patient recruitment Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

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


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 Read more

The new MHRA’s framework for clinical studies

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The repositioning of the United Kingdom as a global leader for clinical development of medicinal products can now benefit of the complete renewal of the framework regulating clinical studies run in the country. Announced in March 2023 by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the new set of measures represents the deepest reform of the sector in the last 20 years. The new package is based upon results of the public consultation run in Q1 2022 in partnership with the Health Research Authority (HRA) and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which collected more than 2,000 responses.

As stated in the foreword of the final document, which details the government’s consideration of responses to individual questions, the main objective of the reform is for the UK to capitalise on the opportunity offered by the country’s new position in the global clinical trial landscape. Furthermore, it represents just the initial step of UK’s new regulatory approach, which may include for example a wider use of real-world evidence, novel analytics and data tools. International collaborations are also deemed important, e.g. with the FDA’s Project Orbis and the Access Consortium (Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland) and the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals of Human Use.

Our world-first Covid-19 approvals showed how important it is to ensure that regulation is flexible and agile. This overhaul of the clinical trials legislation will do just this – it will move us away from a one-size-fits-all approach to the regulation of clinical trials and help to streamline approvals by removing granular and duplicative regulatory requirements”, said MHRA Chief Science and Innovation Officer Marc Bailey.

According to the Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay, the reform will make the UK more attractive for scientists and researchers. “These changes will help speed up clinical trials, without compromising on safety, and encourage the development of new and better medicines for patients. They come after the government announced additional funding of £10 million for the MHRA to accelerate the delivery of cutting-edge treatments including cancer vaccines”, he said.

The main goals of the reform

Patients are central to the UK’s reform of clinical trials. While efficacy and safety of new medicines under development remain the main target, great attention should be paid to reduce health disparities. To this instance, the MHRA announced the issuing of new guidance on how to ensure diversity of participants enrolled in trials, so to overcome imposed targets or arbitrary quotas. The improved attention to diversity would also support the delivery of trial results more adherent to the effective prevalence and clinical need across the population.

Flexibility and proportionality of the regulatory environment is another key objective of the reform. According to the final document, regulatory requirements should adapt to the current risk of the trial, and researcher should become subject to an overarching duty to consider proportionate approaches to clinical development.

Simplification of regulatory procedures is also expected, for example in the case of studies characterised by a risk similar to that of standard medical care. In this instance, regulatory review of the study protocol should not be needed anymore, substituted by simple “notification scheme” to enable approval.

As said, the attractiveness of the UK as a leading destination for international trials should be supported by streamlined and efficient application processes. This goal should include a new legislative action to integrate the regulatory and ethics reviews of clinical trial applications. Results from a pilot phase will be taken into consideration, as they proved possible to halve the approval times and cut the time from application to recruiting a first patient by 40 days.

All activities relating to clinical development should reflect the ICH Good Clinical Practice (GCP) principles for trial conduct. Regulatory timelines for approval are expected to compete at the international level, so to encourage sponsors to choose the UK as the preferred site to conduct multinational trials. According to the MHRA, the review of an application should take a maximum of 30 days in general, with a maximum of 10 calendar days for a decision to be granted once the regulator has received any final information. As for GCPs, compliance should also extend to service providers of electronic systems that may impact on patient safety.

Sponsors should also benefit from greater flexibility to respond to questions raised by regulators. In particular, the reform aims to amend the Request for Information (RFI) receipt, so that the sponsor has access to RFIs as they are ready rather than waiting for all requests to be made together.

The reform takes in consideration also the possible impact of incoming innovation, for example different types of trials and innovative study designs (e.g. decentralised trials). New guidance should be provided to set out specific details, thus avoiding any duplication. Guidance should be also provided on how to involve patients; family members or carers having a direct experience of the health problem in the design and conduct of a trial.

Transparency of the entire process should be supported by the compulsory registration of the trial in a World Health Organisation public register. A summary of results should also be published within 12 months of the end of the trial, and trial findings should be mandatory shared with trial participants.

Comments from the industry

We welcome the MHRA and HRA’s commitment to work with our industry to codevelop new regulatory guidance and their pragmatic approach to patient & public involvement and trial diversity. We look forward to working with them to make the UK an attractive destination for clinical trials.”, said Richard Torbett, ABPI Chief Executive.

On 19 May, ABPI further commented from is blog the current situation of clinical development in the UK. According to the association representing the British pharmaceutical industry, enrolment to industry trials decreased by 44% between 2017 and 2021, while UK’s global ranking for phase III trials dropped to the 10th place (from the previous 4th). ABPI also reports revenues and cost savings to NHS England from life sciences companies of more than £10,000 for every patient recruited onto an industry clinical trial between 2016 and 2018.

In view of the release of the independent review commissioned by the government to former innovation minister Lord O’Shaughnessy, ABPI has identified three main steps necessary to support the international competitiveness of UK’s clinical trials sector.

Rapid and smooth regulatory procedures are at the first place, with the request not to delay from the 60 days target for combined regulatory and ethics review, comprehensive of the administrative processes of costing and contracting a clinical trial. Early scientific and regulatory advice and sufficient resources for the MHRA to clear the current backlogs and codevelop new regulatory guidance would be also important.

ABPI also highlights the often-experienced difficulty in recruiting a sufficient number of patients. The suggestion for the government is to take inspiration from UK’s leading position in early-phase (phase I) industry trials in order to improve investment in late-phase trial infrastructure. To this instance, health real-world data may prove important to support the search for eligible patients in a larger population.

According to the industrial representative, the UK is also lacking a nationwide clinical research dashboard to describe its performance in clinical research to global sponsors. This should include metrics on volume, speed, quality, impact, and innovation.


