regulatory flexibility Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Approval of the Data Governance Act, and EMA’s consultation on the protection of personal data in the CTIS

by Giuliana Miglierini The Data Governance Act (DGA) was approved and adopted in May 2022 by the European Council, following the positive position of the EU Parliament; the new legislation will entry into force after being signed by the presidents Read more

The transition towards EMA's new Digital Application Dataset Integration (DADI) user interface

by Giuliana Miglierini The Digital Application Dataset Integration (DADI) network project is aimed to replace the current PDF-based electronic applications forms (eAFs) used for regulatory submissions with new web-forms accessible through the DADI user interface. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has Read more

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

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 Read more

EMA’s consultation on draft Q&As on remote certification of batches by QP

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The last two years saw the implementation of a high degree of regulatory flexibility as a mean to respond to the many challenges posed by the travel bans consequent to the pandemic. After this “experimental” phase, regulatory authorities are now considering the possibility to allow the routine implementation of some remote procedures in the field of pharmaceutical production.

It is the case of the remote certification/confirmation of batches by the Qualified Person (QP): after the publication of a draft guideline in the form of Q&As (EMA/INS/169000/2022), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has launched a short public consultation which will remain open up to 13 June 2022. Comments may be sent by email.

The guideline offers EMA’s point of view on the requirements for the physical attendance at the authorised manufacturing site applying to QPs in order to routinely run the remote certification of batches, outside emergency situations. The document has been drafted by the GMDP Inspectors Working Group; it is composed of four questions and their relative answers and it addresses some considerations arising from the experience gained on the application of the guidelines for human and veterinary medicines issued during the pandemic. These last ones were elaborated in cooperation between the European Commission, the Coordination group for Mutual recognition and Decentralised procedures – human (“CMDh”), the Inspectors Working Group, the Coordination group for Mutual recognition and Decentralised procedures – veterinary (“CMDv”) and EMA.

The Agency also warns that the contents proposed by new Q&As’ guideline may be subject to any other interpretation by the European Court of Justice, which is the ultimate responsible for the interpretation of the EU legislation.

The contents of the Q&As

The routine remote certification or confirmation of batches may in future apply to the activities carried out by the QPs within the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), with reference to manufactured or imported human and veterinary medicinal products and investigational medicinal products.

The first answer clarifies that it could be possible for the QP to routinely run remote batch certification or confirmation only if this type of practice is accepted by the relevant national competent authority (NCA) of the member state where the authorised site is located. To this instance, it should be noted that some NCAs may request some specific requirements to authorise the routine remote certification procedure, for example with reference to the location of the QPs.

Should the remote certification be allowed on a routine basis, specific requirements should be met in order to validate this practice, starting from its full compliance to the EU legislation and EU GMP guidelines.

The answer to question 2 specifies that all activities should take place in an EU/EEA country, and that the time spent by the QP at the authorised site should be commensurate with the risks related to the processes” hereby taking place. To this instance, it is of paramount importance the ability to demonstrate that the QP acting from remote has maintained full knowledge of the products, manufacturing processes and pharmaceutical quality system (PQS) involved in the remote certification/confirmation of batches. That also means that the QP should be highly reliant on the PQS of the authorised site, and this would be only possible by spending an adequate time on-site to verify the adequacy of the PQS with respect to the processes of interest. The pharmaceutical quality system should also include details of all the procedures used for the routine remote certification/confirmation of batches. The possible use of this type of remote procedure by the QP should be also clearly mentioned in the technical agreement governing the relationship between the authorisation holder and the QP, which should also specify all cases requiring the presence on-site of the QP. A robust IT infrastructure should be in place to guarantee the remote access of the QP to all the relevant documentation in the electronic format needed to achieve bath certification/confirmation, according to the provisions described in Annex 16 to the GMPs (Certification by a Qualified Person and Batch Release). To this instance, presence on-site should be always considered to solve issues that cannot properly be addressed from remote. The demonstration of the presence on-site of the QP falls under the responsibility of the Manufacturing/Importers Authorisation (MIA) holders.

These are also responsible to make available to the QPs all the hardware and software needed to guarantee the remote access to the relevant documentation (e.g. manufacturing executions systems, electronic batch records system, laboratory information systems etc.) as well as batch registers. All IT systems used for remote batch release should comply with the requirements of Annex 11 to the GMP (Computerised Systems).

On the same basis, it should be possible for NCAs to contemporaneously access for inspection all documentation and batch registers involved in routine remote certification/confirmation at the authorised site of batch release. MIA holders should also guarantee the QP is the only allowed person to access the batch certification/confirmation function and batch register, that the transferred data are complete and unchanged, and that an adequate system for electronic signatures is in place.

Question 3 simply clarifies that some members states may have some specific requirements about the country of residence of the QP, for example it should be the same where the authorised site involved in the remote certification procedure is located.

The last question discusses technical requirements linked to IT-security and data integrity for remote access, a type of procedure presenting a higher intrinsic risk in comparison to the same activities carried on-site. Here again, the main reference is Annex 11; all equipment and software used for remote certification of batches should always reflect the current technological developments.

Among the suggestions made by the Q&A draft guideline is the precise identification of all hardware transferred off-site to the QP, that should be inventoried and kept updated. Hard disks should be encrypted, and ports not required disabled.

Attention should be also paid to the configuration of any virtual private network (VPN) used by the QP to improve the security of the connection to the IT infrastructure of the authorised site and to prevent unauthorised accesses. Authentication should be based on recognised industry standards (e.g. two-factor or multifactor authentication, with automatic date of expiry). The transfer of data should be secured by strong transport encryption protocols; assignment of individual privileges and technical controls falls under the responsibility of the MIA holder

A study on medicines shortages from the European Commission

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The study on medicines shortages commissioned in March 2020 by the European Commission upon request of the European Parliament and Council has been published; the document, prepared by a consortium led by Technopolis, suggests 16 possible policy measures – both legislative and not-legislative – that the Commission may consider while drafting a new legislative proposal to govern the issue, expected to be announced at the end of 2022.

