regulatory authorities 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


EMA/EFSA joint report on human dietary exposure to residues of veterinary medicines, pesticides and feed additives

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The presence of residues of veterinary medicines, feed additives and pesticides in food of animal origin may pose exposure risks for human health. The topic has been historically approached under different perspectives according to the specific reference legislative framework and the respective authority involved in regulating and monitoring the products. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are among the main regulators involved in setting and verifying the legally binding maximum residue limits (MRLs) for chemical substances, together with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

EMA and EFSA received in 2020 a mandate by the European Commission to work at the development of a harmonised approach to the assessment of dietary exposure to residues of veterinary medicines in food of animal origin. The comparison of the current situation run by the two agencies included only exposure assessment methods used in the regulatory areas, which are all based on traditional deterministic approaches. The resulting recommendations have recently been published in the form of a joint report.

EMA/EFSA experts focused on key concepts and features in order to provide a general agreement on the basic “building blocks” of a recommendable harmonised methodology, leaving the setting up of more detailed methodological aspects targeted to the different sectorial applications to a further phase of discussion. The document shall now be assessed by the European Commission and, if adopted, may request the implementation of specific action targeted to the different sectors to reach a better harmonisation. The Technical Report to be submitted to the Commission may also contain other elements to be considered.

Meanwhile, on 9 February 2023 the Commission implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/1255 designating antimicrobials or groups of antimicrobials reserved for treatment of certain infections in humans entered into force. The regulation lists a wide range of antibiotic, antiviral and antiprotozoal active substances. Those use is from now on excluded to treat animals, so to preserve their efficacy in humans. The measure is part of the broader approach against antimicrobial resistance, and it aims to promote a more prudent and responsible use of antimicrobial medicinal products in animals, including very strict rules on their veterinary prescription for prophylactic and metaphylactic use.

The main issues examined by the EMA/EFSA report

Sectorial legislations in the field of medicinal products (managed by EMA), food (EFSA) and chemicals (ECHA) may greatly differ from one another in the approach and methodologies chosen to define exposure limits and to run risk assessments referred to residues of veterinary medicinal products, feed additives, pesticides and biocides. This lack in harmonisation may lead to significantly different outcomes in the assessment of the same active substance, especially when it is characterised by a dual use for applications in different sectors.

There are several pieces of legislation in place aimed to guarantee a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment [Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/7829, Regulation (EC) No 1107/200910 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 429/2008], as well as sectorial legislations in the pharmaceutical, food, and feed additives fields that may diverge at the level of data requirements, purpose of the required studies, methodologies for exposure assessment, consumption models, etc.

In general terms, exposure studies are usually run using radiolabeling to trace the fate of a substance and to characterise its metabolites and their concentration in edible tissues/food commodities from target animals. The “residue of concern” (RoC) considered in the dietary exposure assessment is most commonly estimated assuming that metabolites have the same pharmacological/ toxicological potential as the parent compound. The difficulty of measuring the concentration of all compounds in residue monitoring often leads to the selection of a marker residue to be traced.

Health Based Guidance Values (HBGVs, or Reference Values) corresponds to the concentration of a chemical that may present hazards for the human, animal or environmental health; they are listed in the EFSA Open Food Tox Database, as well as in similar WHO and US-EPA databases.

HBGV, as well as acceptable daily intake (ADI) in case of chronic risk and the acute reference dose (ARfD) in case of acute risk, can be used in association with the estimated dietary exposure to the RoC to evaluate the risk of exposure.

The report initially discusses the different approaches and models currently in use by EMA, EFSA, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR). Reference is made to the alternative definitions for the establishment of residue limits related to veterinary medicinal products charactering the different sectorial legislation, as well as to methods to assess the related hazard.

The Theoretical Maximum Daily Intake model (TMDI, or diet-based approach), for example, is used by EMA to estimate the risk from life-long exposure to residues in food commodities from animals treated with veterinary medicinal products. This model has been already abandoned by JECFA and EFSA, that switched respectively to the Feed Additives Consumer Exposure (FACE) and Pesticide Residue Intake Model (PRIMo 4), as better suited to estimate age-dependent exposure scenarios based on individual food consumption data. The report also discusses the Global Estimated Chronic Dietary Exposure (GECDE) model, and the International Estimated Daily Intakes (IEDI) model. This last one is based on the WHO GEMS Food Cluster diets, estimating average per capita consumption figures based on international trade and production statistics of foods.

A further level of complexity in the assessment has to be considered for substances with dual uses, such as veterinary medicines and pesticides. In such instances, it is important to note that maximum residue limits/levels may vary for the same substance in the same animal commodity, as their concentration may differ in different tissues and/or organs (i.e., muscle, fat, liver, kidney, eggs, or milk). This may result in uncertainties at the level of the enforcement of the appropriate level and residue definition by different authorities.

The recommendations for future harmonization

The analysis and evaluation of the performance of the many available methods led EMA and EFSA to conclude that the observed differences in exposure assessment could be primarily attributed to the type and use of consumption and occurrence data. Other possible elements impacting on the obtained result may include the chosen calculation model and exposure model, the exposure to residues from multiple uses, and the use of commodity definitions and combined exposure from multiple species. Different timelines in the implementation of scientific innovation may have also contributed to the observed divergences.

The final goal of the exercise was to obtain a most realistic exposure assessment possible based on the available methodologies. The so identified “preferred methodology” focuses on data sources and models, includes also alternative proposals on a number of items, and it might represent the “blueprint” for a future harmonised methodology. EMA and EFSA’s recommendations pay particular attention to exposure assessment as the first step of a risk assessment; as for risk characterisation, no specific recommendations have been developed during this round of discussions.


