reliance 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’s 3-year work plan for the Quality domain

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European Medicines Agency has released the input notes made by the GMDP Inspectors Working Group (IWG) as for the drafting of the 3-year workplan for the Quality domain. The document, which reflects the objectives of the Network Strategy and Regulatory Science Strategy, addresses many aspects which may affect the overall efficiency of the pharmaceutical supply chain, both at the routine and specific level.

The document identifies a number of strategic goals aimed at improving the overall integrity and resilience of the pharmaceutical supply chain and the product quality, and to optimise the im-pact of new technologies. Description of the tactical goals follows, i.e., the projects and actions to be activated in order to reach the above-mentioned strategic objectives.

Improved traceability of the supply chain

Strategical goals include the enhancement of traceability, oversight and security for both the human and veterinary medicine supply chain. Four different actions are planned at the tactical level, starting from a better sharing of information regarding manufacturers, distributors, pro-ducts and their respective compliance. To this instance, actions to improve EudraGMDP records are expected.

Inspections of the repositories system should also be tackled by means of a liaison with the Ex-pert Group in inspectional procedures. The implementation of the new Veterinary Regulation should be addressed paying attention both to GDP for veterinary medicines and active substances. Improvement of the inspection capacity may benefit from the development of a specific training curriculum for GDP inspectors; to this instance, the IWG suggests a possible collaboration with PIC/S, through the EU4Health Joint Action 11 and the associated Work Programme 6.

Enhanced inspector capacity

Another strategic goal set forth by the GMDP IWG aims to improve inspector capacity building at EU and international level. To this regard, suggested actions include the support to the international API programme, comprehensive of the provisions of the new Veterinary Regulation related to API inspections and controls. Veterinary specific GMP guideline annexes 4 and 5 should be harmonised in collaboration with PIC/S. The collaboration should also include ongoing initiatives on inspection reliance, in order to better identify barriers preventing member states from accepting inspection results from other trusted authorities. PIC/S and the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Agencies (ICRMA) should also collaborate with the GMDP IWG to reach an agreement on shared definitions, best practices and harmonised approaches for distant assessment and hybrid inspections. The pilot programme for sterile inspections should be also finalised, with participation of all member states. Routine assessor-inspector joint inspections are suggested, as well as a training course specific to the new Annex 1.

The development of a harmonised, EU level guidance on data integrity is the tool identified by the GMDP IWG to reinforce responsibility of marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) for product quality. This goal may be achieved by adapting the current guidance published in the form of Q&As into Chapter 4 and Annex 11 of the GMP Guide, in collaboration with the WHO and PIC/S. A better attention on MAHs responsibilities and to the supervision of API manufacturers should also build upon the recommendations contained in EMA’s lessons learnt report (LLE) on Nitrosamines.

Critical manufacturing sites and new technologies

The review of long-term risks resulting from dependency on limited number of manufacturers and sites should support a better supply chain resilience. The review should be aimed to the identification of sites manufacturing a significant number of products or producing medical pro-ducts for a significant number of markets within the European economical area (EEA). The GMDP IWG also suggests performing cooperative supervision of these sites between member states and other strategic partners.

A better understanding of the possible implications resulting from the introduction of new manufacturing technologies has been also deemed important to regulate the new supply chains. To this instance, the indication of the IWG is to consider if a specific GMP annex would be re-quired in order to support the adoption of new and innovative technologies. As for decentralised manufacturing, this topic should also be evaluated in the GMP Guide to medicinal products other than advanced therapies.

Amendments to current guidelines

The document of the GMDP IWG details the specific guidelines that would need consideration in view of the proposed interventions.

Many actions are planned to achieve their objectives by the end of 2023. More specifically, the IWG expects to provide the EU Commission with the final text of the GMP for novel veterinary medicinal products and for autogenous veterinary vaccines. GMPs should be also revised to include Nitrosamines LLE recommendations to MAHs, so to ensure adequate quality agreements are in place with manufacturers.

The same deadline should apply to the development of specific training material on ICH Q9, addressing risk identification and risk management. This action would support EU members of the Expert Working Group (EWG) and should be coordinated with the dedicated PIC/S expert circle. A similar action is planned with respect to ICH Q12 on lifecycle management and ICH Q7 (GMP for active substances), as well as to other quality guidelines for veterinary medicines. The GMDP IWG is also expected to support the EWG in developing the new ICH Q13 guideline on continuous manufacturing.

Annex 15 on the Qualification and Validation may be revised by Q2 2024 in order to include considerations on new technology in facilities, products and processes, including also the possible extension of LLE recommendations to APIs.

The end of 2024 is the date indicated for the review of GMPs for advanced therapy medicinal products in order to include the new provisions of the revised Annex 1. The same deadline applies to the possible revision of Annex 16 on the certification by a Qualified Person and batch release, in order to provide further guidance on batch traceability according to LLE recommendations. The end of next year may see also the drafting of the final text of Annex 4 on the manufacture of veterinary medicinal products other than the immunological ones, based on comments received on the concept paper and the resulting draft text. A similar action is planned for Annex 5 on the manufacture of immunological veterinary medicinal products.

