By Mark I. Schwartz –
On October 31st, FDA made its long anticipated announcement recognizing the first European drug regulatory authorities capable of conducting inspections of manufacturing facilities that meet FDA requirements. The eight countries that were announced are: Austria, Croatia, France, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The agency is expected to announce additional countries that meet FDA requirements in the first quarter of 2018, and believes that the progress made so far puts them on track to meet their goals of completing all 28 national capability assessments in the European Union (EU) by July 2019.
Commissioner Gottlieb explained the benefits to the program this way:
At a time in which medical product manufacturing is truly a global enterprise, there is much to be gained by partnering with regulatory counterparts to reduce duplicative efforts and maximize global resources while realizing the greatest bang for our collective inspectional buck…By partnering with these countries we can create greater efficiencies and better fulfill our public health goals, relying on the expertise of our colleagues and refocusing our resources on inspections in higher risk countries.
Historically, one of the main stumbling blocks to such an agreement has been the disparate regulatory structures between the U.S. and the EU, as the 28 EU member states have their own medicines authorities, in addition to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is the EU agency responsible for the protection of public health through the scientific evaluation and supervision of medicines. This web of overlapping state and super-state drug authorities had made it difficult for FDA to reach agreement with the EU.
Another stumbling block has been the sharing of trade secret information between FDA and the EMA. The EMA has been sending unredacted summaries of EU inspections to FDA for some time, however, the FDA’s reports to the EMA were redacted, as by law it was only allowed to share trade secret information with a foreign government if the FDA Commissioner certifies that the foreign government has the ability to protect the information from disclosure (Section 708 FDASIA).
What remains unclear from the October 31st announcement is when FDA will be sharing its inspectional reports with the EU, and which member states it will be sharing them with (see our previous post here). We will keep you posted on all developments.