regulatory guidance Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

EMA’s pilot scheme for academic and non-profit development of ATMPs


by Giuliana Miglierini Advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) are often developed by academic and non-profit organisations, because of their high level expertise in the biotechnological techniques that underpin many new therapeutic approaches. On the other hand, these organisations often lack Read more

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

The current status of the transition to the MDR and IVDR regulations

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by Giuliana Miglierini

As the term to apply for the certification of medical devices and in vitro diagnostics according to regulation 607/2023 approaches (24 May 2024), new data have been published by the European Commission on the current status of the procedures. The critical goal for all the stakeholders involved in reaching compliance with the new rules in time is to avoid the risk of seeing many products excluded from the market.

The last release of the Notified Bodies Survey on certifications and applications run under the DG SANTE’ Framework contract reports data from notified bodies (NBs) designated under MDR/ IVDR until 30 June 2023.

The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) also updated its position paperNotice to manufacturers and notified bodies to ensure timely compliance with MDR and IVDR requirements”.

The Notified Bodies Survey on certifications and applications

The Notified Bodies Survey was launched by the European Commission in December 2022 and will close in December 2025. All the 39 notified bodies included in its last release responded to the survey. The majority of them (29) are designated only under the MDR, 9 both under the MDR and IVDR and just 1 only under the IVDR.

Data for medical devices show that there are currently 22.793 total valid certificates referred to Directive 93/42/EEC (MDD) or Directive 90/385/EEC (AIMDD, on active implantable devices). The great majority of them (17.045) will expire during 2024. As for 30 June 2023, there were 13.177 applications filed to comply to the new MDR (+22% compared to October 2022), and 3.899 issued certificates (+32%).

The great part of both applications and certificates refer to devices that need to meet requirements listed in Annex IX (classes I&III and II). Many of the applications and certificates refer to the Quality Management System (QMS, 9.071 and 2.682 respectively), while product ap-plications and certificates were respectively 4.106 and 1.217. A small part of the applications (388) refers to devices incorporating a medicinal substance, thus requiring the activation of the consultation procedure with pharma regulatory authorities (57 issued certificates). The survey also indicates it takes a mean of one to three months to reach signature of the written agreement for applications filed for changes of already MDR issued certificates.

The main reasons for the refusal of the certification include the fact the application is outside the scope of the NB’s designation (47%) or is incomplete (27%). To this instance, the percentage of submissions with a completeness rate > 50% is still low (21% in June 2023, vs 31% in October 2022). The survey also indicates it takes a longer time to obtain MDR QMS + product certificates (13-18 months for 40% of NBs), compared to just the QMS certificate (6-12 months for 45% of NBs).

As for products with no intended medical purpose that fall under the scope of the MDR, the collected data show an increase of the requests to sign a written agreement for a conformity assessment procedure of an Annex XVI product. This trend is expected to continue further in 2024, as well as the estimated transit of MDD certificates for Annex XVI products to the MDR without maintaining the medical purpose for the covered devices.

As for certification applications in accordance with Annex VII section 4.3 of MDR (Application review and contract), the survey reports a total of 15.530 applications and 9.422 signed written agreements (+28% vs the results of the survey closed on 31 March 2023).

The situation for vitro diagnostics

The survey run in October 2022 showed a total of 1.551 valid IVDD certificates. In this case too, the great part of certificates will expire in 2024 (482) and 2025 (866).

The trend of applications and certificates is similar to that of medical devices, with a total of 1.155 applications received as for June 2023 (+22% compared to March 2023) and 500 granted certificates (+51%). Again, the great majority refers to products following Annex IX requirements.

As for class D devices (i.e. IVDs aimed to detect or exposed to transmissible agents which are life-threatening or have a high risk of propagation), the survey reports a total of 231 applications received by June 2023, and 62 certificates. Incomplete applications are again the main reason for refusal of certification. Times required to reach certification are also similar to those seen for medical devices.

