transition period Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

The EU Parliament voted its position on the Unitary SPC

by Giuliana Miglierini The intersecting pathways of revision of the pharmaceutical and intellectual property legislations recently marked the adoption of the EU Parliament’s position on the new unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) system, parallel to the recast of the current Read more

Reform of pharma legislation: the debate on regulatory data protection

by Giuliana Miglierini As the definition of the final contents of many new pieces of the overall revision of the pharmaceutical legislation is approaching, many voices commented the possible impact the new scheme for regulatory data protection (RDP) may have Read more

Environmental sustainability: the EIPG perspective

Piero Iamartino Although the impact of medicines on the environment has been highlighted since the 70s of the last century with the emergence of the first reports of pollution in surface waters, it is only since the beginning of the Read more

Reactions to the proposed ban of PFAS

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by Giuliana Miglierini

A proposal to ban around 10,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was submitted in January 2023 to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) by authorities of Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The proposal was published on ECHA website on 7 February 2023.

The focus is the so-called “forever chemicals”, i.e. very high persistence PFAS typically characterised by bioaccumulation (also in plants), great mobility and a long range transport potential, and potential endocrine activity.

This landmark proposal by the five authorities supports the ambitions of the EU’s Chemicals Strategy and the Zero Pollution action plan. While the evaluation of such a broad proposal with thousands of substances, and many uses, will be challenging, we are ready.”, said Peter van der Zandt, ECHA’s Director for Risk Assessment.

The proposal was open to public consultation on 22 March 2023, giving rise to the collection of 5,600 comments. Opinions will be issued by ECHA’s scientific committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC), to be then forwarded to the EU Commission for final decision.

 The current role of PFAS

PFAS are characterised by the presence of alkyl groups in which many or all the hydrogen atoms have been replaced with fluorine. The main carbon chain of these substances may have different lengths, from small molecules to long chain PFAS and polymers, and may carry a very wide variety of other functional groups. The strength of the carbon-fluorine bond is the root cause of PFAS persistence, leading to these substances remaining in the environment for decades to centuries.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are currently used in many different industrial sectors, thanks to their useful technical properties. Among others, PFAS can be used to repel water, oil and dirt from surfaces, and is characterised by a high durability under extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, radiation, and chemicals. PFAS also present electrical and thermal insulation properties.

The main features of the restriction proposal

According to the authorities that submitted the proposal, around 4.4 million tons of PFAS would end up in the environment over the next 30 years in the case of no action. Ban would refer to manufacture, placing on the market and use as such, as constituent in other substances or in mixture as well as in articles.

Two options for restriction have been considered, a full ban or specific derogations for certain industries, based on the analyses of alternatives, efforts put in place for switching to them, and socio-economic considerations. The ban would be effective above a set concentration limit; a transition period of 18 months should occur between final adoption and entry into force. Use-specific, time-limited derogation might refer, for example, to a 5-year period in the case of food contact materials for industrial food and feed production (as alternatives are already under development, but are not yet available to entry into force), or to a 12 years for implantable medical devices (for which identification, development and certification of alternatives is still needed).

During the public consultation phase, comments were received from more than 4,400 organisations, companies and individuals, to be reviewed by both the RAC and SEAC committees and the five proposing countries. Sweden, Germany and Japan are the countries that contributed the higher number of comments, well in advance of Belgium, China, Italy and the US. Companies provided more than the half of the comments (58,7%), followed by individuals (27,3%), and industrial or trade associations (9,8%). The full list of entities participating to the consultation is available at the consultation webpage.

EFPIA response to ECHA’s consultation

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) contributed to the consultation with a detailed document. Another joint ISPE-EFPIA document particularly addressed the use of fluoropolymers and fluoroelastomers in medicinal product manufacturing facilities.

While we support the need to restrict certain PFAS, we need to find the right approach to ensure the continued manufacturing and availability of medicines in Europe. A total ban would see medicines’ manufacturing in the EU grind to a halt in under three years. It would also jeopardise the production of all pharmaceutical substances in Europe and would conflict with the EU’s strategy of reducing dependency on nations outside of the EEA in the event of shortages or pandemics.”, said EFPIA’s director general, Nathalie Moll.

