recommendations 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

EMA’s recommendations to prevent medicines shortages

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By Giuliana Miglierini

Continuity of medicinal product supply is still representing a key issue for European countries. The HMA/EMA Task Force on the Availability of Authorised Medicines for Human and Veterinary Use has published a new guidance document in the form of recommendations for the industry on best practices to be adopted to prevent shortages of human medicines.

The recommendations are targeted at marketing authorisation holders (MAHs), wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers. The specific role of each actor is detailed, and highlights are provided on how to optimally approach the prevention and mitigation of shortages. The document refers to the harmonised definition of shortage agreed by EMA and HMA, i.e. “A shortage of a medicinal product for human or veterinary use occurs when supply does not meet demand at a national level“.

Different players for different roles

The pharmaceutical supply chain is characterised by many different actors, each of which plays a specific role in the development, manufacturing and distribution of medicinal products.

Marketing authorisation holders are the ultimate responsible for the monitoring of all activities needed to timely produce and distribute their products. This means MAHs should oversight the entire supply chain, from suppliers of active ingredients (APIs) to end users, in order to continually align demand with supply, evaluate the actual impact of a shortage, and establish the more suitable prevention or mitigation strategies. According to the guidance, reference should be made to the “ISPE Drug shortages prevention plan – Holistic view from root cause to prevention” in order to build a suitable quality culture integrated into product lifecycle; compliance to ICH Q10 is also recommended.

Manufacturers include both APIs suppliers and producers of the medicinal product, which should possess a in depth knowledge of their processes and issues that may impact on product availability. This is even more true for contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs), as a problem with their manufacturing capacity may impact many different customers. Wholesale distributors have general visibility of stock levels and product flow and can identify early signals of a potential medicine shortage. They are subject to national laws as for their obligations to ensure continuity of supply to patients.

As for institutions, national competent authorities (NCAs) are responsible for the coordination of the response to a shortage by means of regulatory tools and strategies. Existing regulatory flexibility can be used, while NCAs cannot intervene in pricing, sourcing, and clinical practice. NCAs are also responsible to communicate actual shortages from their websites.

EMA’s responsibilities relate to shortages of centrally authorised products and coordination of the EU response to supply issues due to major events or public health emergencies. The Agency is also responsible for the publication of a public catalogue for shortages assessed by the CHMP and/or PRAC committees, and for the publication of information on critical shortages monitored at EU level.

National health service providers are responsible for the setting up of policy and operational aspects needed to guarantee the timely access to medicines (i.e. reimbursement schemes, purchasing arrangements, clinical guidelines, etc.). In case of a shortage, they are called to indicate available alternatives, and to issue specific clinical guidance for healthcare professionals if needed.

The overall sustainability and accountability of health systems is the major goal for national Ministries of Health, to be tackled by mean of legislative initiatives. End users include healthcare professionals responsible for appropriate prescribing and for the identification of available alternatives in the case of a shortage affecting their patients. Timely information to patients, in particular for specific diseases, may be provided by patients representative groups, which may also collect feedback on the impact of shortages for patients.

Ten recommendations to prevent shortages

The guidance highlights the importance to notify as soon as possible to NCAs any potential or actual shortage, in order to timely face the increased demand for alternative product suppliers. To this instance, MAHs and wholesalers are in the best position to monitor available stocks and report at early stages about possible issues.

An improved transparency would be needed as for the provided shortage information, to avoid patients’ concerns and the consequent risk of stockpiling and to avoid duplication of efforts. To this instance, MAHs are called to provide all available information requested by the notification form, including also multi-country information (e.g. related to API suppliers).

MAHs should also have a shortage prevention plan in place, addressing the entire life cycle of the specific product from sourcing of raw materials to manufacturing capacity and distribution. Wholesale distributors are also called to develop similar plans focusing on their specific role. Prevention plans should include an analysis of vulnerabilities and risks of interruption of supply, the assessment of the robustness of the supply chain arrangements and controls as well as of the need of revalidation, and the availability of a medicine shortage risk register to identify products of clinical importance by therapeutic use and availability of alternatives.