MDCG’s amendments to the Notice to NBs and manufacturers

Revision 1 of the MDCG position paper 2022-11 is focused on the new section which calls notified bodies to streamline the certification process, and on the revision of the one referred to manufacturers to submit applications without delay.

The MDCG’s document adds further details to the above seen data from the survey. According to the Coordination Group, the actions taken to facilitate the transition and improve NBs’ capacity (MDCG 2022-14, e.g. use of hybrid audits, deferral of re-assessment of notified bodies, etc.) are showing good results.

Despite the increased number of notified bodies designated under the MDR and the IVDR (40 and 12, respectively), the MDCG highlights that data from the survey indicates limited progress for both the applications and certifications. “This shows that manufacturers tend to transfer at different times devices to be included in the same certificate. Whilst this approach is understandable, it might create issues in planning and in the capacity of notified bodies”, wrote the Coordination Group, also underlining the more worrisome situation for IVDs.

On this basis, the MDCG calls the manufacturers “to make the best possible use of the additional time provided by the amendments of the MDR and IVDR by submitting applications for conformity assessment in good time”.

The position paper also comments on the need to file complete and high-quality applications, so to avoid undue delays in the certification process, possibly before the end of 2023 as strongly recommended by notified bodies.

Manufacturers are also expected to regularly provide data on their devices, to increase transparency, improve the exchange of information on specific medical devices and support institutions and Member States in preparing for changes to product ranges.

As for notified bodies, the MDCG asks them to make the certification process more efficient, transparent, and predictable. Streamlined procedures should be the main objective, together with the need to operate in accordance with consistent, fair, and reasonable terms and conditions.

The position paper highlights the importance for notified bodies to provide regulatory guidance and technical information to manufacturers on how to apply for the conformity assessment procedure, so to avoid any issue and delay with the application and certification process.

The MDCG also recalls the importance to support small and medium size companies, and to organise structured dialogues with manufacturers as a part of the normal pre-application and conformity assessment activities. Notified bodies are also expected to regularly provide data on the progress made as for certification, capacity, and timelines for conformity assessment. To this instance, the tool suggested by the position paper would see the activation of a publicly available, common website.


The risk of a biosimilar void in Europe

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The undergoing revision of the pharmaceutical legislation aims, among others, to redefine data protection to better support competitiveness of generics and biosimilars and to favour the timely access of patients to treatments.

While the innovator pharma industry is claiming the proposed reform would reduce the attractiveness of Europe for R&D activities, a recent report from Iqvia analysed the status of biosimilar competition. According to the document, not all biological medicines experiencing loss of exclusivity (LoE) in the next decade would automatically face competition by the corresponding biosimilars. This would result in the creation of a “biosimilar void” on the market, with many originators losing protection without seeing the parallel development of their biosimilar versions.

Competition is not guaranteed

Biosimilar competition is not necessarily guaranteed, and emerging dynamics pose a risk to conventional notions of medicines lifecycles, states the report since its very beginning. The analysis refers to biological medicines that will lose protection in the period 2023-2032.

Despite the approx. 8-fold expected increase in LoE opportunity by value between 2012 and 2032 (from €4.4 billion to €32.2 bln, as result of loss of exclusivity for 110 biological medicines), data show a declining trend for years 2021-2023 (€4.3 bln). According to Iqvia, more than a half (55%) of biologics with LoE in the period 2023-2027 might experience the lack of a biosimilar in development.

The report highlights five areas of common perception to be addressed to better define the issue. The increasing complexity of many biological medicines coupled to new barriers to entry is one of the factors making the development of biosimilars interesting only for products referred to originators with large market shares. According to Iqvia, 27% of the 26 high-sales products that will reach loss of exclusivity by the end of 2032 do not have yet a biosimilar candidate in development in Europe (vs 45% at the global level), corresponding to a potential loss of approx. €8 bln market opportunity. The number of biosimilar candidates in the pipeline for high-sales biologics is also expected to decrease from 2027 onwards.