According to the current EU pharmaceutical legislation (Directive 2001/83/EC), marketing authorization holders (MAHs) have to submit – two months before the temporary or permanent interruption of supply of a certain medicinal product – a pre-notification to the relevant national competent authorities (NCAs) (Article 23a, a part in the case of exceptional circumstances).

The mandate to continue supply to cover the needs of patients, and respective responsibilities of MAHs and wholesale distributors are established by Article 81 of the same directive.

The new study will support some of the achievements set forth in the Pharmaceutical Strategy; another action undertaken to reduce the impact of shortages in the EU is represented by the EU Executive Steering Group on Shortages of Medicines Caused by Major Events, an initiative set up in March 2020 with the contribution of the Commission, EMA and member states.

The Commission study on shortages by Technopolis confirms that current market framework conditions for off-patent medicines play against supply resilience – said Rebecca Guntern, President ad-interim of Medicines for Europe, commenting the release of the study –. As long as healthcare systems only focus on the cheapest possible price for off-patent medicines and do not reward investments to ensure robust supply chains, the only option for companies is to be the cheapest or to leave the market.

The main outcomes of the study

The study on shortages focused its attention on medicines for human use marketed in the EU/ EEA in the period 2004-2020. The main objectives of the exercise include the identification of shortages’ root causes and specific characteristics, the assessment of the adequacy of the current framework (at EU and national level) and of possible solutions to address the problem.

Data from the shortages registries kept by national competent authorities (NCAs) of 22 EU’s countries was only available for years 2007-2020. Commercial data on pharmaceutical sales from IQVIA MIDAS was also used, and extensive consultation with stakeholders was run under different formats.

Central to the 16 recommendations highlighted in the study is the establishment of a centralized and harmonised EU-wide definition of medicine shortages, as well as of harmonised reporting criteria. The latter should aim to collect sufficiently detailed information on key parameters (e.g. product details, MAH, details on the shortage and impact).

Different definitions, systems for notifications and type of information requested are currently in use in the various member states; even the definition of “shortage” agreed in 2019 by EMA and HMA was not considered by stakeholders adequate to differentiate between critical and non-critical shortages. According to the report, this fragmented situation doesn’t allow for the sharing of data and comparative analysis between countries, thus resulting in the overall inefficiency of the system.

Attention should be paid also to the creation of a EU-wide list of medicines subject to critical shortages; specific policies and regulations may be developed on this basis to improve their availability. Medicines typically experiencing shortages are older, off-patent and generics drugs with low profit margins; the main therapeutic areas involved include pain, hypertension, infections and oncology.

The creation of dialogue platforms at the national level is also envisaged, where to exchange the point of view of different supply chain stakeholders (including patients and healthcare providers). The study highlights the high burden shortages create on pharmacists and physicians looking for the best possible treatment alternative for their patients. A possible way to address this issue would see the availability of information about alternative medicines in shortage databases. In many cases, this type of occurrence is referred just to some countries within the EU, thus suggesting inequitable distribution and access rather than global supply issues may play a major role in shortages.

Understanding the root causes

Limited reporting is a key point to be solved in order to improve the understanding of root causes of shortages. According to the study, a reductionist approach to reporting is often used; this makes fully evident just acute causes (e.g. a problem at the production site), but leaves unattended more systemic issues (e.g. consolidation of manufacturing, resulting in a very limited number of production sites) and market-related factors (e.g. single-winner procurement practices).

Quality and manufacturing issues account for approx. half of all cases of shortages, suggest the report; among commercial reasons are market withdrawals and unexpected increases in demand. The information available for the analysis was judged insufficient to exactly asses the potential risks linked to outsourcing of manufacturing activities (including the production of APIs) and parallel distribution.

The proposed recommendations ask for greater transparency of industry supply quotas as well as parallel traders’ and wholesalers’ transactions. Suppliers should establish adequate shortage prevention and mitigation plans; legal obligations for MAHs and wholesalers are suggested in order to maintain a safety stock of (unfinished) products for medicines of major therapeutic interest at EU-level.

A new legislation to tackle shortages

The provisions set forth by Articles 23a and 81 of the Directive have been transposed differently into the single national legislations, often well before the establishment of the shortages registries. Several EU’s countries have acted on their own to strengthen the system, for example establishing mandatory reporting on stock levels and export restrictions. Nevertheless, according to the study available data are not sufficient to draw final conclusions on the costs and efficacy of stock keeping obligations on the level of (notified) shortages in the countries where they were introduced.

A more pro-active approach to the management of medicines shortages by MAHs and distributors may be supported by the availability of a EU-wide and uniform legislation governing financial sanctions to be applied if notification requirements and/or supply responsibilities are not met. Other suggestions include the adoption of common principles for the introduction of national restrictions on intra-EU trade, and the availability of greater flexibilities for emergency imports of specific products in case of market withdrawals and other critical shortages. As for procurement, the study indicates the opportunity to address public procurement tenders also considering the incorporation of requirements for more diversified, multiple tenderers and thereby supply sources.

From a regulatory perspective, the document highlights the opportunity to reduce costs and simplify administrative procedures for the submission of post-approval changes. The availability of an accelerated mutual recognition procedure (MRP) within the EU is also suggested, together with a more efficient use of the Repeat Use Procedure. Improved flexibility should be a target also with respect to the EU-wide regulation governing medicines packaging and labelling, so to allow for the use of digital leaflets and multi-country/multi-language packaging and labelling.