Friday, October 1, 2010

Are The Rules A Constraint to Innovation, Competition and A Cause of Adulterated Product?

Rules are generally created to be followed. They maintain discipline. To innovate many times they are broken intentionally or unintentionally. Such forays lead to the creation of new rules. However, if the rules to be followed are cumbersome or become cumbersome, they can be a deterrent to innovation and competition. Companies need to maintain profitability while following complex rules that are difficult to comply with could ship marginally unacceptable product to the market. Such a practice would be violation of the public trust.

A review of the proposed US FDA guidelines for “Process Validation: General Principles and Practices” suggest that the rules are complex. They instead of simplifying manufacturing operations will add complexity to the business operations. At times I wonder has anyone done a dry run and economic value analysis of the proposed or even of the adopted rules on any commercial process. The proposed rules will drive manufacturing by “regulatory centricity” rather than “product centricity”. “Process and product centricity” are needed rather than “regulatory centricity”. It will take an army of technocrats time to prepare, fill and comply with the regulatory paper work. My estimate is that it will be more than the time needed to simplify and/or develop complying processes.

It seems that the regulations are being used to produce a reproducible quality product using a less than efficient process rather than having an efficient and a process from the onset that will produce repeatable quality product. Simply said the rules dictate how and what of every step of the potato peeling process needs to be documented rather than assist in creating a simple, safe and sustainable process that will result in a repeatable quality product.

“Section III. Statutory and Regulatory Requirements For Process Validation” of the proposed “Process Validation: General Principles and Practices” rules got my attention. It states the following:

“Process validation for drugs (finished pharmaceuticals and components) is a legally enforceable requirement under section 501(a)(2)(B) of the Act, which states the following:

A drug . . . shall be deemed to be adulterated . . . if . . . the methods used in, or the facilities or controls used for, its manufacture, processing, packing, or holding do not conform to or are not operated or administered in conformity with current good manufacturing practice to assure that such drug meets the requirements of this Act as to safety and has the identity and strength, and meets the quality and purity characteristics, which it purports or is represented to possess.”

If the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act gives the US federal government legal enforceability option then why is the government not enforcing its legal obligation for its citizens when it comes to drugs that do not comply with specifications or are contaminated with foreign substances.

Marketing and formulation companies through their alliance market a product that meets specification and has to be produced following the rules. In the recent years we have seen increasing amounts of unacceptable product in the market. It could be due to increased amounts being outsourced and the companies are not able to or want to follow the complicated rules. If the product that does not meet the specifications shows up in the public domain it is violation of the company’s committed public obligation and trust. A question needs to be asked, “Why are the companies failing in their public commitment?”

Governments have allowed recalls of bad product hiccups. If a commercialized material does not meet agreed specifications, could the distribution of “off-spec” products be considered criminal offence by the pharmaceutical companies as they have failed to adhere to the established standards? Could the complexity of rules that outline how, what and why of manufacturing allows some of the product slipping through the quality checks in place? Could the rules act as a deterrent to competition and also prevent innovation in pharmaceutical manufacturing processes?

Our objective should be to simplify the rules and the processes that will foster innovation and competition through manufacturing simplicity and produce a consistent quality product all the time.

Girish Malhotra, PE
President
EPCOT International

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