Regulatory hurdles, therapeutic classes, and disease indication are expected to play a greater role in guiding decisions on biosimilar development, indicates the report. The attractiveness of the European market should also be considered. Oncology will remain the more interesting area, with 44% of all candidates in early to late development for LoE events occurring between 2023 and 2027. Immunology and ophthalmology are other therapeutic areas that might experience growing competition.

The current barriers to biosimilar development

According to Iqvia, the main constraints limiting the decision on biosimilars development are represented by cost and time. In the oncology area, for example, high costs have to be considered to purchase the reference comparator biologic medicine, and large patients populations are required to demonstrate relevant clinical endpoints. New therapeutic classes, i.e., PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitors, may also pose challenges for the design of pharmacokinetic and equivalence studies. From the manufacturing perspective, the increasing use of antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) would result in new barriers to entry.

According to Iqvia, the least attractive products for biosimilars development are those with less than €500 million annual sales in Europe. The report shows 93% of these products might fail to see biosimilar competition, compared to 27% of high-sales medicines. This negative trend would result in a “biosimilar void” corresponding to approx. €15 bln in lost savings. Iqvia also identified some exceptions that might experience a niche development, on the basis of specific technological and manufacturing know-how, platforms and market access excellence.

Another factor to be considered is reimbursement rate, that the report identifies in 51% for low-sales biologics with no biosimilar pipeline (approx. 30% lower than for products with a biosimilar pipeline). The management of the intellectual property referred to the originator should be also taken into consideration.

Orphan and one-off medicines

Despite the growing number of new biologics reaching marketing authorisation as orphan medicines, according to Iqvia biosimilar development is undergoing by now for only one product (eculizumab). No other orphan biologics are expected to face biosimilar competition in future, as annual sales of the 39 orphan medicines currently on the market are too low (approx. €105 mln).

A major factor limiting the development of biosimilars for orphan medicines is linked to the fact many of these therapies fall in the antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) and cell- or gene-therapies (ATMPs) categories (wave 3 biologics). This implies many challenges from the development and manufacturing point of view, higher upfront investments and a more complex setup for analytical and clinical testing.

According to Iqvia, there are currently 16 non-orphan biosimilar candidates under development, corresponding to wave 3 biologics. A limiting factor for this pipeline is identified in the still present fragmentation of the European regulatory system, e.g., reimbursement policies, incentives, and clinical standards. ATMPs, also referred to as one-off therapies, represent a particular case, being relatively young on the market. This leads to no expectation of LoE events in the next five years. The trend would then change, with some 10 products losing protection by 2040, but it should be considered together with the parallel declining of the number of eligible patients, as many of them might have been already treated with the one-off originator medicine.

Shifting standards of care

Another factor analysed by Iqvia is the impact on biosimilars development of the possible changes in the current standards of care, for example resulting from the availability of new and more user-friendly formulations of the originator (i.e., subcutaneous vs intravenous injections). The availability of second- and third generation versions of the original biologic should be considered as another factor limiting the possible market share of a biosimilar of the first-generation product. The picture is indeed furthermore complicated, as another frequent possibility, especially in the oncology area, sees the development of combination therapies based on the use of two or more biologics. As already said, some of them might be very costly (i.e. monoclonal antibodies and PD-1 inhibitors), and require a larger study population to demonstrate equivalence of the add-off effect.

The proposed solutions to fill the biosimilar void

The Iqvia report proposes several possible solutions to overcome the expected biosimilar void, starting from horizon scanning activities aimed at early identification of upcoming LoE events in order to prevent contractions in biosimilar development. Horizon scanning may also support market entry and granting of incentives based on demand. The development of biosimilars of orphan medicines might benefit of a default waiver of comparative efficacy studies, a suggested measure that according to Iqvia would not compromise the demonstration of biosimilarity. Improvements at the regulatory level might also help to streamline development, together with global convergence of regulatory guidance. Iqvia also suggests the adoption of clear regulatory pathways to incentivise the development of the next-generation, one-off biosimilar gene- and cellular treatments. Access might be improved by optimisation of market conditions, with incentives for clinicians combined with the introduction of prescription targets. New tender models would also be needed to favour multi-winner procurement practices.