Overview of GMPs - - BioPharm International


Overview of GMPs

BioPharm International

The chain of events that compromised the safety of the drug products included inadequate maintenance, inadequate understanding of autoclave operation, and regular deviations from the written production instructions (often attempting to compensate for equipment malfunction). Together, these factors resulted in a sterilization cycle that did not assure that all vials in the autoclave were sterilized; thus, some doses were safe while others led to sepsis in patients who received them. This incident helped to define sterility assurance in an operational way. Processes and requirements for equipment validation were created, and the legal right of inspection was explicitly given to the agency.

Validation was developed as a means of documenting systematic evaluation of the sterilization cycle — building in a safety factor — and identifying the critical parameters that need to be controlled to assure process performance. The concept that quality must be designed into the process and cannot be achieved only by testing remains a central tenet of cGMP. In other words, how you make something helps to define its level of quality. Preventing errors is more effective than finding rejects because it is not possible to detect all rejects.

Thalidomide One of the saddest events in the pharmaceutical industry occurred in the early 1960s. Thalidomide, prescribed for sleep problems, was shown to be safe in clinical trials in healthy adults and was subsequently prescribed to patients, including pregnant women, in Europe. Although safe in adults, thalidomide was toxic to fetuses, and thousands of victims were born with major birth defects. Because FDA hesitated to approve thalidomide, its impact in the US was much less severe than in Europe.

This incident demonstrated that the choice of subjects in pre-clinical and clinical trials is critically important for evaluating safety. Regulations now require reproductive studies in two or three species of animals prior to human clinical trials; newer requirements also require the consideration of gender, race, age, and other characteristics in the design of clinical trials. The data have shown that not only safety, but also efficacy, can vary among sub-populations, and are shedding new light on genetic differences between individuals. In reaction to the thalidomide epidemic, the US Congress passed the Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments, which required that a manufacturer prove effectiveness as well as safety before marketing products.

Tylenol Tampering In 1982, several consumers of over-the-counter Tylenol capsules suddenly died of cyanide poisoning. An intensive investigation of the production records showed that this was not the result of a raw materials mix-up during manufacturing. Rather, tampering apparently occurred on store shelves. A new vulnerability was identified in the supply chain.

The manufacturer, Johnson and Johnson, notified the public and voluntarily recalled its entire product in what is now a textbook case of how to respond to a health disaster. Their development scientists went into overdrive to re-design the capsule to make tampering more difficult and more detectable. The industry as a whole re-evaluated the means of delivering over-the-counter medicines. Regulations were updated starting in 1982, and they now require tamper-resistant packaging that aids in the detection of tampering. Without these steps, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals could have become an unacceptable safety risk.

L-Tryptophan: Impurities In 1989, an outbreak of toxic reactions to over-the-counter L-tryptophan, a dietary supplement, resulted in 38 deaths and probably thousands of less severe reactions. The event was the result of a manufacturing process change that increased the level of a harmful byproduct. Doses that had previously been safe now caused toxicity. One response to this event was the clarification of requirements for characterizing drug impurities and new requirements for evaluation of minor impurities. In the biological products area, extensive policy and guidances have been issued on how to establish comparability when process, facility, or other changes are made.

Organization and Personnel The most basic section of the GMP regulations, 21 CFR 211:80, can be paraphrased to state, "Thou shalt have written procedures, and thou shalt follow them." This remains the most-cited violation of the GMPs — not because it is difficult to understand but because it is such a challenge to comply. The consistency of any product results from the ability to repeat the procedures faithfully over a long period of time, despite changes in equipment, staffing, and other factors. Batch record review, performed by a quality assurance group, is one means of checking the fidelity with which the recipes are followed. Training programs seek to prevent inconsistencies from occurring and should be repeated periodically to reinforce the importance of following procedure exactly as written. The GMP regulations spell out basic qualifications and training requirements for all individuals engaged in GMP functions, including consultants.

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