ACT EU’s Workplan 2022-2026

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The implementation phase of the Accelerating Clinical Trials in the EU (ACT EU) initiative, launched in January 2022 by the European Commission, started with the publication of the2022-2026 Workplan jointly drafted by the Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA).

The final target is to renew how clinical trials are designed and managed, so to improve the attractiveness of Europe for clinical research and the integration of results in the current practice of the European health system.

The 2022-2026 Workplan details the actions and deliverables planned according to the ten priorities identified by ACT EU. The drafting of the document took as primary reference also the recommendations of the European Medicines Regulatory Network (EMRN) strategy to 2025 and the European Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe.

Steps towards the full implementation of the CTR

The first priority of action should see the completion by the end of 2022 of the mapping of already existing initiatives within the EMRN and ethics infrastructure. This exercise represents a fundamental step to achieve a detailed picture of the current clinical trials regulatory landscape, characterised by the presence of various expert groups working in different areas.

The results of the mapping will form the basis to plan and implement a new strategy for the governance of the entire framework governing clinical trials, including the clarification of roles and responsibilities to the Network and its stakeholders. The expected outcome is the rationalisation and better coordination of the work done by different expert groups and working parties, as reflected by a new regulatory network responsibility assignment (RACI) matrix. The analysis and setting up of the new framework should start from the core governance bodies (Clinical Trials Coordination and Advisory Group (CTAG), Clinical Trials Coordination Group (CTCG), Commission Expert Group on Clinical Trials (CTEG) and Good Clinical Practice Inspectors Working Group (GCP IWG)), to then extend to other parts of the Network further.

The full implementation of the Clinical Trials regulation (Reg. (EU) 536/2014) by mean of the launch of monthly KPIs tracking of the planned activities is another key action. A survey to identify issues for sponsors and the consequent implementation of a process to prioritise and solve them are planned for the second half of 2022. The beginning of 2023 should see the launch of a scheme to better support large multinational clinical trials, particularly those run in the academic setting. One year later, at the beginning of 2024, a one-stop shop to support academic sponsors should also be launched.

An important action for the success of ACT EU should see the creation of a multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) to enable the interaction and regular dialogue of the many different stakeholders working in the field of clinical trials under different perspectives, both at the European and member state level. The platform should be launched by Q2 2023, with the first events run under its umbrella planned for Q3 and is expected to help in the identification of key advances in clinical trial methods, technology, and science.

Methodological updates in clinical trials

Another key step in the renewal of the European framework for clinical trials is linked to the updating of the ICH E6(R2) guideline on “Good Clinical Practice” (GCP). A targeted multi-stakeholder workshop on this theme is planned for Q1 2023, while the resulting changes should be implemented in EU guidance documents by Q3 2023. New GCPs should take into better consideration the emerging designs for clinical trials and the availability of new sources for data and are expected to “provide flexibility when appropriate to facilitate the use of technological innovations in clinical trials”. This action also includes the development of a communication and change management strategy to support the transition to the revised GCP guideline, and the updating of other relevant EU guidelines impacted by the change.

The opportunity to introduce innovative clinical trial designs and methodologies shall be addressed starting from decentralised clinical trials (DCT), with the publication of a DCT recommendation paper by the end of 2022. A workshop on complex clinical trials should be also organized to discuss issues linked to study design, such us umbrella trials and basket trials or master protocols. New technologies may support innovative approaches to the recruitment of eligible study participants and new ways to capture data during clinical trials. The publication of key methodologies guidance is an expected deliverable, together with a improved link between innovation and scientific advice.

A new EU clinical trials data analytics strategy is expected to be published by the end of 2022, while the first half of next year should see the development of a publicly accessible EU clinical trials dashboard and a workshop to identify topics of common interest for researchers, policy makers, and funders. These activities are targeted to fully exploit the opportunities offered by data analytics, so to identify complex trends from the large base of data about clinical trials collected by the EMRN. The existence of multiple data sources is a main barrier currently affecting the possibility to access, process and interpret these data.

Another priority is to plan and launch a targeted communication campaign to engage all enablers of clinical trials, including data protection experts, academia, SMEs, funders, Health Technology Assessment (HTA) bodies and healthcare professionals. Up to 2024, this action will also support sponsors in remembering the importance of training linked to the application of the CTR and the mandatory use of the Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS). All other communication needs across all priority actions will also be handled under this action.

Scientific advice, safety monitoring and harmonised training

The current framework sees the involvement of different actors who interact with sponsors at different stages of product development to provide them with scientific advice. A simplification of the overall process should be pursued by grouping of key actors in clinical trials scientific advice in the EU, “with the aim of critically analysing the existing landscape in line with stakeholder needs”. The Workplan indicates several pilot phases should be run to identify the better way to address this topic, which should benefit especially academic or SMEs sponsors that may have less experience of regulatory processes. Planned activities include a enhanced intra-network information exchange, the running of a survey among stakeholders and the operation of a first pilot phase by Q4 2024, to then optimise and expand the advice process upon results.

The establishment of clinical trial safety monitoring is another central theme of action, that should see member states involved in a coordinated work-sharing assessment. Key activities should include the identification of safe CT KPIs by the end of 2022 and a review of IT functionalities for safety, and it will be run in strict connection with the EU4Health Joint Action Safety Assessment Cooperation and Facilitated Conduct of Clinical Trials (SAFE CT). Training of safety assessors and the development of a harmonised curriculum thereof shall be also considered, as well as the alignment of safety procedures for emerging safety issues potentially impacting clinical trials.

The development of a training curriculum informed by regulatory experience should support the creation of a renewed educational ‘ecosystem’ characterised by bidirectional exchanges to enable training on clinical trials. This action is target mainly to better engage universities and SMEs, and it should include also training provided by actors other than the regulatory network.