By Laurie Meehan, Polaris Compliance Consultants, Inc.
Last year, FDA published its draft guidance, officially titled “Contract Manufacturing Arrangements for Drugs: Quality Agreements”. Here are some of the highlights.
First, a Quality Agreement between a Sponsor and Contract Manufacturer has never been, nor is it now, explicitly required by FDA regulations. However, responsibilities and procedures of the each company’s respective Quality Units are required to be documented, so a Quality Agreement that outlines the responsibilities of each company is a logical next step. Note that “Contract Manufacturer” refers to any Contracted Facility that provides some or all manufacturing services, including processing, packing, labeling, holding, or testing.
In Europe, Sponsors (or, in the vernacular of the draft guidance, “Owners”) can outsource the final product release/rejection of finished goods for distribution. In the US, sponsors always assume this responsibility and cannot delegate or outsource it.
Because Contracted Facilities often provide services to multiple Sponsors, FDA advises that special consideration be given to reporting information about objectionable conditions. Sponsors may wish to require that their Contracted Facilities make them aware of manufacturing deficiencies that may impact their products, even if the deficiencies were observed during an inspection of another Sponsor’s product. (Note, our consultants also suggest that the Quality Agreement require that a Contracted Facility notify its Sponsor whenever the FDA inspects the facility. The name of the inspected product and its Sponsor would be kept confidential, but this reporting of inspections tells a Sponsor how often FDA visits the site.)
FDA acknowledges that processes can change at both Sponsor and Contracted Facility companies for a variety of legitimate reasons, so communicating changes between the two companies should be discussed in the Quality Agreement. Examples include additional products brought into the line/facility, changes to key personnel and suppliers, and changes resulting from stability studies, process improvement projects, investigations into manufacturing deviations, out-of-specification results, customer complaints, recalls, or adverse event reports.
Finally, a Quality Agreement does not exempt Contracted Facilities from CGMP compliance. Regardless of the allocation of responsibilities in the Quality Agreement, the Contracted Facility cannot essentially agree to manufacture under non-CGMP conditions. Both companies could be held responsible – the Contract Manufacturer for the non-compliance, and the Sponsor for lack of oversight. FDA provided a few examples:
- The Contracted Facility receives a Warning Letter for deficient maintenance of facilities and equipment. The Quality Agreement specifies the Sponsor is responsible for this, yet the Owner has failed to provide the requisite resources or carry out the necessary upgrades and maintenance, and the Contracted Facility has continued to operate under non-CGMP conditions. (Possible course of action: the Contracted Facility could bear the costs of modifying operations in order to maintain CGMP compliance, and then seek redress from the Sponsor later.)
- Batch records do not match the manufacturing process of adding reclaimed powder, but the Contracted Facility claims that this is just as the Sponsor specified. (Possible course of action: the Contracted Facility could refuse to carry out the additional manufacturing step without including it in the batch record).
The draft guidance concludes by noting that “Owners and Contracted Facilities can draw on quality management principles to carry out the complicated process of contract drug manufacturing by defining, establishing, and documenting the responsibilities of all parties involved in drug manufacturing, testing, or other support operations.”