EFPIA’s consultation documents highlights the many different uses of PFAS in the pharmaceutical industry, ranging from active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) falling within the definition of PFAS used in the proposal, to building blocks and raw materials used within chemical synthesis of PFAS and non-PFAS medicines. Other reagents and equipment might also fall within the scope of the ban, as well as packaging materials or combination products such as pre-filled syringes. The ban would also affect the manufacturing process, where PFAS materials are used in a wide variety of applications.

It might thus result in the disappearance from the market of a large number of important medicines, warns EFPIA, due to the unavailability of replacement materials, and the time required to obtain regulatory re-approval of alternatives. The supply chain of pharmaceuticals would be also impacted at many stages, thus possibly exacerbating shortages.

In its analysis, EFPIA highlights how some PFAS are considered of low concern by the OECD, and in particular “those used in actual medicines have no or low identified risk through medicines risk benefit or environmental risk assessments”.

A patient access impact analysis was also jointly developed by the involved industrial associations (AESGP, EFCG, EFPIA, Medicines for Europe and Vaccines Europe), showing that the current proposal would lead to at least 47,677 global marketing authorisations being affected by the ban. More than 600 medicines from the WHO Essential Medicines List would be at risk; restrictions would greatly impact also the European Member State’s “Critical Medicines lists”.

EFPIA submitted also a socio-economic assessment of the proposal, according to which a broad restriction of PFAS used in the production of human medicines would have disproportionate negative impacts on the European economy and society. “Without additional derogations, the entire pharmaceutical industry would no longer be able to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) (whether classified as PFAS or non-PFAS APIs) or associated medicinal products in the EEA”, writes EFPIA, resulting in APIs production to necessarily move out of the European Economic Area.

The position of the medical device sector

MedTech Europe also published a position paper on the PFAS restriction proposal and called fora realistic transition pathway to non-PFAS alternatives that are both reliable and feasible for medical technologies (including their manufacturing and supply chain) to avoid shortages of medical technologies for patients and practitioners”.

The position paper presents many PFAS use cases in the field of medical devices, together with the criticalities posed by the proposed transition. In particular, broad derogations should be considered to allow sufficient time to first “identify all PFAS uses in medical technologies and to subsequently move to alternatives where these are proven to be technically viable, available besides in conformity with the sector-specific MD and IVD Regulations so as fit for the intended purpose”. In this case too, the need to manage complex supply chains would require a realistic timeline in order to address dependencies, and long development timelines and steps to ensure compliance with the sectorial legislation.

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

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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 tools supporting the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, prediction, prognosis, treatment or alleviation of a disease, in line with technological advances and progress in medical science. “Diagnostic medical devices are key for lifesaving and innovative healthcare solutions. Today we are marking a big step forward for the patients and the diagnostics industry in the EU. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of accurate and safe diagnostics, and having stronger rules in place is a key element in ensuring this is the case for EU patients.”, said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

The European Commission also published a Q&A document to facilitate the comprehension of the new framework.

The main contents of the IVDR

The risk-based approach for the classification and development of in vitro diagnostics is at the core of the IVDR. There are four different classes of IVDs: class A (low individual risk and low public health risk), class B (moderate individual risk and/or low public health risk), class C (high individual risk and/or moderate public health risk) and class D (high individual risk and high public health risk). The assessment of the quality, safety and performance of IVDs by independent notified bodies shall be based on more detailed and stringent rules. Higher-risk categories will also be subject to further assessment by newly created scientific bodies acting under the auspices of the European Commission, such as the expert panels and the network of EU reference laboratories. Twelve expert panels have been established up to now.

Each single IVD will be associated to a Unique Device Identifier (UDI), so to facilitate its traceability along the entire life cycle. The identifier will also serve to locate the relevant information about a diagnostic marketed in the EU within the European database of medical devices (EUDAMED), where also a summary of safety and performance will be publicly available for medium- and high-risk devices. The database will also contain information about all economic operators and provide a repository for the certificates issued by notified bodies.

