structured dialogue 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

Review of the pharmaceutical legislation, the proposals of the industrial associations

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By Giuliana Miglierini

The Staff Working Document on “Vulnerabilities of the global supply chains of medicines” published by the European Commission on 17 October 2022 identified several issues related to the current, often difficult situation experienced by pharmaceutical supply chains. Among these are the increasing complexity and specialisation, challenges linked to the production process and technologies, the lack of geographical diversification and other dependencies, the need to unlock the potential of data to improve supply and demand predictability, and a perceived regulatory complexity.

The same issues have been widely debated under different perspectives during recent months as a possible contribution to the current revision of the pharmaceutical legislation, a major goal of the EU Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe together with the New Industrial Strategy for Europe.

The structured dialogue with stakeholders has been the tool chosen to facilitate the interaction and exchange of opinions in order to optimise the development and implementation of the new pieces of legislation. We resume some of the latest proposals arising from the main industrial associations on how to better achieve this very challenging objective.

EFPIA proposals for action

In November 2022, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations published a report to illustrate its proposals for action to tackle shortages of medicines and to improve the efficiency and robustness of the supply chain.

Five key principles form the basis of nine operative proposals. A standard definition of a shortage and an interoperable IT European monitoring/notification system would be needed in order to build a harmonised EU prevention and mitigation system. Epidemiological data are deemed essential to better analyse patient demand, so to improve transparency in the overall supply chain by means of the European Medicines Verification System (EMVS). Targeted shortage prevention plans (SPP) should be developed to prevent the risk of shortages for critical products and to manage safety stocks on a risk-based approach. Regulatory mitigation measures for shortages would also be of help in improving flexibility. At the global level, the maintenance of global open supply chains should be the goal, supported by the strong existing EU manufacturing and R&D footprint, and where appropriate, targeted incentives for the diversification of supply chains.

The current revision of EU pharmaceutical legislation is a golden opportunity to reverse the trends of the last 25 years. It is our once-in-a-generation chance to reinvent the regulatory framework to ensure we have a modern approach that matches our ambition to be a hub of medical innovation”, writes EFPIA’s director general Nathalie Moll in a recent post, published on the association’s website.

In its Regulatory roadmap to Innovation of January 2023, EFPIA focused on how to achieve a more agile and streamlined regulatory framework, so to shorten the period needed for approval of a new active substance (currently 426 days, vs 244 days in the USA, 306 in Canada, 313 in Japan or 315 in Australia). Innovative approaches to clinical trials, including complex clinical trials (CCTs) and decentralised trials (DCTs), and the development of clear guidance on the use and regulatory acceptance of real-world data (RWD) and real-world evidence (RWE) are among the eight areas of possible immediate actions identified by EFPIA.

A dynamic regulatory assessment pathway based on early and iterative dialogue on data, international data standards and technology, and cloud-based submission modalities would support EMA and HTAs in accepting iterative data generation as part of the evaluation procedures.

As for drug-device combinations and in-vitro diagnostics, EFPIA suggests adopting an integrated EU pathway for the assessment, including the possibility for parallel advice with Notified Bodies. A clearer definition of unmet medical need would also be needed, as well as the full digitalisation of regulatory processes. A common definition of shortage coupled to the setting up of a European reporting system (possibly the already existing EMVS) would support the collection of real-time information and activation of alerts. Epidemiological data should be elaborated and released by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).

The Variation Regulation is also under review by the EU Commission. EFPIA’s proposal is to incorporate the considerations for pharmaceutical product lifecycle management set forth by the ICH Q12 guideline, and to develop a vaccine-specific annex to the Variation guideline.

EFPIA also identified four areas requiring legislative change to accelerate pharmaceutical innovation in Europe. These include the possibility to redesign EMA’s committee structure in order to speed up the efficiency of regulatory assessment and decision-making process from EMA approval to EC decision.

Expedited regulatory pathways (ERP) are still of limited use in the EU, according to EFPIA. The suggestion is to embed the PRIME scheme in the new legislation to ensure its optimal use and allocation of sufficient resources. The creation of a new legal category for drug-device combination products, to be regulated as medicinal products, would also accelerate the approval of this increasingly important type of therapeutic option.

The transition from paper leaflets to electronic product information (ePI) should be also supported within the new pharmaceutical legislation, while considering the still present difficulties that may be experienced by elders and people not having access to computers or mobile devices. A new, centralised ePI repository/database would also be needed.

Medicines for Europe, focus on access and prevention of shortages

The 2022 of Medicines for Europe (MfE), representing the generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines industry, focused its lobbying activities mainly on access to medicines and prevention/ mitigation of shortages.

The economic and geopolitical crisis highly impacted the sector, which suffers strict price caps requirements in market policies. In a recent letter to the EU institutions, Medicines for Europe highlights the possible link between the shortages of amoxicillin and amoxiclav antibiotics and the low pricing and procurement policies in place in many EU member states.

