification, capacity, and timelines for conformity assessment. To this instance, the tool suggested by the position paper would see the activation of a publicly available, common website.


Review of the pharmaceutical legislation, the proposals of the industrial associations

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The Staff Working Document on “Vulnerabilities of the global supply chains of medicines” published by the European Commission on 17 October 2022 identified several issues related to the current, often difficult situation experienced by pharmaceutical supply chains. Among these are the increasing complexity and specialisation, challenges linked to the production process and technologies, the lack of geographical diversification and other dependencies, the need to unlock the potential of data to improve supply and demand predictability, and a perceived regulatory complexity.

The same issues have been widely debated under different perspectives during recent months as a possible contribution to the current revision of the pharmaceutical legislation, a major goal of the EU Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe together with the New Industrial Strategy for Europe.

The structured dialogue with stakeholders has been the tool chosen to facilitate the interaction and exchange of opinions in order to optimise the development and implementation of the new pieces of legislation. We resume some of the latest proposals arising from the main industrial associations on how to better achieve this very challenging objective.

EFPIA proposals for action

In November 2022, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations published a report to illustrate its proposals for action to tackle shortages of medicines and to improve the efficiency and robustness of the supply chain.

Five key principles form the basis of nine operative proposals. A standard definition of a shortage and an interoperable IT European monitoring/notification system would be needed in order to build a harmonised EU prevention and mitigation system. Epidemiological data are deemed essential to better analyse patient demand, so to improve transparency in the overall supply chain by means of the European Medicines Verification System (EMVS). Targeted shortage prevention plans (SPP) should be developed to prevent the risk of shortages for critical products and to manage safety stocks on a risk-based approach. Regulatory mitigation measures for shortages would also be of help in improving flexibility. At the global level, the maintenance of global open supply chains should be the goal, supported by the strong existing EU manufacturing and R&D footprint, and where appropriate, targeted incentives for the diversification of supply chains.

The current revision of EU pharmaceutical legislation is a golden opportunity to reverse the trends of the last 25 years. It is our once-in-a-generation chance to reinvent the regulatory framework to ensure we have a modern approach that matches our ambition to be a hub of medical innovation”, writes EFPIA’s director general Nathalie Moll in a recent post, published on the association’s website.

In its Regulatory roadmap to Innovation of January 2023, EFPIA focused on how to achieve a more agile and streamlined regulatory framework, so to shorten the period needed for approval of a new active substance (currently 426 days, vs 244 days in the USA, 306 in Canada, 313 in Japan or 315 in Australia). Innovative approaches to clinical trials, including complex clinical trials (CCTs) and decentralised trials (DCTs), and the development of clear guidance on the use and regulatory acceptance of real-world data (RWD) and real-world evidence (RWE) are among the eight areas of possible immediate actions identified by EFPIA.

A dynamic regulatory assessment pathway based on early and iterative dialogue on data, international data standards and technology, and cloud-based submission modalities would support EMA and HTAs in accepting iterative data generation as part of the evaluation procedures.

As for drug-device combinations and in-vitro diagnostics, EFPIA suggests adopting an integrated EU pathway for the assessment, including the possibility for parallel advice with Notified Bodies. A clearer definition of unmet medical need would also be needed, as well as the full digitalisation of regulatory processes. A common definition of shortage coupled to the setting up of a European reporting system (possibly the already existing EMVS) would support the collection of real-time information and activation of alerts. Epidemiological data should be elaborated and released by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).

The Variation Regulation is also under review by the EU Commission. EFPIA’s proposal is to incorporate the considerations for pharmaceutical product lifecycle management set forth by the ICH Q12 guideline, and to develop a vaccine-specific annex to the Variation guideline.

EFPIA also identified four areas requiring legislative change to accelerate pharmaceutical innovation in Europe. These include the possibility to redesign EMA’s committee structure in order to speed up the efficiency of regulatory assessment and decision-making process from EMA approval to EC decision.