MAHs and wholesalers should also have a shortage management plan to be activated in case of issues with the availability of a certain product. To this instance, the capacity of available alternative manufacturing sites is critical, including CMOs which should always be kept timely informed by MAHs. A possible approach suggested by the guidance sees the development of a dashboard to continuously monitor signals for potential supply disruption. Procedures to identify true shortage points would also be needed to overcome the current limitation of the automated order systems.

The punctual implementation of Pharmaceutical Quality System according to ICH Q10 and ICH Q12 is also deemed fundamental to prevent any delay related to regulatory procedures that may impact on product availability. Product quality reviews (PQRs) are suggested as a possible tool to capture appropriate data and trends for continuous improvement.

The overall resilience of the supply chain should be supported by the justification of the adoption of the just-in-time supply model, particularly when limited alternatives are available. MAHs and wholesalers should guarantee the availability of suitable contingency stocks to face any unexpected delay.

Sub-optimal communication among different stakeholders should be also addressed by means of an improved cooperation, including a two-way communication system extending also to potential or actual shortages. Critical points of attention are identified in the intra-company communication between different departments, those between local MAH representatives and manufacturer, and the availability of information on stock levels to entities entitled to supply medicines to the public via ordering portals. Specific criteria for communication, together with the description of key processes and supply chain maps should be developed by each stakeholder.

Stockpiling is another critical practice to be avoided in order to ensure the fair and timely distribution of medicines. To this instance, healthcare professionals are called not to order or dispense more stock than normal in case of shortage, while MAH stock allocation practices between different countries should also take into account the clinical need of patients, and not just economic factors. Parallel trade should be also avoided as far as possible. NCAs should duly justify any decision to limit this practice, while companies should seek advice from their relevant authorities of the exporting country in case of critical shortages.


European Council’s conclusions on the European Innovation Agenda and research infrastructures

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European socio-economic framework is undergoing a profound transformative moment, as a result of the new vision impressed by the von der Leyen Commission, with its goals in the field of the Digital and Green transitions. The subsequent crisis caused by the Covid pandemic and the following war at the boundaries of the European Union deeply impacted the already fragile economy, asking for new measures to sustain its competitiveness and ability to innovate.

A major goal of the Commission’s Agenda is to reposition the EU as a global leader in innovation. The European Council endorsed this vision at the beginning of December 2022, by adopting the Conclusions on the New European Innovation Agenda.

The recent crises have shown the need for the EU to support an open strategic autonomy in order to curb the dependencies and vulnerabilities that affect our industry. We have to strengthen the EU’s own capacity in strategic areas. This will not be possible without ambitious investments in innovation”, said Vladimír Balaš, Czech Minister for Education, Youth and Sport, commenting the document.

The European Council also adopted its new Conclusions on research infrastructures (RIs), which complement and complete the framework to support innovation and set the basis for the full development of the European Research Area (ERA).

According to the European Commission, almost two thirds of the EU’s growth is driven by innovation. Despite this, the EU still positions behind other countries as for Gross domestic product expenditure on R&D activities (2.18%, vs 4.52% of South Korea, 3.28% of Japan and 2.82% of the US. Only China slightly follows at 2.14%). The same trend applies also to business enterprise investments in R&D (EU 1.45%, vs 3.63% of South Korea, 2.6% Japan, 2.05% of the US, and 1.66% of China).

The new Innovation Agenda

The Conclusions on the New European Innovation Agenda are the result of a work started in November 2021, when the Council’s Recommendation on a Pact for Research and Innovation (R&I) in Europe highlighted the importance of synergies with sectorial policies and industrial policy, as well as the coordination of R&I policies and programmes to support the development of breakthrough and incremental innovations across the Union. The New European Innovation Agenda was announced by the Commission in July 2022 and is intended to fully exploit the potential of deep tech innovations. In September 2022, the Czech Presidency of the Council started the drafting of the conclusions, and the final text adopted by the Competitiveness Council (Research) at its meeting of 2 December 2022.

All types of innovation play a critical role in driving EU’s competitiveness, states the document, with a particular emphasis on research-driven innovation, deemed able of shaping and creating new markets. Incremental and breakthrough innovation are both essential to maximise the societal and economic value of the resulting outcomes. Investing in higher education and R&I is thus essential to achieve these goals, and to position the EU as a global R&I leader. Social sciences and humanities should also be part of the comprehensive approach to innovation described by the Conclusions.