There are significant risks of more medicine shortages in 2023”, writes the association, which may be tackled by concrete policy reforms and industry commitments.

The economic model for generic medicines in Europe is identified as the structural root cause of shortages, requiring manufacturers to run their plants at the maximum capacity in order to “remain profitable as GMP rules require continuous investment in manufacturing plant upgrades”. This leaves little space to accommodate requests for increased production in order to face shortages. Other measures that, for MfE, impacted on the consolidation of supply chains and generic markets include the requests set forth by the Falsified medicines directive, as well as the Brexit, the Covid emergency and the current war scenarios.

The letter also identifies some possible short- and medium-term measures useful to mitigate the risk of shortages and improve the efficiency of the generic’s supply chains.

The first ones include the request for more regulatory flexibility for packaging, to facilitate the distribution of the available products in different member states. Clearer thresholds for nitrosamines and the need to avoid new regulations that may have a disproportionate impact on low margin medicines are also suggested. A better dialogue on immediate measures to tackle the cost of inflation on generic medicines would also be beneficial, says MfE, which also agrees on the need to better estimate demand surges on the basis of available data and epidemiological analysis.

The association of the generic and biosimilar industry shares also the importance of a rapid digitalisation of the medicines regulatory network in order to fully exploit the potential of big data. On the medium-term (2025), this may prove important to achieve objective related to the implementation of the ePI, the reduction of variations, the management of API sources, the harmonisation of packs and a better handling of requirements at national level.

Suggested actions at the legislative level include the introduction of legal guidance on the implementation of the criteria established by the Public Procurement Directive. The Transparency Directive may take example from Canada, where prices for generics varies according to the variation of the demand. A Medicine Security Act might represent the legislative tool to support investments in manufacturing diversification and greener technologies.

MfE also highlights some threats resulting from political choices such as national stockpiling requirements, that can increase costs and reduce cross-country solidarity. A preferred approach would be that of the European strategic reserve concept, based on rolling reserves. The real usefulness of joint procurement should also be better evaluated, especially with reference to OTC and other medicines directly dispensed by community pharmacies.

A note published in November 2022 focused on the still greatly unused potential of value-added medicines, a sector which according to MfE may benefit by a re-evaluation of the current innovation model, leading to a increased attention to the entire lifecycle of a medicine and on off-patent molecules. The request to the EU Commission is to fully acknowledge value added medicines in the EU pharmaceutical legislation as a separate group of medicines, with its own dedicated regulatory pathway and proportionate data exclusivity incentives.

The vision of the ATMP sector

The vision of the advanced therapies (ATMPs) sector, represented by the Alliance for Regenerative Medice (ARM), was illustrated in an event held in November 2022 at the European Parliament.

The declining competitiveness of the EU and how to ensure patients’ access to transformative treatments have been subjects of the debate. Many of the newly approved treatments fall under the ATMP categories of medicinal products (cell and gene therapies, tissue therapies), that according to ARM would require a better suited policy and regulatory framework to fully exploit their potential. “The same policies and approaches that brought us yesterday’s biomedical innovation simply will not work for the cell and gene therapies of today and tomorrow. The EU has led before — and can lead once again — but the time to act is now.” said Timothy D. Hunt, chief executive officer of ARM.

According to data by ARM, the number of ongoing industry clinical trials in Europe involving ATMPs is increasing very slowly (just 2% at the end of June 2022). More in detail, only one phase 1 study was initiated in Europe in the first half of 2022, says the association, and the region accounted for just 11% of new trials involving ATMPs and started in the same period. Many EU’s approved advanced therapies are also suffering, with 23 ATMPs withdrawn from the market. The reduced interest of the sector towards Europe is also acknowledged by the declining number of developers headquarters (-2% vs the previous five years): a trend opposite to that of North America and, especially, the Asia-Pacific region


MDCG, a position paper on the capacity of notified bodies

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The lack of a suitable capacity of notified bodies (NBs) is one of the main issues still pending after the entry into force of the new Medical Device Regulation (MDR) (EU) 2017/745 and In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) (EU) 2017/746. The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) discussed some suggestions on how to address the problem within a position paper published in August 2022.

Even if the document does not represent an official guideline, it describes some critical points to be considered by manufacturers and notified bodies in order to face the great challenge of the re-certification of medical devices and in vitro diagnostics according to the new rules. Should this not occur in time, many products may exit the market at the end of the transition period, potentially leading to a supply crisis greatly impacting on the health of patients and the normal functioning of healthcare institutions.

