The FDA harmonization team has recently announced it is no longer going to be a member of the Global Harmonization Working Party (GHWP). This comes as an eye-opener for many life science industry employees since FDA harmonization has been a visible priority since the agency joined GHWP in 2021.
The FDA stated that it will continue to work with global regulatory experts on international harmonization, with the primary partner being the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF).
Food and Drug Administration
Some industry executives have asked the question why take this type of action now? One primary reason many life science industry experts believe the time is right is based on the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) strategic plan launched in late 2023. Inside the details of the document, the Food and Drug authority laid out a four-year example timeline for working towards greater international harmonization.
These are a few of the initiatives listed to be achieved by FY 2027:
Each fiscal year, CDRH will now evaluate different types of opportunities to increase engagement across international harmonization programs. Further, it is anticipated that CDRH will receive additional funding and resources to help accelerate this engagement. These additional resources will be designed to allow the FDA to expand international harmonization and convergence programs already in progress.
The second phase of the strategic plan is designed to increase discussions about the implementation of harmonized policies. Further, this new mechanism may require FDA to develop additional confidentiality agreements to increase the efficiency of research analysis & discussion under confidentiality commitments. CDRH will review the current list of approved regulatory partners and confidentiality protocols in place to align regulatory strategies across international agencies.
Per the strategic plan, FDA will identify and begin engaging with regulatory authorities by the end of 2023. The primary objective is to create a database of regulatory bodies with whom sharing medical research could be most helpful toward the global harmonization of standards. Finally, CDRH has committed to creating this information-sharing mechanism to communicate best practices in medical device evaluation by the end of 2024.
The strategic plan goes on to elaborate on how CDRH’s regulatory policy compares to widely accepted IMDRF policies. Furthermore, technical specifications of IMDRF documents that include policies and practices approved by all regulatory authorities in the IMDRF Management Committee will be assessed and evaluated by FDA.
One goal of this regulatory process is to increase the understanding of technical description and technical report writing of international regulatory agencies. This will directly help CDRH with their internal assessment of international harmonization efforts, and how FDA’s process may differ in comparison to regulators around the world.
Based on the technical specification data listed in the strategic plan, these are the proposed timelines for CDRH to make advances toward global harmonization:
- CDRH will publish an assessment of at least nine IMDRF technical documents by the end of 2025.
- CDRH will publish an assessment of at least 18 IMDRF technical documents by the end of FY 2026.
- CDRH will publish an assessment of all remaining IMDRF technical documents by the end of FY 2027
The strategic plan continues to elaborate on the life science community and the impact non-FDA employees can have on future regulatory approval. These specific stakeholders may have a unique perspective based on their current occupation or the types of therapy a patient receives. Finally, the following audiences are specifically mentioned for providing first-hand experiences that FDA can leverage based on another regulatory authority’s approach to medical therapy.
- Healthcare patients
- Life science manufacturers
- Conformity assessment bodies
- Standards development organizations
Finally, an annual communication plan is proposed to begin in 2024 that includes developing a forum to assess and report on harmonization program efforts in progress. This forum will be designed to connect with each of the audiences mentioned above to help FDA identify opportunities for learning. Furthermore, this forum would be dependent on the level of interest and considerations of other stakeholders, including the life sciences industry specifically.
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