All pharmaceutical manufacturers know that the requirements for the safety and quality of medicinal products are constantly increasing and must be implemented, while taking into account the continuous adjustments and additions to the regulatory and legal requirements. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are inspected by the competent authorities at more or less regular intervals before obtaining manufacturing approval and during the routine production phase. In the EU, this is done by the competent local or national supervisory authorities. If the manufacturer markets its products abroad, additional inspections may be made by the competent foreign authorities. For European manufacturers who market their products in the USA, inspections by the U.S. FDA have been dreaded in recent decades. The reasons for this are a different orientation, different thematic priorities and, in some cases, different intensity and depth of U.S. FDA inspections compared to inspections by European authorities. As a result, drug manufacturers have often sought external advice for the preparation and follow-up of regulatory inspections. Last but not least, the main objective has been to obtain or renew the manufacturing permit.
A number of factors have contributed to a significant reduction in the number of inspections by foreign authorities, such as U.S. FDA inspections, at European drug manufacturers, including:
- A sharp increase in the number of drug manufacturers,
- An increase in the scope of the requirements to be checked and the associated increased requirements for the inspectors, and
- Limited budgets available for conducting inspections.
These factors have led to a realignment of regulatory inspection objectives. By adapting and supplementing the regulations, manufacturers have been and continue to be required to carry out more and more self-monitoring. Your quality system must have sufficient self-monitoring to ensure the quality of the medicinal products. Regulatory inspections are increasingly focused on ensuring that this self-monitoring is working within the pharmaceutical quality system.
In addition, so-called Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) have been concluded between many countries and regions that mutually recognize the official inspections or inspection results. This has been made possible not least by extensive harmonization of regulatory requirements.
The coronavirus pandemic has also contributed to the postponement of inspections by foreign authorities, inspections carried out in “remote mode” or the acceptance of inspections by local authorities as sufficient in the context of the MRAs. The MRAs lead to a stronger emphasis on inspections by local authorities in part because the standard of inspections based on the MRAs is raised to a common and expected higher level across countries. The backlog of postponed inspections by foreign authorities will intensify this trend in the future.
An audit of Quality Oversight has been a focal point in the inspections of the American authority for years. What importance does Quality Oversight have in the inspections of the European authorities and don't the manufacturers in the EU have to prepare for the issue of Quality Oversight due to the low and decreasing number of inspections by the U.S. FDA?