The MDCG position paper answers the request of EU Health ministers advanced during the EPSCO Council meeting on 14 June 2022 to figure out some immediate measures to face the problem. The final goal of the document is to improve the efficiency in the application of the current regulatory framework, with no reduction of requirements to be fulfilled by manufacturers. Waivers from applicable conformity assessments procedures should be considered only in relation to an interest of public health, patient’s safety, or health.

The position paper consists of nineteen points addressing the issue under its different perspectives, the first eleven of which refer to the increase of notified bodies’ capacity. The MDCG calls on all stakeholders to collaborate in order to smoothly implement the suggested actions, a process that will be monitored by the MDCG itself.

How to increase the capacity of NBs

Hybrid audits should be the elective tool notified bodies may use where appropriate to timely and efficiently run conformity assessment. Duplication of activities should be also avoided. To this instance, the suggestion is to “develop a framework for leveraging evidence, or components thereof, from previous assessments” run according to previous Directives. A pre-condition to activate this possibility is that the previous assessment has been judged “valid and properly substantiated also with regard to the MDR/IVDR requirements and the device” by a duly qualified notified body personnel.

A flexible approach may also apply to the combination of audits for legacy devices and actions needed to guarantee their ‘appropriate surveillance’. Combined audits may be used particularly for legacy devices whose application for MDR/IVDR certification is under review by a NB, thus moving the focus more towards the assessment of compliance with the new rules. To this instance, the MDCG also announced the intention to produce a specific guidance on ‘appropriate surveillanceunder Article 110(3) IVDR and to update MDCG 2022-4.

Already existing guidance may also be reviewed to reduce the administrative burden for NBs, and remove limitations related to the scope of documentation not required by MDR/IVDR.

A fundamental piece of the new European infrastructure for medical devices and IVDs is represented by the centralised Eudamed database, which should be timely fed by NBs with all relevant information using machine-to-machine procedures. Double registrations should be avoided as much as possible.

New notified bodies are essential in order to increase capacity. To this instance, the MDCG suggests supporting training, coaching and internship activities for their personnel. The rationalisation of internal administrative procedures is also deemed important.

Time for re-assessment of NBs is undergoing a review by the European Commission, which is expected to result in the publication of new Delegated Acts. The proposal is to move from the current first re-assessment at three years after notification (and then every 4th year) to up to five years after notification, on the basis of a flexible approach. There are currently ten re-assessments planned in 2022, twelve in 2023 and 11 in 2024. According to the MDCG, the new timeframe for re-assessment would allow national designating authorities to free resources to assess new NBs, while existing ones could process higher numbers of first MDR/ IVDR certifications.

Assessment, designation and notification of conformity assessment bodies (including the European Commission) are also called to reduce their timeframes and improve the efficiency of their processes, keeping unaltered the requirements to be met. The possibility to add specific codes to the designation of NBs shall be also explored by the MDCG. The Group is also committed to prioritise some ongoing actions which may impact on NB’s capacity (i.e. revision of section III.6. of MDCG 2019-6 revision 3).

MDCG’s guidance documents should be seen as an aid “to apply the legal requirements in a harmonised way, providing possible solutions endorsed by the MDCG”. Nevertheless, demonstration of the compliance to requirements should always benefit of a certain flexibility. A reasonable time should also be granted to integrate the new guidance in the relevant systems and/ or to apply them, suggests the MDCG.

Suggestions for the manufacturers

Under the perspective of manufacturers of MDs and IVDs, costs to access NBs may play an important role, especially for small-and-medium companies (SMEs). The MDCG position paper recalls NBs to the obligation to make their standard fees publicly available, possibly in a way that might be easily compared. Specific access schemes should be also in place to make available some capacity to SMEs and other first-time applicants for conformity assessment.

Manufacturers should also refer to notice MDCG 2022-11 to ensure timely compliance with MDR requirements. IVDs should not left behind, even if this category of products benefits of one more year for the transition to new rules compered to medical devices.

Structured dialogue is the suggested tool to improve the collaboration between manufacturers and notified bodies along the entire process of conformity assessment aimed at regulatory procedures, should this approach turn to be useful in order to improve the overall efficiency and predictability.

A timely communication to manufacturers by mean of webinars, workshops, targeted feedback and informative sessions is also deemed important in order to allow for a better preparedness, with a particular attention to SMEs and first-time applicants. The MDCG also suggest NBs to develop common guidelines for manufacturers to assist them in the application phase, containing explicative examples of typical non-conformities and details on he preparation and content of technical documentation. National authorities and industry associations are called as well to contribute to the dissemination of relevant information across their stakeholders.

Specific guidance should be issued by the MDCG to support a simpler conformity assessment of some aspects of legacy and orphan devices denoted by a demonstrable track record of safety. The development of a specific definition of “orphan devices” is also planned.

An improved dialogue between NBs and medicines authorities, and cases where expedited review would be possible is also supported in order to speed up consultations on medical devices incorporating an ancillary medicinal substance and companion diagnostics.