Expedited regulatory pathways (ERP) are still of limited use in the EU, according to EFPIA. The suggestion is to embed the PRIME scheme in the new legislation to ensure its optimal use and allocation of sufficient resources. The creation of a new legal category for drug-device combination products, to be regulated as medicinal products, would also accelerate the approval of this increasingly important type of therapeutic option.

The transition from paper leaflets to electronic product information (ePI) should be also supported within the new pharmaceutical legislation, while considering the still present difficulties that may be experienced by elders and people not having access to computers or mobile devices. A new, centralised ePI repository/database would also be needed.

Medicines for Europe, focus on access and prevention of shortages

The 2022 of Medicines for Europe (MfE), representing the generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines industry, focused its lobbying activities mainly on access to medicines and prevention/ mitigation of shortages.

The economic and geopolitical crisis highly impacted the sector, which suffers strict price caps requirements in market policies. In a recent letter to the EU institutions, Medicines for Europe highlights the possible link between the shortages of amoxicillin and amoxiclav antibiotics and the low pricing and procurement policies in place in many EU member states.

There are significant risks of more medicine shortages in 2023”, writes the association, which may be tackled by concrete policy reforms and industry commitments.

The economic model for generic medicines in Europe is identified as the structural root cause of shortages, requiring manufacturers to run their plants at the maximum capacity in order to “remain profitable as GMP rules require continuous investment in manufacturing plant upgrades”. This leaves little space to accommodate requests for increased production in order to face shortages. Other measures that, for MfE, impacted on the consolidation of supply chains and generic markets include the requests set forth by the Falsified medicines directive, as well as the Brexit, the Covid emergency and the current war scenarios.

The letter also identifies some possible short- and medium-term measures useful to mitigate the risk of shortages and improve the efficiency of the generic’s supply chains.

The first ones include the request for more regulatory flexibility for packaging, to facilitate the distribution of the available products in different member states. Clearer thresholds for nitrosamines and the need to avoid new regulations that may have a disproportionate impact on low margin medicines are also suggested. A better dialogue on immediate measures to tackle the cost of inflation on generic medicines would also be beneficial, says MfE, which also agrees on the need to better estimate demand surges on the basis of available data and epidemiological analysis.

The association of the generic and biosimilar industry shares also the importance of a rapid digitalisation of the medicines regulatory network in order to fully exploit the potential of big data. On the medium-term (2025), this may prove important to achieve objective related to the implementation of the ePI, the reduction of variations, the management of API sources, the harmonisation of packs and a better handling of requirements at national level.

Suggested actions at the legislative level include the introduction of legal guidance on the implementation of the criteria established by the Public Procurement Directive. The Transparency Directive may take example from Canada, where prices for generics varies according to the variation of the demand. A Medicine Security Act might represent the legislative tool to support investments in manufacturing diversification and greener technologies.

MfE also highlights some threats resulting from political choices such as national stockpiling requirements, that can increase costs and reduce cross-country solidarity. A preferred approach would be that of the European strategic reserve concept, based on rolling reserves. The real usefulness of joint procurement should also be better evaluated, especially with reference to OTC and other medicines directly dispensed by community pharmacies.

A note published in November 2022 focused on the still greatly unused potential of value-added medicines, a sector which according to MfE may benefit by a re-evaluation of the current innovation model, leading to a increased attention to the entire lifecycle of a medicine and on off-patent molecules. The request to the EU Commission is to fully acknowledge value added medicines in the EU pharmaceutical legislation as a separate group of medicines, with its own dedicated regulatory pathway and proportionate data exclusivity incentives.

The vision of the ATMP sector

The vision of the advanced therapies (ATMPs) sector, represented by the Alliance for Regenerative Medice (ARM), was illustrated in an event held in November 2022 at the European Parliament.

The declining competitiveness of the EU and how to ensure patients’ access to transformative treatments have been subjects of the debate. Many of the newly approved treatments fall under the ATMP categories of medicinal products (cell and gene therapies, tissue therapies), that according to ARM would require a better suited policy and regulatory framework to fully exploit their potential. “The same policies and approaches that brought us yesterday’s biomedical innovation simply will not work for the cell and gene therapies of today and tomorrow. The EU has led before — and can lead once again — but the time to act is now.” said Timothy D. Hunt, chief executive officer of ARM.

