by Giuliana Miglierini
The entry into force of EU Regulation 536/2014 “Clinical trials”, at the end of January, resulted in the parallel updating of some international guidelines. In particular, a new version of the GMP Guide PE016 was published by PIC/S (Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme) on 1st February 2022. The revision included Annex 13 on the manufacturing of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMPs), and the new Annex 16 on the certification and batch release to be performed by Authorised Persons (AP) (click here to access all PIC/S guidance related to GMP). The revision of PIC/s guidelines is aimed to reflect the last changes occurred in the corresponding EMA documents, so to maintain the alignment between the two regulatory references (as established by the cooperation agreement between EMA and PIC/S). PIC/S has invited all non- EEA Participating Authorities and applicants to transpose the new Annexes 13 and 16 into their own GMP Guides.
The new Annex 16
Annex 16 represents a completely new addition to the PIC/S GMP guide; the EU Annex 16 (part of the EU GMP Guide) was initially considered to be too EU-specific and difficult to transpose for PIC/S purposes. Following a consultation in 2017, PIC/S Participating Authorities agreed to make an attempt to transpose EU Annex 16, as the adaptation may support a better harmonisation of GMP standards at the international level.
Annex 16 refers to both human and veterinary medicinal products which are subject to the PIC/S Participating Authority or are made for export. Furthermore, the Annex applies to investigational medicinal products for human use, “subject to any difference in the legal provisions and more specific guidance published by PIC/S Participating Authorities under national law”. With reference to imported medicinal products, each PIC/S Participating Authority may independently and voluntary decide whether to adopt the guidance as a legally-binding standard.
Certain types of medicinal products (e.g. blood and immunological products) are not addressed by the Annex, as they are regulated by national laws and fall under the competences of National authorities; to this instance, Annex 16 applies to the certification process performed by the AP and to the subsequent release of the batches.
The marketing authorisation holder (MAH) remains the sole responsible for the safety, quality and efficacy of the marketed products. Authorised Persons are required to check each single batch to verify compliance to national and GMP requirements, as well as to those detailed within the marketing authorisation (MA). After certification by the AP, batches of finished products can be transferred to saleable stock and/or export. Specific and documented agreements are needed should this require transfer to a site different from the certification’s one. Authorised Persons should be clearly identifiable, with reference to any quality defect leading to investigation or batch recall. APs certifying the release of the finished product are responsible for verifying the conditions of storage and transport for the batch and the sample, if sent separately, and of all testing required upon importation (including sampling, where needed).
A formal Quality Risk Management (QRM) process is required when sampling is performed at a manufacturing site located in another jurisdiction; Annex 16 provides detailed guidance on the elements to be considered in this exercise. Documentation of the continuous training received by the AP in charge of certification and batch release should be always available, with specific reference to the product type, production processes, technical advances and changes to GMP.
Annex 16 provides detailed guidance on how to conduct the process of certification of each batch of finished product, independently of the number of sites involved. With reference to specific manufacturing or control steps performed at different sites, their respective AP has to provide confirmation of the performed activities, sharing responsibilities with the AP in charge of the final batch release.
The certification process should take into consideration the entire supply chain of both the active substance and the finished product, including manufacturing sites of the starting and packaging materials. The AP responsible for certification should be able to access results of the audits performed at the sites involved, in order to check the consistency of all activities with those described in the MA and within GMPs. Audits run by third parties should reflect requirements set forth in Chapter 7 of the PIC/S GMP Guide.
In particular, suppliers of active substances should comply with GMP and GDP requirements relating to the supply of the active ingredient used to the finished product manufacturing. Excipients should also fulfil GMP requirements, and be possibly manufactured and supplied in accordance with the PI 045-1 guideline. Specific guidance may also apply for other types of products, i.e. biological active substances and medicinal products for human use or radiopharmaceuticals. Annex 16 provides templates for the confirmation letters to be used for the partial manufacturing of a medicinal product and for the content of Batch Certificates.
The revision of Annex 13
Annex 13 has been revised in order to reflect the contents of the new EU Regulation n. 536/2014 on clinical trials, which will replace EU Annex 13. PIC/S Annex 13 discusses the manufacturing of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMP), apart from the reconstitution phase, which is not considered to be part of the process. Provisions set forth by Annex 13 should be taken into consideration with reference to the re-labelling or re-packaging of IMPs and to the preparation of radiopharmaceuticals used as diagnostic investigational medicinal products, occurring in hospitals, health centres or clinics and performed by pharmacists or other persons legally authorised in the country concerned.
All activities should refer to an appropriate Pharmaceutical Quality System to be in place, according to requirements set forth in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the PIC/S GMP Guide.
The characteristics of IMPs may intrinsically evolve along the development process, as new data become available that may require changes to, for example, the formulation or the dosage form. This has to be reflected into the respective product specifications and manufacturing instructions, that should also evolve in parallel and be fully traceable and documented. Annex 13 indicates that all deviations should be registered and investigated, and preventive and corrective actions put in place. The new Annex provides detailed guidance on the different items to be considered within the product specification file, as well as for the proper management of personnel, premises and equipment.
All the documentation generated during the clinical development phases should fulfil requirements specified by the PIC/S GMP Guide, Part I, Chapter 4. To this instance, relevant documentation includes specifications and instructions, orders, manufacturing formulae and processing instructions, packaging instructions and batch records. Detailed guidance is provided also for production, including packaging materials and manufacturing operations, the modification of comparator products, blinding operations, and the packaging and labelling of the IMP. Annex 13 also offers guidance on how to perform quality control and batch release, and how to address outsourced operations, complaints and recalls and or the destruction of batches of IMP products.