EDQM remote inspections to become permanent part of inspection scheme
The EDQM will include Real-Time Remote Inspections (RTEMIS) as an integral part of its system for the supervision of manufacturers of active substances from 2022.
In March 2020, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 brought disruptions to the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & HealthCare’s (EDQM) inspection programme.
Consequently, an alternative approach was required that would allow distant assessments comprising full and live interactions with the inspected company. The EDQM established Real-Time Remote Inspections (RTEMIS), a system that makes it possible to evaluate a company’s GMP compliance over a live video feed, permitting simultaneous interaction with the site.
The pilot phase, which started in November 2020, and was based on the voluntary participation of inspectorates and companies, was completed at the end of 2021. The objective of conducting distant assessments via an official review of activities, documents, facilities, records, etc. in real-time with live interaction with the company and a reliable video feed from the facilities, was achieved. The EDQM considers the key elements for its success to be:
- IT tools, such as web conference applications, secure document sharing platforms, along with initial support from the EDQM’s IT department
- the flexibility of participants, i.e. inspectors (from supervisory authorities and the EDQM) and inspected companies, enabling them to adapt quickly to the new inspectional approach and associated challenges
- sound preparation for remote inspections, e.g. preparatory meetings, connectivity tests (dry runs), etc.
- appropriate IT infrastructure and hardware at the inspected site.
During the pilot phase, several RTEMIS inspections were carried out with the support of European Economic Area (EEA) inspectorates, which was instrumental to the success of the project. Notably, upon positive closure of each inspection, the participating agencies – in accordance with the Compilation of Union Procedures on Inspections and Exchange of Information – issued GMP certificates with clarifying remarks to indicate that the inspection was performed as a ‘distant assessment’.
The success of this pilot phase has led the EDQM to conclude that the RTEMIS approach is suitable to become an integral part of its system for the supervision of manufacturers of active substances. Going forward, it will complement existing tools, such as on-site inspections and documentation-based GMP assessment.
Starting in 2022, companies involved in CEP applications may be notified for Real-Time-Remote Inspections as part of the EDQM inspection programme. All companies notified for an RTEMIS inspection will be expected to ensure that appropriate IT infrastructure and hardware are in place by the time of the inspection, with further technical details shared at the time of the notification and during the preparatory phase of the inspection.
As for on-site inspections, the notification will be based on the company’s commitment of willingness to be inspected and will be subject to fees.
The EDQM’s inspection programme monitors compliance with both Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and applications for Certificates of suitability to the monographs of the European Pharmacopoeia (CEPs) in manufacturing sites of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).