According to data by ARM, the number of ongoing industry clinical trials in Europe involving ATMPs is increasing very slowly (just 2% at the end of June 2022). More in detail, only one phase 1 study was initiated in Europe in the first half of 2022, says the association, and the region accounted for just 11% of new trials involving ATMPs and started in the same period. Many EU’s approved advanced therapies are also suffering, with 23 ATMPs withdrawn from the market. The reduced interest of the sector towards Europe is also acknowledged by the declining number of developers headquarters (-2% vs the previous five years): a trend opposite to that of North America and, especially, the Asia-Pacific region


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.


IVD regulation in force: new MDCG guidelines and criticalities for innovation in diagnostics

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new regulation on in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDR, Regulation (EU) 2017/746) entered into force on 26 May 2022. The new rules define a completely renewed framework for the development, validation and use of these important tools supporting the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, prediction, prognosis, treatment or alleviation of a disease, in line with technological advances and progress in medical science. “Diagnostic medical devices are key for lifesaving and innovative healthcare solutions. Today we are marking a big step forward for the patients and the diagnostics industry in the EU. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of accurate and safe diagnostics, and having stronger rules in place is a key element in ensuring this is the case for EU patients.”, said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

The European Commission also published a Q&A document to facilitate the comprehension of the new framework.

The main contents of the IVDR

The risk-based approach for the classification and development of in vitro diagnostics is at the core of the IVDR. There are four different classes of IVDs: class A (low individual risk and low public health risk), class B (moderate individual risk and/or low public health risk), class C (high individual risk and/or moderate public health risk) and class D (high individual risk and high public health risk). The assessment of the quality, safety and performance of IVDs by independent notified bodies shall be based on more detailed and stringent rules. Higher-risk categories will also be subject to further assessment by newly created scientific bodies acting under the auspices of the European Commission, such as the expert panels and the network of EU reference laboratories. Twelve expert panels have been established up to now.

Each single IVD will be associated to a Unique Device Identifier (UDI), so to facilitate its traceability along the entire life cycle. The identifier will also serve to locate the relevant information about a diagnostic marketed in the EU within the European database of medical devices (EUDAMED), where also a summary of safety and performance will be publicly available for medium- and high-risk devices. The database will also contain information about all economic operators and provide a repository for the certificates issued by notified bodies.

The new regulation strengthened the framework for post-marketing surveillance of IVDs, asking for a closer coordination of the vigilance activities by all member countries. The IVDR also introduced reinforced rules on clinical evidence and performance evaluation, including an EU-wide coordinated procedure for authorising multi-centre performance studies, and a specific regime for devices manufactured and used in the same health institution (in-house devices).

Difficulties in the timely implementation of the (EU) 2017/746 regulation may still be possible due to the lack of a sufficient number of notified bodies, as only seven have been designated up to now, established in only four countries (Germany, France, the Netherlands and Slovakia), while eleven other applications were pending in May 2022. To solve this issue, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 was adopted. A transition period up to May 2025 applies to devices that require a notified body certificate already under the previous Directive (around 8%, vs about 80% according to the IVDR); other classes of IVDs benefit of different transition periods (May 2025 for class D, May 2026 for class C and May 2027 for class B and A sterile).

Q&As on the interface with the Clinical Trial regulation and UDI

The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) published a Q&A document (MDCG 2022-10) to provide guidance on the interface between Regulation (EU) 536/2014 on clinical trials for medicinal products for human use (CTR) and the IVDR.

The guideline addresses the requirements for assays used in clinical trials, that may include IVDs carrying a CE mark for the intended purpose, IVDs developed in-house and devices for performance studies. Only the devices falling on the definition of an IVD with regards to their intended purpose are subject to the IVD legislation. The guideline also provides suggestions on assays likely to be considered IVDs, as they are used for medical management decisions of trial subjects within the trial.

Another Q&A guideline (MDCG 2022-7) provides clarifications on how to apply the Unique Device Identification system to both medical devices and in vitro diagnostics.

