Good manufacturing practice (GMP) describes the minimum standard that a medicines manufacturer must meet in their production processes. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) coordinates inspections to verify compliance with these standards and plays a key role in harmonizing GMP activities at European Union (EU) level.
GMP refers to the Good Manufacturing Practice regulations promulgated by the US Food and Drug Administration under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (See Chapter IV for food, and Chapter V, Subchapters A, B, C, D, and E for drugs and devices.) These regulations, which have the force of law, require that manufacturers, processors, and packagers of drugs, medical devices, some food, and blood take proactive steps to ensure that their products are safe, pure, and effective.
GMP regulations require a quality approach to manufacturing, enabling companies to minimize or eliminate instances of contamination, mixups, and errors. This protects the consumer from purchasing a product which is not effective or even dangerous. Failure of firms to comply with GMP regulations can result in very serious consequences including recall, seizure, fines, and jail time.
GMP regulations address issues including record keeping, personnel qualifications, sanitation, cleanliness, equipment verification, process validation, and complaint handling. Most GMP requirements are very general and open-ended, allowing each manufacturer to decide individually how to best implement the necessary controls. This provides much flexibility, but also requires that the manufacturer interpret the requirements in a manner which makes sense for each individual business.
GMP is also sometimes referred to as “cGMP“. The “c” stands for “current,” reminding manufacturers that they must employ technologies and systems which are up-to-date in order to comply with the regulation. Systems and equipment used to prevent contamination, mix-ups, and errors, which may have been first-rate 20 years ago may be less than adequate by current standards.
Good manufacturing practices, along with good agricultural practices, good laboratory practices and good clinical practices, are overseen by regulatory agencies in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Europe, China, India and other countries.
Any manufacturer of medicines intended for the EU market, no matter where in the world it is located, must comply with GMP.
- are of consistent high quality;
- are appropriate for their intended use;
- meet the requirements of the marketing authorization or clinical trial authorization.
Good manufacturing practice guidelines provide guidance for manufacturing, testing, and quality assurance in order to ensure that a manufactured product is safe for human consumption or use. Many countries have legislated that manufacturers follow GMP procedures and create their own GMP guidelines that correspond with their legislation.
All guideline follows a few basic principles:
- Manufacturing facilities must maintain a clean and hygienic manufacturing area.
- Manufacturing facilities must maintain controlled environmental conditions in order to prevent cross-contamination from adulterants and allergens that may render the product unsafe for human consumption or use.
- Manufacturing processes must be clearly defined and controlled. All critical processes are validated to ensure consistency and compliance with specifications.
- Manufacturing processes must be controlled, and any changes to the process must be evaluated. Changes that affect the quality of the drug are validated as necessary.
- Instructions and procedures must be written in clear and unambiguous language using good documentation practices.
- Operators must be trained to carry out and document procedures.
- Records must be made, manually or electronically, during manufacture that demonstrate that all the steps required by the defined procedures and instructions were in fact taken and that the quantity and quality of the food or drug was as expected. Deviations must be investigated and documented.
- Records of manufacture (including distribution) that enable the complete history of a batch to be traced must be retained in a comprehensible and accessible form.
- Any distribution of products must minimize any risk to their quality.
- A system must be in place for recalling any batch from sale or supply.
- Complaints about marketed products must be examined, the causes of quality defects must be investigated, and appropriate measures must be taken with respect to the defective products and to prevent recurrence.
Good manufacturing practices are recommended with the goal of safeguarding the health of consumers and patients as well as producing quality products. In the United States, a food or drug may be deemed “adulterated” if it has passed all of the specifications tests but is found to be manufactured in a facility or condition which violates or does not comply with current good manufacturing guideline.
GMP standards are not prescriptive instructions on how to manufacture products. They are a series of performance based requirements that must be met during manufacturing. When a company is setting up its quality program and manufacturing process, there may be many ways it can fulfill GMP requirements. It is the company’s responsibility to determine the most effective and efficient quality process that both meets business and regulatory needs. : ”Decision Makers’ Summary”,
Regulatory agencies have recently begun to look at more fundamental quality metrics of manufacturers than just compliance with basic GMP regulations. US-FDA has found that manufacturers who have implemented quality metrics programs gain a deeper insight into employee behaviors that impact product quality. In its Guidance for Industry “Data Integrity and Compliance With Drug CGMP” US-FDA states “it is the role of management with executive responsibility to create a quality culture where employees understand that data integrity is an organizational core value and employees are encouraged to identify and promptly report data integrity issues.” Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has said that recent data integrity failures have raised questions about the role of quality culture in driving behaviors. In addition, non-governmental organizations such as the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) and the Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) have developed information and resources to help pharmaceutical companies better understand why quality culture is important and how to assess the current situation within a site or organization.
