FDA on the Relationship between Manufacturing and Regulatory Flexibility

February 2, 2012
Angie Drakulich

Angie Drakulich was editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology.

Quality-by-design or “enhanced” approaches to drug manufacturing offer several benefits to industry, including better process understanding and better understanding of the interrelationship of material attributes and process parameters.

Quality-by-design or “enhanced” approaches to drug manufacturing offer several benefits to industry, including better process understanding and better understanding of the interrelationship of material attributes and process parameters. This knowledge can lead to fewer nonconformances and less rejection and rework, according to several International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) Q11 expert working group members. (Q11 is the pending guideline on drug substance and manufacture.) Such an approach can also bring flexibility, whether it be regulatory flexibility or manufacturing flexibility. PharmTech asked the FDA members of the ICH Q11 working group about this issue and what industry should focus on and expect when applying a QbD approach.

“For the purposes of this discussion, ‘regulatory flexibility’ can be defined as a manufacturer having greater freedom to make postapproval changes to a drug-substance manufacturing process and controls, without waiting for prior approval from regulators, than the manufacturer may have had for similar changes approved in the past. ‘Manufacturing flexibility’ can be defined as a manufacturer being more capable of accurately predicting the consequences of changes to a drug substance manufacturing process and controls, based on the increased knowledge and understanding of the drug substance and its manufacturing process obtained from taking an enhanced approach to manufacturing process development.

FDA went on to say that, “manufacturing flexibility is valuable to manufacturers because it provides them with operational flexibility including the assurance that changes can be made without adversely affecting the quality of the material being produced. Regulatory flexibility is valuable to manufacturers because it allows changes to be made more quickly, which in most circumstances will help save money.

“In an ideal world, manufacturing flexibility and regulatory flexibility would go hand in hand. No manufacturer should be granted regulatory flexibility that exceeds the extent of the manufacturer’s manufacturing flexibility. Likewise, a manufacturer’s ability to make changes will be constrained unnecessarily if the extent of the manufacturer’s regulatory flexibility is smaller than the manufacturer’s manufacturing flexibility. Both types of disparities can exist. Manufacturers should not request a degree of regulatory flexibility that exceeds their manufacturing flexibility, and they should provide sufficient information in their submissions to justify the degree of regulatory flexibility being requested. Manufacturers should also consider pursuing the issue of regulatory flexibility internationally: As long as manufacturers receive different degrees of regulatory flexibility in different regions of the world, the full benefits of achieving manufacturing flexibility will be beyond their reach.”

This blog post is part of the February 2012 cover story of Pharmaceutical Technology on ICH Q11

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