Topics covered by the document include the need for a new UDI-DI assignment in case the number of items in a device package changes or for single-use reprocessed devices, the requirement for economic operators to maintain a registry of all UDIs of the devices which they have supplied or with which they have been supplied, or the requirement of a new UDI-DI for substance-based medical devices, in case of formula quantity changes or additional claims.

The MDCG also addressed the assignment and use of the Basic UDI-DI and the determination of the ‘grouping’ for design or manufacturing characteristics, including the case of devices comprising a patient and a physician facing module, and the contents of the Declaration of Conformity (DoC). Labelling is also addressed, as well as rules for systems and procedure packs (SPPs) and configurable devices, as well as those applying to retail point of sale, promotional packs and marketing related samples.

The impact of the IVDR on innovation

The issues linked to the IVDR implementation and their impact on innovation and diagnostic laboratories, including the development and use of in-house devices, have been analysed by the BioMed Alliance In Vitro Diagnostics Task Force, and published in HemaSphere.

The Task Force identified two main challenges to be faced by the academic diagnostic sector. The first one impacts on the possibility to use in-house IVDs, based on the demonstration that no equivalent CE-IVD kit is present on the market or when the specific needs cannot be met at the appropriate level of performance by an equivalent CE-IVD. The strict exemptions applying to in-house IVDs (e.g. prohibition of transferring to other legal entities, compliance with EN ISO 15189 and justification of use, etc.) may impact also on the potential for innovation in the diagnostic sector.

The second challenge refers to the not so clearly defined boundaries between CE marked-IVDs, modified CE-IVDs, Research Use Only (RUO) tests, and in-house IVDs. The Task Force recalls the immediate applicability of the General Safety and Performance Requirements specified in Annex I of the IVDR, as they have not been included in the approved amendment of the implementation timeline.

Furthermore, only tests meeting economic viability may in the future be transferred from the academia to the industry, while rare or complex tests would probably remain excluded. According to the paper, the cost of diagnostics shall likely increase, and the academa should carefully consider how to support further research into rare or complex diagnostics in order to ensure their availability to patients.

Following the results of a survey among medical societies on current diagnostic practices, several suggestions are made to better support the implementation of the IVDR, namely by mean of the availability of diagnostic equivalents of the European Reference Networks for rare diseases and a concerted action involving all stakeholders. A joint biomarker-to-test pipeline between the IVD industry and research/academic labs would also be useful to facilitate the initial development and local application of innovative diagnostics within healthcare institutions or diagnostic reference networks with specific expertise, to then transfer them to manufacturers above a certain production volume.


Joint implementation plan for the IVDR regulation

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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 Joint implementation and preparedness plan, discussing the priority actions to be implemented and monitored at the level of member states, Commission and MDCG.

The implementation of the IVDR is highly complex, as it requires a strict coordination between all the different stakeholders, including manufacturers, notified bodies, authorised representatives and laboratories. The IVD regulation has introduced a completely new device classification system for in vitro diagnostics, as well as a greater involvement of notified bodies in conformity assessment and new regulatory structures such as the EU reference laboratories and expert panels.

The Joint implementation plan is aimed to support the harmonised implementation of the new framework, a process led by the Commission and where member states are called to ensure the new provisions are effectively applied and enforced at national level.

Ongoing actions and future goals

As of January 2022, six notified bodies were already designated and the examination of other applications is undergoing. The Unique Device Identifier system that will support the punctual tracing of the devices has also been set up, while the Eudamed database is still under development. From the regulatory perspective, a number of new common specifications are being drafted; some guidance documents are already available while others are under development.

To smooth the impact of the transition and to prevent disruption in the supply of essential IVDs, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 has established the calendar for the transition of different classes of devices, i.e. 26 May 2025 for IVDs that fall in class D under the IVDR, 2026 for class C, 2027 for class B and A sterile.

The Joint implementation plan identifies two sets of priorities to be tackled by the stakeholders, on the basis of public health’s goals, patient safety and transparency. Set A includes essential actions to enable IVDs to maintain access to the market. Set B includes the development of other new pieces of legislation and guidance documents needed to better support the transition and the designation of EU reference laboratories for high-risk IVDs.