The diversification of supplies and the mitigation measures to tackle strategic dependencies on external suppliers are critical issues to be faced to compete in the complex global geopolitical scenario. An open approach to international R&I cooperation is still the goal of the European institutions, requiring shared fundamental values and principles with other countries and a balanced and reciprocal approach.

At the regulatory level, flexibility, fit-for-purpose, forward-looking and innovation-friendly remain the preferred keywords to characterise the new framework. The development of breakthrough, deep-tech and disruptive innovations should be supported by standardisation and accreditation, and regulatory adaptation and experimentation.

The Council also supports the role of private R&I investments and strategic use of intellectual assets as a fundamental part of the undergoing transition, as well as further policy reforms at Union, national and regional levels to better encourage the full development and implementation of new technologies, including testing and demonstration facilities.

The European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund has been confirmed as the tool to support investments in innovation. Among others, the Conclusions ask the Commission to implement the EIC’s Scale Up 100 action and to facilitate access to capital for innovative start-ups and SMEs through the InvestEU Programme.

Conclusions on Research Infrastructures

The second document approved in December 2022 updates the vision of the European RI ecosystem, with a particular focus on the system of integrated research infrastructures. Access to RIs is deemed fundamental to support innovation by private, large and medium-small companies. It can take different forms, i.e. proprietary access to RIs, contractual research, joint R&I, training and industrial, supply of top-class products and services to RIs. Research infrastructures are also important to sustain regional development and support the availability of a wide range of skills and relating jobs.

A central part of document is represented by the call to proceed with the implementation of the ERA Policy Agenda for the period 2022–2024 and, in particular, ERA Action 8 (“Strengthen sustainability, accessibility and resilience of RIs in the ERA”). To this instance, a major activity should aim to involve RIs in producing, collecting, processing, storing and providing quality certified scientific data in accordance with the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) principles. This action is considered essential to facilitate the sharing and use of data across a broad range of disciplines as well as at the international level.

To improve the RIs’ framework, the invitation of the Council is for the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) to run a comparative study aimed to identify best practices and elaborate recommendations to national and regional RI stakeholders by the end of 2023. A common approach for the staff of the RIs, especially in the case of a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), is also envisaged.

Research infrastructures can’t operate without the support of Technology Infrastructures (TIs); a mapping exercises of the last ones is considered essential in order to proceed with the implementation of the TI concept within the ERA Policy Agenda. Members states and the Commission should also work to better identify the role of RIs in the implementation of Horizon Europe (i.e. European Partnerships and Missions, industrial technology roadmaps, etc.). RIs may also contribute to designing new services based on their different missions and should be supported by long-term investments by member states with the support of the Commission. To this instance, the analysis of possible types of financial support throughout RIs’ life cycle, with identification of good practices and synergies of various funding resources, should be accomplished by ESFRI.

The Council also invited the Commission to present an initiative on a revised European Charter for Access to Research Infrastructures by the end of 2023. A better coordination between ESFRI and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) Steering Board would also be needed.



ICMRA, two pilot programmes to optimise regulatory assessment and inspections

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by Giuliana Miglierini

New flexible modalities for the management of regulatory procedures are becoming progressively accepted even for routine activities, upon the experience built during the pandemic. Efforts are ongoing at the global level in order to better harmonise the new approaches. To this instance, the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA) has launched two pilot programmes focused, respectively, on the collaborative assessments of chemistry, manufacturing and control (CMC) and Post-Approval Change (PAC) submissions and related regulatory actions and on hybrid inspections.

Each programme is expected to last 1-1.5 years and should see the involvement of at least two regulatory regions, each one conducting three assessments or collaborative hybrid inspections. Recommendations resulting from the pilots shall be published in 2023, representing the basis of an initial common framework for collaborative assessment and hybrid inspections. The initiative follows the results of a workshop organised by ICMRA in July 2021, during which emerged the need for more convergence and reliance across regulatory authorities in order to support the timely supply of critical medicines.

ICRMA has invited industrial sponsors to participate to the initiative, with particular reference to those planning to file an application for a new product or for post approval changes of already approved products to more than one regulatory agency. All details and the procedure for application are available at this link.