ICMRA published a Reflection paper on remote inspections

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by Giuliana Miglierini

Remote inspections have become a widely used approach since the last two years to ensure the oversight of the compliance of pharmaceutical productions to regulatory requirements, as the prolonged lockdown periods determined by the pandemic made very difficult the maintenance of the regular schedule for on-site inspections.

A Reflection paper on the so gathered experience has been recently published by the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA); the document addresses from the point of view of regulatory authorities the many issues encountered to establish appropriate modalities to interact at distance with the industrial counterparts by mean of digital technologies and suggests the best practices for the future. The analysis focused especially on remote GCP and GMP inspections.

The Reflection paper was drafted by a working group chaired by the UK MHRA and inclusive of representatives from the US FDA, EMA, Health Canada, Swiss-medic, HPRA Ireland, AEMPS Spain, ANSM France, PEI Germany, MHLW/PMDA Japan, TGA Australia, ANVISA Brazil, HSA Singapore, WHO and Saudi FDA.

The lack of a uniform definitions and approaches

Each national competent authority adopted during the pandemic its own approach to remote inspections, evaluating this type of opportunity on a case-by-case basis, making use of established quality risk management principles and tools to reach their decision (par. 3 of the Reflection paper enlists the more widely used parameters for risk assessment and management).Among the factors entering this preliminary evaluation are the regulatory compliance history of the inspectee, the scope of the inspection (pre-approval, routine or for cause), and the inherent risk associated with the activities conducted by the site, the types of products and the need for the product.

The term used to identify the at distance interaction with the company to be inspected also assumed a quite wide variability; “distant assessment”, “remote evaluation”, “desktop assessment” or “remote assessment” are other frequent declinations used to define oversight procedures run by using digital technologies, both at the national and international level.

The choice of the specific term to identify this sort of practice depends upon many different factors, including the type of inspection and of the involved facilities, and the local national legal frameworks governing inspections as well as protection of personal data. The specific areas or sites to be included in the official review of activities, documents, facilities, records, etc. have proved also highly variable, as they may include not only the manufacturing site, but also investigator sites of a clinical trial, the sponsor’s and/or contract research organisation’s (CRO’s) facilities, or any other establishments deemed appropriate by the regulatory authority running the inspection.

Should the preliminary risk assessment had discouraged the possibility to conduct a remote inspection, the on-site inspections were usually postponed until the termination of lockdown measures in the interested countries. Hybrid or collaborative inspections represent another opportunity used to handle critical cases: the first ones involve the assessment or inspection to be conducted using a mix of remote and on-site activities, the second see two or more regulatory authorities collaborating to perform a conjunct inspection of a specific site.

According to the Reflection paper, it thus appears highly unlikely that a unique and fully harmonized approach to remote inspections in all scenarios might be developed for the future. “While the ICMRA group have found remote inspections an enabling tool to maintain at least a minimal regulatory oversight during the pandemic, it is not the view of the group that remote inspections would fully replace an on-site inspection programme”, states the document.

The main issues encountered

The possibility to conduct inspections, evaluations or assessments at a distance/virtually is based on the implicit availability of a robust IT and communication infrastructure; this has proved a fundamental requirement to smoothly share and review all the relevant documentation and ensure access from remote to systems and plants. Virtual tours of the manufacturing facilities are a typical example, for which the availability of solid “hardware and software that can provide an appropriate field of vision, clarity and stabilisation of the picture, while simultaneously facilitating conversation between the inspector and tour host” is essential to enable the real-time transmission of images and sounds captured by the in charge on-site staff by mean of smart devices or more advanced systems as smart-glasses.

In international inspections, the difference in time-zone and the availability of real-time, online translation services have also proved critical in many instances, especially if parallel sessions of discussion were needed. The possibility for inspectors to access on-line the relevant documentation requires the availability of the inspected company to provide credentials to enter in a read-only mode its proprietary document management systems and repositories. To this instance, confidentiality issues often led many companies to provide access to IT systems by mean of a specifically appointed member of the staff, in charge of accessing in real-time the systems and made available all the documentation as indicated by the inspectors.

The main areas of attention

The Reflection paper identifies four different areas for which remote assessment/inspection proved to be particularly useful during the pandemic period.

In the case of virtual tours, the indication coming from ICRMA experts is to limit the use of prerecorded video tours only in exceptional circumstances, and never for inspection of high-risk activities, as the inspector may not be in the right conditions to effectively verify all details needed to evaluate the suitability of the facility.

Direct access to documentation by inspectors is an expectation, electronically or otherwise, whether the inspection is on-site or remote”, states the Reflection paper. The alternative intervention of site staff may be acceptable, but it should not negatively impact the results of the assessment. Furthermore, this modality may also prove quite time consuming for both the inspector and the inspected company. ICRMA also supports the possibility for regulators to access documentation after the closure meeting, and upon the formal closure of the inspection, in order to facilitate the drafting of the report or to clarify a deficiency already raised.

GCP and GMP inspections

Specific issues for both GCP and GMP inspections are addressed in two dedicated chapters of ICRMA’s Reflection paper.

It should be noted that within the EU remote inspections at investigator sites are not considered to be feasible”, writes ICRMA. The motivation has to be found mainly in the need to avoid any further impact on the clinical sites during an health emergency like the pandemic, andin the issues posed by local frameworks for data protection. The Reflections paper provides a list of clinical areas not suitable for remote inspection.

As for GMP inspections, not all regulatory authorities adopted the same approach during the pandemic; in general terms, this sort of practice has been judged acceptable by ICRMA to handle emergency situations with restrictions to travels in place, but it cannot fully substitute onsite inspections of manufacturing sites. More specifically, the experience of the past two years shows that remote inspection proved unfeasible for sites requiring detailed observation, as those performing aseptic manufacturing or handling potent active ingredients with low Permitted Daily Exposure.