Chapter 4 (Documentation) and Annex 11 (Computerised systems) of the GMP Guide should be revised to assure data integrity in the context of GMP. The proposed deadline for these actions is Q1 2026.

Support to scientific advice and communication

A specific chapter of the GMDP IWG document is dedicated to actions deemed to support scientific advice activities. In this case too, target dates are provided for the completion of the different actions. These include the provision to the EU Commission of scientific advice on GMP standards to be included in the implementing act on GMP for veterinary medicinal products and active substances.

At the international level, the IWG plans to continue its efforts to reach a better convergence through existing mutual recognition platforms and programmes and to support the EU Commission to establish and maintain mutual recognition agreements. Collaborations with ICRMA, the EDQM, Chinese and Indian regulators should be also continued, as well as the dialogue with interested parties and stakeholders.


Current inspection trends and new approaches to the monitoring of post-inspection activities

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has published its Annual Regulatory GMP/GDP Inspection Survey 2021, highlighting the more recent trends in inspections and how the pandemic affected this critical verification process of pharmaceutical productions. Meanwhile, UK’s regulatory authority MHRA launched the Compliance Monitor Process pilot, aimed to use eligible consultants as Compliance Monitors to supervise companies in the delivery of actions identified in the Compliance Protocol agreed with the regulatory authority.

Main trends in inspections

The main effect of the lockdowns has been the implementation of new ways to run inspections. The recommendation resulting from EFPIA’s report is now for virtual tools combined with onsite presence; to this instance, data gathered in 2021 show that the two modalities of inspection have a similar duration (2.9 days for on-site inspections vs 2.8 days for virtual ones). The report also indicates there is still a backlog of inspections due in 2020, the critical period of the pandemic; suggestions to manage expiring GMP/GDP/ISO-certificates include a one-year prolongation of current certificates, a dedicated communication process between the industry and regulators in the case of issues with the registration in third countries, and a planning of inspections based on the quality history of the site.

Domestic inspections confirming the trend observed since 2016, are almost double of the number of foreign inspections. These last ones focused in 2021 on only 23 countries, compared to the 44 countries visited by inspectors in 2017. EU’s countries were the most visited ones, with some 350 inspections reported vs the 150 of US, confirming the importance of European pharmaceutical manufacturing. According to the report, 2021 saw an increased attention to GDP inspections, while the percentage of sites with no inspections remains stable for six years.

A new mix of inspection tools

The use of new tools, additional to physical on-site presence, has now become a routine possibility accepted by many regulatory authorities. Many different approaches have been tested during the pandemic, including different inspections tools. Different combinations of tools cannot be considered to be equivalent, according to EFPIA. In general, a mixture of physical presence, document review and virtual presence flanked by the sharing of experience, collaboration and reliance is deemed suitable to confirm compliance and capability while supporting a risk-based efficiency.

Data show that the number of virtual inspections was higher in 2020 compared to 2021; the last year saw an increase of on-site presence vs 2020 and a mixture of virtual and on-site inspections. According to the report, only seven European countries have experience with the implementation of virtual inspection tools (Germany, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Sweden). As a consequence, the impact of mixed virtual and on-site domestic inspections in 2021 was lower in EU member states that, for example, in the US, Brazil, Russia and Singapore.

There is still space for improvement

EFPIA’s survey presents the respective advantages and disadvantages of on-site inspections vs virtual tools. The implementation of the new modalities is far from being accomplished, the process is still on the learning curve, says the document.

While the remote, virtual interaction allows for a greater flexibility of the inspection process, it may result stressful for some people; furthermore, it impacts on the way work is organised, as it needs a flexible schedule and time to prepare for the next day meetings. Also, the style of communication changes to become less natural and more focused. Overall, virtual inspections appear to be more efficient when performed in real-time, as it would be for on-site inspections. While being less costly, due to avoiding extensive travelling, virtual inspections require a careful preparation, including the availability of a suitable IT infrastructure and connectivity. Documents are also often required in advance of the meetings to be shared with regulators.

How to further improve inspections

According to EFPIA, the future of inspections calls for improved collaboration and reliance in order to increase the knowledge shared by the different inspectorates and overcome the limits intrinsic to self-dependency. The expected final outcome of the new approach to inspections is an improvement in the decision-making process. Inspection frequency may be set every 1 to 5 years on the basis of a risk-based evaluation.

Collaboration, reliance and delegation appear to be the new mantras to guide the actions of regulators: the focus suggested by EFPIA is on inspections run by domestic authorities, coupled to the implementation of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) to avoid duplication of efforts. According to the report, it would be needed to harmonise the scope of existing MRAs and to establish new ones between the EU and PIC/S participating authorities (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Turkey and UK). The European legislation should be also updated to include the concept of listed third countries, as already in place for the importation of active substances under the provisions of the Falsified Medicines directive.