Therapeutics which may be object of the submission include both small molecules and biological products. The submission may refer to products for the treatment of Covid-19, other medically necessary/critical medicines or products granted for access to fast-track procedures such as the Breakthrough (US), PRIME (EU) or Sakigake (JP) schemes.

Interested sponsors are required to check with the involved facility’s management to ensure readiness for inspection and possibility to host a collaborative hybrid inspection, with a particular attention to the availability of suitable IT infrastructures and interpretation services, and the possibility to coordinate at least two inspectorates across different time-zones.

Applications are open since 15 June 2022 and have to be forwarded using the EudraLink secure file transfer application provided by EMA. After a rolling review of the applications, starting of the first pilot is scheduled for September 2022.

The general objectives

The main goals of the initiative include the definition of best practices and standards in the quality assessment of CMC-related post-approval changes and collaborative hybrid inspections. A single list of questions to the sponsor or manufacturer should also be delivered, and answers be shared with the participating quality assessors and inspectors.

The exercise should lead to the identification of misalignments and potential areas of harmonization across participating regulatory regions. An improved convergence and collaboration among regulators in specific data expectations and assessment approaches for the assessment of manufacturing facilities for Pre-Approval and Pre-License Applications (PAIs & PLIs) and reviewing PACs and PAC Management Protocols may also be supported by the analysis of the data acquired during the two programmes.

Hybrid inspections

Hybrid inspections are based on the collaboration of at least two different National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs), one of which in charge of the on-site inspection activities, the second acting as a remote inspectorate. The respective tasks shall be coordinated and run using virtual technologies, so to enable real-time collaboration in the inspection activities, which should target facilities and products of interest for multiple regulatory agencies (see more details here and here).

The pilot is expected to reduce the need of multiple inspections or facility assessments and to support the identification of the best virtual platforms and information technology (i.e., video) to facilitate concurrent on-site inspection and distant assessment. Focus on the development of a common framework to accommodate time zone differences between the facility location and the distant inspectorates is also expected.

Best practices to prepare and conduct the hybrid inspection are another important outcome, as both the on-site and distant inspectorates needs to obtain from the activities all the information needed to run their respective assessments.

In the critical field of GMP expectations, a possible target of the pilot may be represented by how the inspection is reported and how deficiencies are classified by different regulators. Aligned reports and protocols may also support the sharing of information with other interested ICRMA inspectorates. In any case, each participating authority remains the sole responsible for the evaluation of the outcomes of the inspection and the enforcement of any consequent action, according to its own reference legal framework.

A final protocol describing how to execute a hybrid inspection is a main expected outcome of the fist pilot, to be then applied by the Working Group to evaluate at least 3-5 facilities with at least two regulatory agencies involved in the hybrid assessment.

Collaborative assessment

The second pilot aims to run collaborative quality assessment for a minimum of three different applications and a minimum of three regulatory agencies involved each time. The initial phase of the pilot should see a limited number of regulatory agencies (3-5) participating to the project, on the basis of specific confidentiality agreements.

Sponsors participating to the pilot shall submit a single application for the proposed CMC changes for assessment by multiple regulatory authorities; the initial focus is expected to be on post-approval change management protocols (PACMPs; chapter 4 of ICH Q12) for Covid-19 therapeutics. More in detail, participating regulatory agencies will agree on the procedure to be used for the collaborative assessment. They are expected to share and discuss in advance any information request or comment, prior to the interaction with the applicant. Any participating authority can maintain its independence to issue information requests, but in any case, the so obtained answers shall be shared with other NRAs and assessed on the basis of a common approach, so to avoid the need of multiple independent lists of clarification seeking comments.

The project also aims to achieve a single regulatory decision regarding the joint assessment (see more details here and here).

More specifically, priorities to be addressed should include for example the evaluation of information or data on specifications, stability, and/or PACMP that support site changes or additions.

As for the hybrid inspections, expected outcomes are represented by the identification of the best practices and standards in the quality assessment of post approval changes, including PACMPs, and of potential areas for alignment or harmonisation across regions.

A forum of discussion should be also created in order to facilitate convergence on the basis of such best practices. Each evaluation should lead to the preparation of lessons-learned summaries to share the acquired knowledge; new quality assessment guidance and standards might also be proposed, where appropriate.


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.