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.