The new regulation strengthened the framework for post-marketing surveillance of IVDs, asking for a closer coordination of the vigilance activities by all member countries. The IVDR also introduced reinforced rules on clinical evidence and performance evaluation, including an EU-wide coordinated procedure for authorising multi-centre performance studies, and a specific regime for devices manufactured and used in the same health institution (in-house devices).

Difficulties in the timely implementation of the (EU) 2017/746 regulation may still be possible due to the lack of a sufficient number of notified bodies, as only seven have been designated up to now, established in only four countries (Germany, France, the Netherlands and Slovakia), while eleven other applications were pending in May 2022. To solve this issue, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 was adopted. A transition period up to May 2025 applies to devices that require a notified body certificate already under the previous Directive (around 8%, vs about 80% according to the IVDR); other classes of IVDs benefit of different transition periods (May 2025 for class D, May 2026 for class C and May 2027 for class B and A sterile).

Q&As on the interface with the Clinical Trial regulation and UDI

The Medical Devices Coordination Group (MDCG) published a Q&A document (MDCG 2022-10) to provide guidance on the interface between Regulation (EU) 536/2014 on clinical trials for medicinal products for human use (CTR) and the IVDR.

The guideline addresses the requirements for assays used in clinical trials, that may include IVDs carrying a CE mark for the intended purpose, IVDs developed in-house and devices for performance studies. Only the devices falling on the definition of an IVD with regards to their intended purpose are subject to the IVD legislation. The guideline also provides suggestions on assays likely to be considered IVDs, as they are used for medical management decisions of trial subjects within the trial.

Another Q&A guideline (MDCG 2022-7) provides clarifications on how to apply the Unique Device Identification system to both medical devices and in vitro diagnostics.

Topics covered by the document include the need for a new UDI-DI assignment in case the number of items in a device package changes or for single-use reprocessed devices, the requirement for economic operators to maintain a registry of all UDIs of the devices which they have supplied or with which they have been supplied, or the requirement of a new UDI-DI for substance-based medical devices, in case of formula quantity changes or additional claims.

The MDCG also addressed the assignment and use of the Basic UDI-DI and the determination of the ‘grouping’ for design or manufacturing characteristics, including the case of devices comprising a patient and a physician facing module, and the contents of the Declaration of Conformity (DoC). Labelling is also addressed, as well as rules for systems and procedure packs (SPPs) and configurable devices, as well as those applying to retail point of sale, promotional packs and marketing related samples.

The impact of the IVDR on innovation

The issues linked to the IVDR implementation and their impact on innovation and diagnostic laboratories, including the development and use of in-house devices, have been analysed by the BioMed Alliance In Vitro Diagnostics Task Force, and published in HemaSphere.

The Task Force identified two main challenges to be faced by the academic diagnostic sector. The first one impacts on the possibility to use in-house IVDs, based on the demonstration that no equivalent CE-IVD kit is present on the market or when the specific needs cannot be met at the appropriate level of performance by an equivalent CE-IVD. The strict exemptions applying to in-house IVDs (e.g. prohibition of transferring to other legal entities, compliance with EN ISO 15189 and justification of use, etc.) may impact also on the potential for innovation in the diagnostic sector.

The second challenge refers to the not so clearly defined boundaries between CE marked-IVDs, modified CE-IVDs, Research Use Only (RUO) tests, and in-house IVDs. The Task Force recalls the immediate applicability of the General Safety and Performance Requirements specified in Annex I of the IVDR, as they have not been included in the approved amendment of the implementation timeline.

Furthermore, only tests meeting economic viability may in the future be transferred from the academia to the industry, while rare or complex tests would probably remain excluded. According to the paper, the cost of diagnostics shall likely increase, and the academa should carefully consider how to support further research into rare or complex diagnostics in order to ensure their availability to patients.

Following the results of a survey among medical societies on current diagnostic practices, several suggestions are made to better support the implementation of the IVDR, namely by mean of the availability of diagnostic equivalents of the European Reference Networks for rare diseases and a concerted action involving all stakeholders. A joint biomarker-to-test pipeline between the IVD industry and research/academic labs would also be useful to facilitate the initial development and local application of innovative diagnostics within healthcare institutions or diagnostic reference networks with specific expertise, to then transfer them to manufacturers above a certain production volume.