Developing A Quality Agreement Template For Single-Use Systems

Oct 01, 2010
Volume 22, Issue 10

This article is part of a special feature on single-use systems that was published in the October issue of PTE Digital, available at http://www.pharmtech.com/ptedigital1010.

Jerold Martin
The development of quality agreements between biopharmaceutical companies and contract manufacturers has long been recognised as a critical activity to ensure that a product's quality meets regulatory requirements. Quality agreements are used to clearly establish each party's responsibilities and assure that manufacturing processes are controlled according to mutual understanding. For biological products, this is supported by the 2008 FDA Guidance, Cooperative Manufacturing Arrangements for Licensed Biologics. More recently, biopharmaceutical companies have looked to establish quality agreements with raw material and API suppliers as a means to guard the supply chain from counterfeit or adulterated materials. This drive has led to the recent publication of a Quality Agreement Template for API manufacturers by the Bulk Pharmaceutical Task Force (BPTF), an affiliate of the Society for Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

Considering the increased reliance that singleuse manufacturing technology places on suppliers to ensure biopharmaceutical quality, quality agreements have also begun to be established between singleuse process equipment suppliers and users — particularly for critical singleuse equipment, such as filters, biocontainers, tubing manifolds and other integrated singleuse systems. While some companies have negotiated agreements on a casebycase basis, there is a recognised need within the industry for a common Quality Agreement Template (QAT) specific to single-use manufacturing that highlights key performance criteria. With this in mind, the BioProcess Systems Alliance (BPSA; http://www.bpsalliance.org/), also an affiliate of SOCMA, has formed a Quality Agreement Template Task Force (QATTF) to develop a suitable template for singleuse technologies for the benefit of users and suppliers.

The BPSA is an industry trade organisation for suppliers and users of singleuse technologies for production of biopharmaceuticals and vaccines. Its primary objective is to facilitate the implementation of singleuse manufacturing through networking, recognition and publication of best practice guides, to provide clarification of current regulatory requirements and to interact with governmental agencies on emerging issues that may impact BPSA members. The BPSA QATTF is composed of quality department personnel from member companies that are system suppliers and end users. This is a global initiative since many BPSA member participants on the committee represent global companies.

Why is a QAT needed?

One of the major challenges with quality agreements that users and suppliers have experienced is that no two companies request the same information, resulting in many hours spent filling out and modifying each company's unique forms. Singleuse system suppliers are considered more responsible for the user's processes than stainless steel component or system suppliers because singleuse components could conceivably vary from lot to lot, with users being highly dependent on the quality and delivery (and repeat quality) of such systems. Consequently, users are requesting to be kept more informed of supplier process changes beyond what has been previously acceptable practice. Singleuse equipment suppliers and users must find ways to ensure suitable change notification on custom-assembled systems for users, while enabling sufficient flexibility of suppliers for updating standard products and processes. Based on a BPSA informal survey of singleuse supplier QA managers, the BPSA estimates that 60–70% of the work undertaken to establish agreements between supplier and user is redundant and does not serve any added value.

Adoption of singleuse technologies for biopharmaceutical manufacturing is growing every day, and many user and supplier companies have expressed the need for an easier way to execute quality agreements in a more timely and lowcost manner. By streamlining the process, the adoption of single-use technologies can progress more efficiently and rapidly, with a higher sense of process consistency and product quality, at lower cost. The BPSA has already helped the industry significantly by educating and providing best practice guides for the adoption of singleuse technologies. BPSA documents such as extractables/leachables guides, white papers on component quality test methods, irradiation/sterilisation, disposal and the economic advantages of singleuse are good examples of what the BPSA has been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time.

The BPSA QAT will be a consensus document that identifies commonalities of various templates existing today and will be more effective as a starting point for negotiations. Application of the BPSA QAT will be voluntary (as a trade association, BPSA has no mandate authority).

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