Rocky Road to ICH Q12 Implementation

Prior to the adoption of Q12 in Singapore at the end of 2019 there was a lot of rumbling from regulatory agencies on how Q12 would be more aspirational in many ways. In the last few weeks we’ve started to see just what that will mean.

FDA to release a guidance

The FDA’s Mahesh Ramanadham, from the Office of Pharmaceutical Quality in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, provided an update on the agency’s implementation of ICH Q12 in the US on 25 February at the annual IFPAC meeting in North Bethesda, Md. He started that the FDA will soon be issuing guidance implementing the International Council on Harmonization’s Q12 guideline in the US that will, among other things, translate ICH post-approval change classification categories to FDA supplement categories, and address how to file established conditions (ECs).

This Q12 guidance will replace the agency’s 2015 draft guidance for industry on established conditions and reportable chemistry, manufacturing and controls changes to approved drug and biological products. It is expected to be issued in May 2020. The guidance will also discuss the relationship between FDA comparability protocols and the post-approval change management protocol (PACMP) established by the ICH Q12 guideline.

EU says not so fast in their adoption

However, additional scientific risk-based approaches to defining Established Conditions and
associated reporting categories, as described in Chapter 3.2.3, and the Product Lifecycle
Management (PLCM) Document, as described in Chapter 5, are not considered compatible with the
existing EU legal framework on variations.

It is important to note that the legal framework always takes precedence over technical and
scientific guidelines. More specifically this means that the definition of Established Conditions and
their reporting categories must follow the requirements laid down in the current EU Variations
Regulation and associated EU Variations Guidelines. With respect to the Product Lifecycle
Management (PLCM) document, in case such a document is submitted, it cannot be currently
recognised in the EU due to the fact that it is not referred to in the EU legal framework.


In an explanatory note accompanying the adoption of ICH Q12 and related annexes, the European Commission and the European Medicines Agency point out that there are “some conceptual differences” between the ICH guideline and the EU legal framework on managing post-approval changes, ie, the variations regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1234/2008).

The EU authorities offer no clarity on when and how ICH Q12 would be fully implemented in the EU. The note merely states that the new “tools and concepts in the ICH Q12 guideline that are not foreseen in the EU legal framework will be considered when this framework will be reviewed.” The EU regulators said they would continue to work on the implementation of the ICH Q12 within the existing EU legal framework. The explanatory note also points out that despite some conceptual differences between ICH Q12 and the EU framework, there is also considerable common ground. In fact, some tools and concepts in ICH Q12 tools can already be applied by industry by following the current EU variations framework.

Next Steps

Companies should be ensuring that their knowledge management and risk management processes and understanding continue to grow. ICH Q12 will be a rocky road and I’m not sure we’ll see some of the potential streamlining of regulatory processes for a long time.

ICH Q12 pathway for established conditions