GMPs are enforced in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under Title 21 CFR. The regulations use the phrase “current good manufacturing practices” (CGMP) to describe these guidelines. Courts may theoretically hold that a product is adulterated even if there is no specific regulatory requirement that was violated as long as the process was not performed according to industry standards. However, since June 2007, a different set of CGMP requirements have applied to all manufacturers of dietary supplements, with additional supporting guidance issued in 2010. Additionally, in the U.S., medical device manufacturers must follow what are called “quality system regulations” which are deliberately harmonized with ISO requirements, not necessarily CGMPs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) version of GMP is used by pharmaceutical regulators and the pharmaceutical industry in over 100 countries worldwide, primarily in the developing world. The European Union‘s GMP (EU-GMP) enforces similar requirements to WHO GMP, as does the FDA’s version in the US. Similar GMPs are used in other countries, with Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Philippines], Vietnam and others having highly developed/sophisticated GMP requirements. In the United Kingdom, the Medicines Act (1968) covers most aspects of GMP in what is commonly referred to as “The Orange Guide,” which is named so because of the color of its cover; it is officially known as Rules and Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Distributors.
Since the 1999 publication of GMPs for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, by the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH), GMPs now apply in those countries and trade groupings that are signatories to ICH (the EU, Japan and the U.S.), and applies in other countries (e.g., Australia, Canada, Singapore) which adopt ICH guidelines for the manufacture and testing of active raw materials.
Within the European Union GMP inspections are performed by National Regulatory Agencies. GMP inspections are performed in Canada by the Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate; in the United Kingdom by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA); in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS); in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA);in Bangladesh by the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA); in South Africa by the Medicines Control Council (MCC); in Brazil by the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA); in India by state Food and Drugs Administrations (FDA), reporting to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization; in Pakistan by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan; in Nigeria by NAFDAC; and by similar national organizations worldwide. Each of the inspectorates carries out routine GMP inspections to ensure that drug products are produced safely and correctly. Additionally, many countries perform pre-approval inspections (PAI) for GMP compliance prior to the approval of a new drug for marketing.
Facts About the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs)
Pharmaceutical Quality affects every American. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the quality of pharmaceuticals very carefully. The main regulatory standard for ensuring pharmaceutical quality is the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMPs) regulation for human pharmaceuticals. Consumers expect that each batch of medicines they take will meet quality standards so that they will be safe and effective. Most people, however, are not aware of CGMPs, or how FDA assures that drug manufacturing processes meet these basic objectives. Recently, FDA has announced a number of regulatory actions taken against drug manufacturers based on the lack of CGMPs. This paper discusses some facts that may be helpful in understanding how CGMPs establish the foundation for drug product quality.
What are CGMPs?
CGMP refers to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations enforced by the FDA. CGMPs provide for systems that assure proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities. Adherence to the CGMP regulations assures the identity, strength, quality, and purity of drug products by requiring that manufacturers of medications adequately control manufacturing operations. This includes establishing strong quality management systems, obtaining appropriate quality raw materials, establishing robust operating procedures, detecting and investigating product quality deviations, and maintaining reliable testing laboratories. This formal system of controls at a pharmaceutical company, if adequately put into practice, helps to prevent instances of contamination, mix-ups, deviations, failures, and errors. This assures that drug products meet their quality standards.
The CGMP requirements were established to be flexible in order to allow each manufacturer to decide individually how to best implement the necessary controls by using scientifically sound design, processing methods, and testing procedures. The flexibility in these regulations allows companies to use modern technologies and innovative approaches to achieve higher quality through continual improvement. Accordingly, the “C” in CGMP stands for “current,” requiring companies to use technologies and systems that are up-to-date in order to comply with the regulations. Systems and equipment that may have been “top-of-the-line” to prevent contamination, mix-ups, and errors 10 or 20 years ago may be less than adequate by today’s standards.
It is important to note that CGMPs are minimum requirements. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers are already implementing comprehensive, modern quality systems and risk management approaches that exceed these minimum standards.
Why are CGMPs so important?
