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All comments may be sent at [email protected]. The deadline for submission of comments is on 03 June 2022.

I. BACKGROUND

Republic Act No. 9711, otherwise known as the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009,” and its Implementing Rules and Regulations has declared the policy of the state to adopt, support, establish, institutionalize, improve and maintain structures, processes, mechanism and initiatives that are aimed, directed and designed to: (a) protect and promote the right to health of the Filipino people; (b) help establish and maintain an effective health products regulatory system; and (c) undertake appropriate manpower development and research responsive to the country’s health needs and problems.

In 2020, the FDA worked on an streamlined regulation for the conduct of clinical trials in the Philippines. This effort resulted in the publication of Administrative Order (AO) No. 2020-0010, otherwise known as “Regulations on the Conduct of Clinical Trials for Investigational Products,” approved and implemented on 06 March 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the implementation of reliance on other regulators’ work as a general principle in order to make the best use of available resources and expertise (WHO Technical Report Series, No.1033, 2021 (Annex 10, Good reliance practices in the regulation of medical products: high level principles and considerations). This principle enables leveraging the output of others whenever possible while placing a greater focus at the national level on value-added regulatory activities that cannot be undertaken by other authorities, such as in-country vigilance and clinical trial activities. Reliance approaches facilitate timely access to safe, effective, and quality-assured medical products and can help in regulatory preparedness and response, particularly during public health emergencies.

Good Reliance Practices are anchored in the overarching Good Regulatory Practices (GRP) which provide a means for establishing sound, affordable and effective regulation of medical products as an important part of health system strengthening. If implemented effectively, GRP can lead to consistent regulatory processes, sound regulatory decision-making, increased efficiency of regulatory systems and better public health outcomes.

In relation to these, the FDA, as the National Regulatory Authority (NRA), recognizes that reliance will further streamline its review process and accelerate the conduct of clinical trials in the country. The existing regulations related to the conduct of clinical trials were streamlined to create a clear, simplified and transparent regulation, boost local competitiveness, and attract more local and foreign entrepreneurs.

II. OBJECTIVE

This Circular provides guidelines on reliance for approval of clinical trial applications and to promote a more efficient and effective approach to the regulations in the oversight of the conduct of clinical trials in the Philippines. Specifically, this Circular aims to:

A. To facilitate the evaluation of clinical trial applications addressing public health emergencies, rare diseases, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases of public health threats.

B. To improve the access of investigational drug products for public health emergencies, rare diseases, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases of public health threats

III. SCOPE AND COVERAGE

This Circular shall apply to Sponsors, Contract Research Organizations (CRO), investigators and  Research Ethics Committees (RECs) involved in the approval, conduct, monitoring and inspection, in all phases of Multi-Regional Clinical Trials (MRCTs) for investigational drug products intended for eventual product registration and marketing.

IV. DEFINITION OF TERMS

To ensure a common understanding of concepts and clarity in the interpretation of the terms used in this Circular, the definitions listed in this section are from AO No. 2020-0010, International Council for Harmonization (ICH) Guidelines (E6 & E17), and/or modified from the WHO Technical Report Series, No.1033, 2021.

A. Abridged Regulatory Pathways: Regulatory procedures facilitated by reliance, whereby the regulatory decision is solely or partially based on the application of reliance. The review of a clinical trial application wherein the process or progress of the review and decision-making will be expedited.

B. Contract Research Organization (CRO): A person or an organization (commercial, academic, or other) contracted by the sponsor to perform one or more of a sponsor’s trial-related duties and functions.

C. Regulatory Reviewer: An individual, organization, or institution duly recognized by the FDA to assist in the review of the technical and scientific soundness, merit, and regulatory compliance of a clinical trial application and provide recommendation.

D. Multi-Regional Clinical Trial (MRCT): A clinical trial conducted in more than one country/region under a single protocol.

E. Orphan drug: Any drug or medicine used to treat or alleviate the symptoms of persons afflicted with a rare disease and declared as such by the DOH upon recommendation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as defined in Republic Act No. 10747 also known as Rare Disease Act of the Philippines.

F. Reference Drug Regulatory Agency (RDRA): A stringent regulatory authority whose regulatory decisions and/or regulatory work products are relied upon by another regulatory authority to inform its own regulatory decisions. The list of RDRAs is provided under Annex A of this Circular, subject to regular updating.

G. Reliance: The act whereby the regulatory authority in one jurisdiction takes into account and gives significant weight to assessments performed by another regulatory authority in reaching its own decision.

H. Sponsor: An individual, company, institution, or organization that takes responsibility for the initiation, management, and or financing of clinical trial.

V. IMPLEMENTING DETAILS

A. General Guidelines

1. Licensed Sponsor/CRO intending to undertake clinical trials under an abridged pathway shall follow the rules, regulations, and standards provided in A.O. No. 2020-0010, “Regulations on the Conduct of Clinical Trials for Investigational Products”, and the guidelines specified herein.

2. The FDA retains its prerogative on the following, for clinical trials under abridged pathway specially when there is a significant impact on the safety or physical or mental integrity of the subjects and scientific value of the trial:
a. To assess applications and apply judgements that consider the applicability of the assessment outcomes of the identified RDRA together with its benefits and risks as applicable in the Philippine context. In case of differences, such as in target population, epidemiology, and other features of the disease, concomitantly used medicines and other factors that can substantially affect the benefit–risk profile of an investigational product, appropriate justification should be provided upon filing of application.
b. To exempt a study from local Good Clinical Practice (GCP) inspection when an RDRA has conducted an inspection of the reliance-related study
c. To rely on generated information and relevant clinical decisions of RDRA on the reliance-related studies for FDA’s own regulatory decision.

