The Great Man Fallacy and Pharmaceutical Quality

Primary Investigator, Study Director, Qualified Person, Responsible Person – the pharmaceutical regulations are rife with a series of positions that are charged with achieving compliance and quality results. I tend to think of them as a giant Achilles heel created by the regulations.

The concept of an individual having all the accountability is nowhere near universal, for example, the term Quality Unit is a nice inclusive we – though I do have some quibbles on how it can end up placing the quality unit within the organization.

This is an application of the great man fallacy – the idea that one person by the brunt of education, experience, and stunning good looks can ensure product safety, efficacy and quality, and all the other aspects of patient and data integrity of trials.

That is, frankly, poppycock.

People only perform successfully when they are in a well-built system. Process drives success and leverages the right people at the right time making the right decisions with the right information. No one person can do that, and frankly thinking someone can is setting them up for failure. Which we see, a lot in the regulatory space.

Sure, the requirement exists, we need to meet it failing the agencies waking up and realizing the regulations are setting us up for failure. But we don’t need to buy into it. We build our processes to leverage the team, to democratize decisions, and to drive for reliable results.

Let’s leave the great man theory in the dustbins where it belongs.

dissolving crown

FDA 2021 483s – Bioresearch Monitoring

The FDA has released the 2021 483 data. With my mind being mostly preoccupied with bioresearch monitoring inspection preparation, let’s look at that data, focusing on the top 10.

CFR Reference in 2021# 483s 2021#  483s 2020# 483s 2019
21 CFR 312.609058127
FD-1572, protocol compliance8454119
Informed consent648
21 CFR 312.62(b)483060
Case history records- inadequate or inadequate483060
21 CFR 312.62(a)131117
Accountability records121116
Unused drug disposition (investigator)1#N/A1
21 CFR 50.27(a)937
Consent form not approved/signed/dated726
Copy of consent form not provided211
21 CFR 312.64(b)967
Safety reports967
21 CFR 312.668719
Initial and continuing review626
Unanticipated problems246
21 CFR 312.20(a)513
Failure to submit an IND513
21 CFR 58.130(a)423
Conduct: in accordance with protocol423
21 CFR 312.503716
General responsibilities of sponsors3414
21 CFR 50.20358
Consent not obtained, exceptions do not apply314
Comparison of 2021 Top 10 BIMO 483 categories with 2020 and 2019 data

Based on comparison of number of inspections per year, I am not sure we can really say there was much COVID impact in the data. COVID may have influenced observations, but all it really seemed to do is excaerbate already existing problems,

Key lesson in the data? The GCPs are struggling at accountability of documentation and decision making.

Quality Goes Way Beyond a Few Regulations

The quality profession in the pharmaceutical industry is wider than the overseeing regulations from health authorities. The GXPs are truly a starting point, not an ending point which is why we often use that little “c” for “current.”

The GXPs (and the regulations behind them) serve an important purpose. But they are the start of excellence and not the end.

The GXPs are an outline. When we start with these requirements and then fill in the details we build a robust and beautiful engine for quality.

The 5Ps of GXPs: People, Procedure, Product, Premise, and Principles.

This is often why we talk about compliance being the start of quality, and not the end.

The Cost of Generics

Production of generics has shifted overseas, where it’s harder for the Food and Drug Administration to inspect factories. Major companies have been caught faking and manipulating the data that is supposed to prove that drugs are effective and safe. Probable carcinogens have been discovered in the drug supply. During the pandemic, which caused several countries to ban the export of medical supplies, a new fear has arisen: that faraway factories might one day cut Americans off from their drugs. Dozens of lifesaving medications are made with ingredients no longer manufactured in the United States.

Stockman,FarahOur Drug Supply Is Sick. How Can We Fix It?” The New York Times, 18 September 2021

Philip Runyan pointed out this article today, and it is worth reading. It has personal connection with me, as well as professional in that my wife takes Levothyroxine. I’m a huge fan of Katherine Eban’s Bottle of Lies, and this opinion piece fits excellently into that strand of reporting. We need more reporters on this beat.

I do not think the quality of drug manufacturers worldwide are rising to the level of the US and Europe. I think onshoring is one of those trends that is going to shake the pharmaceutical world over the next decade. Civica is ahead of the curve, but not by much.

Good shoutout to Redica, one of my favorite tools for regulatory intelligence (but expensive).

Notice that Viatris (Mylan) fails at driving out fear. Layoffs are one of the largest possible sources of fear.

We will eventually see a quality rating system. Whether it looks like the FDA’s current metric initiative remains to be seen.