A consumer usually cannot detect (through smell, touch, or sight) that a drug product is safe or if it will work. While CGMPs require testing, testing alone is not adequate to ensure quality. In most instances testing is done on a small sample of a batch (for example, a drug manufacturer may test 100 tablets from a batch that contains 2 million tablets), so that most of the batch can be used for patients rather than destroyed by testing. Therefore, it is important that drugs are manufactured under conditions and practices required by the CGMP regulations to assure that quality is built into the design and manufacturing process at every step. Facilities that are in good condition, equipment that is properly maintained and calibrated, employees who are qualified and fully trained, and processes that are reliable and reproducible, are a few examples of how CGMP requirements help to assure the safety and efficacy of drug products.
How does FDA determine if a company is complying with CGMP regulations?
FDA inspects pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities worldwide, including facilities that manufacture active ingredients and the finished product. Inspections follow a standard approach and are conducted by highly trained FDA staff. FDA also relies upon reports of potentially defective drug products from the public and the industry. FDA will often use these reports to identify sites for which an inspection or investigation is needed. Most companies that are inspected are found to be fully compliant with the CGMP regulations.
If a manufacturer is not following CGMPs, are drug products safe for use
If a company is not complying with CGMP regulations, any drug it makes is considered “adulterated” under the law. This kind of adulteration means that the drug was not manufactured under conditions that comply with CGMP. It does not mean that there is necessarily something wrong with the drug.
For consumers currently taking medicines from a company that was not following CGMPs, FDA usually advises these consumers not to interrupt their drug therapy, which could have serious implications for their health. Consumers should seek advice from their health care professionals before stopping or changing medications. Regulatory actions against companies with poor CGMPs are often intended to prevent the possibility of unsafe and/or ineffective drugs. In rare cases, FDA regulatory action is intended to stop the distribution or manufacturing of violative product. The impact of CGMP violations depends on the nature of those violations and on the specific drugs involved. A drug manufactured in violation of CGMP may still meet its labeled specifications, and the risk that the drug is unsafe or ineffective could be minimal. Thus, FDA’s advice will be specific to the circumstances, and health care professionals are best able to balance risks and benefits and make the right decision for their patients.
What can FDA do to protect the public when there are CGMP violations?
If the failure to meet CGMPs results in the distribution of a drug that does not offer the benefit as labeled because, for example, it has too little active ingredient, the company may subsequently recall that product. This protects the public from further harm by removing these drugs from the market. While FDA cannot force a company to recall a drug, companies usually will recall voluntarily or at FDA’s request. If a company refuses to recall a drug, FDA can warn the public and can seize the drug.
FDA can also bring a seizure or injunction case in court to address CGMP violations even where there is no direct evidence of a defect affecting the drug’s performance. When FDA brings a seizure case, the agency asks the court for an order that allows federal officials to take possession of “adulterated” drugs. When FDA brings an injunction case, FDA asks the court to order a company to stop violating CGMPs. Both seizure and injunction cases often lead to court orders that require companies to take many steps to correct CGMP violations, which may include repairing facilities and equipment, improving sanitation and cleanliness, performing additional testing to verify quality, and improving employee training. FDA can also bring criminal cases because of CGMP violations, seeking fines and jail time.
How would a new drug company learn about CGMPs and about FDA’s expectations on complying with them?
FDA publishes regulations and guidance documents for industry in the Federal Register. This is how the federal government notifies the public of what we are doing and why. FDA’s website, www.fda.gov also contains links to the CGMP regulations, guidance documents, and various resources to help drug companies comply with the law. FDA also conducts extensive public outreach through presentations at national and international meetings and conferences, to discuss and explain the CGMP requirements and the latest policy documents.
Regulatory agencies (including the FDA in the U.S. and regulatory agencies in many European nations) are authorized to conduct unannounced inspections, though some are scheduled. FDA routine domestic inspections are usually unannounced, but must be conducted according to 704(a) of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 USCS § 374), which requires that they are performed at a “reasonable time”. Courts have held that any time the firm is open for business is a reasonable time for an inspection.
Other good practices
Other good-practice systems, along the same lines as GMP, exist:
- Good agricultural practice (GAP), for farming and ranching
- Good clinical practice (GCP), for hospitals and clinicians conducting clinical studies on new drugs in humans
- Good distribution practice (GDP) deals with the guidelines for the proper distribution of medicinal products for human use.
- Good laboratory practice (GLP), for laboratories conducting non-clinical studies (toxicology and pharmacology studies in animals)
- Good pharmacovigilance practice (GVP), for the safety of produced drugs
- Good regulatory practice (GRP), for the management of regulatory commitments, procedures and documentation
Collectively, these and other good-practice requirements are referred to as “GxP” requirements, all of which follow similar philosophies. Other examples include good guidance practices, and good tissue practices.
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