3. The FDA remains independent, responsible, and accountable for the following decisions taken, even when it relies on the decisions, assessments and information of others.

4. Only establishments with valid FDA-issued Licenses to Operate (LTOs) as Sponsor and/or CRO can apply for abridged review.

5. The abridged procedures for Clinical Trial applications shall be applied only if all of the following criteria are met:
a. The investigational product will address any of the following:
i. Public health emergency
ii. Rare disease (Orphan drug)
iii. Cancer
iv. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
v. Emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases considered as public health threat

b. All aspects of the clinical trial application, including but not limited to the protocol and investigational product information, are identical to that currently approved by the identified RDRA at the time of submission.
c. The clinical trial protocol and investigational product should have not been rejected, withdrawn, suspended, or pending deferral by any RDRA for any reason.

B. Application Process and Requirements

1. Initial Clinical Trial and Import License

The applicant company shall submit the clinical trial application to the FDA through email at [email protected]

a. The Center for Drug Regulation and Research (CDRR) shall pre-assess the application by determining the completeness of the dossier submission and if it satisfies the requirements for abridged pathway.

b. The applicant shall submit the documentary requirements cited in AO No. 2020-0010. In addition, the following documents should be submitted:
i. A formal letter written request from the applicant notifying the FDA of its intent to avail of the abridged review, identifying the RDRA
ii. Copy of the clinical trial approval from the identified RDRA
iii. A declaration letter (Annex B) duly signed by the Sponsor or the authorized CRO stating the requirements under Section V. A.5.b and A.5.c. of this Circular

c. The abridged evaluation process and regulatory decisions for clinical trials shall be as follows:
i. Sponsor/CRO shall secure authorization from the FDA for the conduct of clinical trial in the Philippines through the process of approval within 20 working days as illustrated in Annex C.
ii. An application is deemed filed upon submission of the documentary requirements including payment of fees.
iii. Upon receipt of the application, the FDA shall review the completeness and veracity of the documentary requirements and shall assign a Regulatory Reviewer for the clinical trial application within three (3) working days.
iv. An application shall be processed by the FDA Regulatory Reviewers within ten (10) working days upon receipt of the application and payment of the required fee directly charged to the applicant. If there is a need for any clarification on the application, an electronic notification shall be sent to the applicant; the processing time or clock stops in this step. The applicant is expected to respond to the query/ies within five (5) working days from sending of e-mail correspondence. If response is not received from the applicant within the required period, the application shall be disapproved.
v. The FDA shall issue a decision within seven (7) working days upon receipt of the recommendation from the Regulatory Reviewers.

d. The Import License (IL) and the Clinical Trial Approval (CTA) shall both be issued. The IL shall have a validity of three (3) years and can be used repeatedly within the validity period.

2. Clinical Trial Protocol Amendments

a. Clinical trial protocol amendments, whether for notification or for prior approval, should be submitted following the documentary requirements as stated in the A.O. No. 2020-0010.
b. The FDA shall provide a decision on the amendment applications within ten (10) working days from receipt. If there is a need for any clarification on the application, an electronic notification shall be sent to the applicant; the processing time or clock stops in this step. Thereafter, the applicant is expected to respond to the query/ies within three (3) working days from sending of e-mail correspondence. If response is not received from the applicant within the required period, the application shall be disapproved.
c. Substantial amendment such as changes in design and methodology that has a significant impact on its scientific value and changes that may have significant impact on the safety of the participants, or to the risk and benefit assessment of the study, or as deemed necessary by the FDA, may be forwarded to the regulatory reviewers.

3. Reporting and other Regulatory Requirements

The Sponsor or CRO shall comply with the following reporting and other regulatory requirements stated in the AO No. 2020-0010:
a. Quarterly submission of IL notification
b. Reporting of suspected Unexpected Serious Adverse Reaction (SUSAR) reporting following International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) E2A (Clinical Safety Data Management: Definitions and Standards for Expedited Reporting)
c. Submission of annual progress report, except for clinical trials addressing public health emergencies which shall provide monthly progress reports.
d. Submission of early termination or end of trial report
e. Mandatory uploading in the clinical trial registry
f. Shall not promote, distribute and market test the investigational product
g. Allow the conduct of Good Clinical Practice (GCP) inspection
h. Notification of any clinical trial-related inspection conducted by other NRA.
i. Notification of any regulatory action of other NRA

C. Fees

The appropriate fees as prescribed under existing regulations shall apply or any amendment or latest issuance thereafter.

VI. PENALTY CLAUSE

Violation of any of the provisions of this Circular shall be subject to the penalties/sanctions provided for under Book III, Article XI of the Rules and Regulations Page 8 of 9 A Implementing Republic Act No. 9711 or the “Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009”, and other penalties provided by other applicable laws.

VII. SEPARABILITY CLAUSE

If any provisions in this Circular, or application of such provision to any circumstances, is held invalid, the remainder in this Circular shall not be affected.

 VIII. EFFECTIVITY

This Circular shall take effect fifteen (15) calendar days after publication in one (1) newspaper of general circulation and upon filing with the University of the Philippines, Office of the National Administrative Register (ONAR).

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