The report also suggests a qualitative tool that would fulfil the legal requirements for “inspections” and may prove useful to support inspection planning on the basis of the knowledge of the GMP compliance history of the site, the footprint history of critical and major deficiencies and the type of inspection to be run. These elements lead to the identification of the hazards to be considered, including the intrinsic risk and the compliance-related one. The final output of the tool takes the form of a risk-ranking quality metric, to be used to establish the frequency of inspection for a certain site and the number and level of expertise of the required inspectors, as well as the scope, depth and duration of routine inspections.

All these items may form the basis for the drafting of a GMP inspection “Reliance Assessment Report”, which would also include the statement about the name of the hosting national competent authority and the basis on which country reliance has been established. Such a document may be then used to support regulatory decisions. According to EFPIA, the suggested approach would benefit of a better knowledge of the site inspected by the local NCA, a better insight in the local culture and less barriers to the interaction, with optimisation of resources. A better transparency of the inspection process is also expected, as a non-compliant site may negatively impact on the reputation of local inspectorates. Identified pre-requisites to allow the implementation of such an approach are the availability of high-quality standards at the local level and the evaluation of national regulatory systems by and independent body (e.g. PIC/S or the WHO Global Benchmarking Tool).

UK’s pilot of a Compliance Monitor Process

A new approach that may represent a first example towards the new paradigm of collaboration and reliance has been undertaken in the UK, where the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) launched in April 2022 a pilot project focused on the Compliance Monitor (CM) Process (see more here and here). The pilot is part of MHRA’s delivery plan 2021-2023 and will focus on the CM supervision process for appropriate GMP and GDP Inspection Action Group (IAG) cases.

According to the MHRA, the new process would allow companies to concentrate on the delivery of the required improvements without the need to use resources to manage MHRA supervision inspections to assess compliance remediation activities. On the regulatory side, the MHRA should be able to concentrate on the delivery of the routine risk-based inspection programme. The risk-based approach to supervision and monitoring is also expected to limit the number of potential shortages of supply.

The CM process is based on the figure of eligible consultants acting as Compliance Monitors (CM) in charge of working with the company to deliver the remediation actions identified in a Compliance Protocol (CP) agreed with the MHRA. The supervision by the CMs is expected to contribute to lower the need of on-site inspections with respect to the current process managed by the IAG. The CP also includes the transmission to MHRA of high-level updates at fixed intervals of time, which should include only exceptions to the agreed timelines or significant related compliance issues which were identified. Once completed the CP protocol, the CM informs the regulatory authority that the company is ready for inspection, so that the MHRA can verify onsite the possibility of its removal from IAG oversight.

CMs will be selected by the involved company from a dedicated register and accepted as suitable for that case by the MHRA. At least five years’ experience in independent audits of GMP/ GDP companies is needed to be eligible as CM. Furthermore, not having been personally the subject of MHRA regulatory action and/or significant adverse findings in the previous three years,  a suitable CV and the completion of a MHRA training as CM. All details on requirements for the CM role and application are available at the dedicated page of the MHRA website.

Suitability criteria to act as a CM for the specific case include as a minimum a sufficient experience of the dosage form manufactured, testing activities being performed, or distribution activity being carried out and a written confirmation of absence of Conflict of Interest. These criteria will be assessed by the company selecting the CM.

BIA’s view of the reliance in the UK medicines regulatory framework

The UK’s BioIndustry Association (BIA) contributed to the debate on the reliance in the UK medicines regulatory framework with a Reflection Paper. According to BIA, the MHRA has a well recognised status and history as a valued contributor to the global regulatory ecosystem and a point of reference for the regulatory decision-making which should be preserved also in the future.

BIA recalls the role played by the MHRA in the development of the concept of regulatory reliance at the EU level, as a way to support the agile management of resources and simultaneously focusing on core and innovative national activities across all stages in the product lifecycle. The central concept sees regulators from one country to rely on the decision and assessments of trusted authorities from another country in order to speed up the timeline of regulatory procedures. At the end of the process, each regulator remains fully responsible and accountable for all its decisions.

BIA also highlights the contribution of reliance to the advancement of good regulatory practices and international networks of regulators, so to better allocate resources potentially taking into account also the respective fields of specialisation. The proposal is for a list of accepted reference regulatory authorities as a way to recognise the evolution of partnerships over time. Examples of recognition pathways already active in the UK are the EC Decision Reliance Procedure (ECDRP) and international work-sharing through the Access Consortium and Project Orbis, through which the MHRA may act as the reference regulatory agency in many procedures.

BIA also warns about the risks of a sudden interruption at the end of 2022 of the reliance pathway, that would have a highly disruptive impact on companies and patients.