Set A, essential actions

Contingency planning and monitoring are the first priority to be met under Set A essential actions, in order to anticipate possible risks of IVDs’ shortages arising from the transition to the new framework. The MDCG will closely follow this process to monitor its progress and identify systemic risks and mitigation actions, with a particular attention to the availability of particularly critical IVDs.

Regular updates are also expected from the industry and notified bodies to inform member states and the Commission about the need of specific actions. This type of activity would also support the identification of barriers that could result in shortages of devices, e.g. with reference to the designation of notified bodies or the certification process. Stakeholders are also requested to be ready to manage some uncertainty in areas where guidance is still not available, thus requiring the provision of sound justifications to maintain critical IVDs on the market.

The second highest priority is the availability of a sufficient number of notified bodies to support the expected very high volume of applications for the certification of medium and high-risk IVDs. The plan indicates the need to make available national experts for the joint assessment of notified bodies. Member states should also address the need to improve the notified body capacity, discussing this issue within the MDCG and its specialised working groups as well as with the Commission. According to the Joint plan, the percentage of IVDs requiring certification under the new IVDR will rise up to 80-90%, from approx. 10% devices requiring involvement of a notified body under Directive 98/79/EC.

To facilitate this part of the transition, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 establishes that certificates issued under the Directive 98/79/EC are valid, under certain conditions, until May 2025. Renewals of existing certificates by a set of nineteen notified bodies designated under the current Directive is possibile, if necessary, up to 26 May 2022.

The plan also takes into consideration the possible occurrence of new Covid-19 restrictions, that may highly impact the work of the notified bodies (for example, due to the need to run first-time audits of many manufacturers). The Commission and the MDCG are thus called to consider how notified bodies can perform conformity assessment activities in such circumstances.

Set B, high priority actions

Actions included in set B are not essential for manufacturers to market their IVDs, but their implementation would support a smoother transition.

The EU reference laboratories are a new type of independent scientific body designated by the Commission to carry out additional tests on the performance and compliance with any common specifications of class D devices, before placing them on the market. If the Commission would not designate a EU reference laboratory for a particular device in class D, those requirements are not applicable. According to the Joint plan, a call for application to member states and the Joint Research Centre shall be issued by the Commission to nominate candidate laboratories. New implanting acts on tasks and criteria and on fees to be levied by the EU reference laboratories are also expected.

According to the IVDR, the adoption of common specifications (CS) is optional; nevertheless, the Joint plan indicates the intention of the Commission to propose some sets of common specifi cations and reach an agreement on the text that should enter the first adoption round. This should also lead to the adoption of the first implementing act containing the common specifications. This round should include common specifications relative to Kidd and Duffy blood grouping, Chagas and syphilis, and cytomegalovirus/Epstein-Barr virus devices, for which the drafting process is at an advanced phase.

New common specifications should be targeted to class D devices and will be developed by the IVD sub-group of the MDCG. Already existing CS under the old Directive should be transposed without major modifications.

A new implementing act on the MDR/IVDR standardisation request should be adopted by the Commission and accepted by relevant bodies (CEN/Cenelec). The Commission should also adopt the implementing acts on the publication in the Official Journal of references of harmonised European standards in support of the IVDR requirements.

Set B of actions include also the drafting and endorsement of a guidance on notified body designation codes, as well as of guidance on batch testing for notified bodies. New guidance may be also developed on significant changes and on appropriate surveillance, as referred to in Article 110(3) of IVDR. The MDCG should also complete the issuing of a new guidance on clinical evidence for IVDs, which is part of the documents needed to support the evaluation of the devices’ performances and the work of expert panels.

To this instance, the plan also indicates the need for a clarification on what constitutes a “type of device” and on the process to be followed by notified bodies in context of views of the expert panel. A template for summary of safety and performance should be also released, together with a template for the application/notification of performance studies. The issuing of an IVDR-specific guidance on harmonised administrative practices and alternative technical solutions until Eudamed is fully functional is also planned.

The joint plan also includes sections on actions required in the field of companion diagnostics, legacy devices and in-house devices.