System failures are rarely due to the employee

Between January 2016 and May 2019, you recorded approximately 397 customer complaints related to container closure issues (e.g., approximately 60%), product separation, lack of effect and adverse events. Your quality unit failed to adequately review these complaints, identify trends, and implement effective CAPAs. During the inspection you explained that these lapses in quality system performance were due to underperforming staff, who had since been dismissed. In your response, you attributed these and other quality related issues to under staffing of the quality unit as your business expanded.

Your response is inadequate because you failed to appropriately address your quality unit not performing their required duties. Your firm must provide the quality unit with the appropriate authority, sufficient resources, and staff to carry out its responsibilities to consistently ensure drug quality.

FDA Warning Letter to Teligent Pharma, Inc. dated 26-November-2019

Continuing the trend of making me petrified about generics, this warning letter is a roller coaster read. One big set of failures to actually investigate and apply appropriate resources to the quality unit. And then the management had the gall to blame the employees.

80+ years of quality principles ignored. I personally thought the FDA was being overly nice.

There are basically three questions to answer:

  • Do you have a properly established, staffed, and managed Quality Unit?
  • Does your Quality Unit have appropriate responsibilities and authority?
  • Does your Quality Unit have access to the data it needs to make informed decisions?

New Report Exposes MBTA’s “Questionable” Approach to Safety

A “debilitated” safety department and too-thin maintenance crews are just two of the revelations surfaced by a new report on the MBTA’s safety culture.

Read on www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2019/12/09/mbta-safety-report/

Let’s cut right to the heart of the report’s recommendations:

The panel makes six policy recommendations that are intended “to move the organization to a place where safety is a priority and is culturally integrated into every aspect of their mission.” They include establishing better safety performance indicators, identifying the areas where maintenance is being deferred, implementing stronger data collection, and strengthening the MBTA’s leadership team with “more seasoned” transit professionals.

Where does that seem familiar?

Regulatory Focus on Change Management

November was an exciting month for change management!

ICH Q12 “Technical and Regulatory Considerations for Pharmaceutical Product Lifecycle Management” was adopted by the ICH in Singapore, which means Q12 is now in Stage 5, Implementation. Implementation should be interesting as concepts like “established conditions” and “product lifecycle management” which sit at the core of Q12 are still open for interpretation as Q12 is implemented in specific regulatory markets.

And then, to end the month, PIC/S published draft 1 of PI 054-1 “Recommendation on How to Evaluate / Demonstrate the Effectiveness of a Pharmaceutical Quality System in relation to Risk-based Change Management.”

This draft guidance is now in a review period by regulatory agencies. Which means no public comments, but it will be applied on a 6-month trial basis by PIC/S participating authorities, which include the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulators across Europe, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Turkey, Iran, Argentina and more.

This document is aligned to ICH Q10, and there should be few surprised in this. Given PIC/S concern that “ongoing continual improvement has probably not been realised to a meaningful extent. The PIC/S QRM Expert Circle, being well-placed to focus on the QRM concepts of the GMPs and of ICH Q10, is seeking to train GMP inspectors on what a good risk-based change management system can look like within the PQS, and how to assess the level of effectiveness of the PQS in this area” it is a good idea to start aligning to be ahead of the curve.

“Changes typically have an impact assessment performed within the change control system. However, an impact assessment is often not as comprehensive as a risk assessment for the proposed change.”

This is a critical thing that agencies have been discussing for years. There are a few key takeaways.

  1. The difference between impact and risk is critical. Impact is best thought of as “What do I need to do to make the change.” Risk is “What could go wrong in making this change?” Impact focuses on assessing the impact of the proposed change on various things such as on current documentation, equipment cleaning processes, equipment qualification, process validation, training, etc. While these things are very important to assess, asking the question about what might go wrong is also important as it is an opportunity for companies to try to prevent problems that might be associated with the proposed change after its implementation.
  2. This 8 page document is really focusing on the absence of clear links between risk assessments, proposed control strategies and the design of validation protocols.
  3. The guidance is very concerned about appropriately classifying changes and using product data to drive decisions. While not specifying it in so many words, one of the first things that popped to my mind was around how we designate changes as like-for-like in the absence of supporting data. Changes that are assigned a like-for-like classification are often not risk-assessed, and are awarded limited oversight from a GMP perspective. These can sometimes result in major problems for companies, and one that I think people are way to quick to rush to.

Much of my thoughts on implementing this can be found in my presentation on change management and change control.

It is fascinating to look at appendix 1, which really lays out some critical goals of this draft guidance: better risk management, real time release, and innovative approaches to process validation. This is sort of the journey we are all on.

FDA 483 data

The FDA has posted the 2019 483 observations as an excel file. The FDA has made these files available every year since 2006 and I find them to be one of my favorite tools for evaluating regulatory trends.

So for example, looking at change related 483 I see:

2019 vs 2018 483 comparison for short description including “change”

Or for data integrity issues:

2019 vs 2018 483 comparison for short description including “data”

Very useful resource that should be in the bookmarks for every pharmaceutical quality professional.

Quality Challenges of Accelerating Investigational Products

Last November, officials from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) met with industry representatives in London to discuss the various quality challenges that arise when the development of investigational products is accelerated .

The report was recently published, and can be found here.

The workshop discussed process validation, control strategies, good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliance, comparability, stability and regulatory tools of early access approaches. Throughout they discussed two elements:

  • Scientific which includes technologies and scientific concepts or principles for development, manufacture and quality risk management, which may or not be present or implied in existing guidelines. Examples include concurrent validation, new modelling methodologies, new analytical techniques, etc.
  • Regulatory/procedural tools are described in the legal, regulatory framework and can be specific to PRIME (or Breakthrough Therapies) (e.g. kick-off meetings) or generally applicable [e.g. Post-approval change management protocols (PACMPs), recommendations, scientific advice (SA)].

I strongly recommend reading the report in it’s entirety.