Friday, April 23, 2010

Is There Ever a Good Time for Filter Validation?

By Dr. Scott Rudge

What is the right time to perform bacterial retention testing on a sterile filter for an aseptic process for Drug Product? I usually recommend that this be done prior to manufacturing sterile product. After all, providing for the sterility of the dosage form for an injectable drug is first and foremost the purpose of drug product manufacturing.

But there are some uncomfortable truths concerning this recommendation

1. Bacterial retention studies require large samples, liters

2. Formulations change between first in human and commercial manufacturing, requiring revalidation of bacterial retention

3. The chances of a formulation change causing bacteria to cross an otherwise integral membrane are primarily theoretical, the “risk” would appear to be low

On the other hand

1. The most frequent sterile drug product inspection citation in 2008 by the FDA was “211.113(b) Inadequate validation of sterile manufacturing” (source: presentation by Tara Gooel of the FDA, available on the ISPE website to members)

2. The FDA identifies aseptic processing as the “top priority for risk based approach” due to the proximal risk to patients

3. The FDA continues to identify smaller and smaller organisms that might pass through a filter

Is the issue serious? I think so, risk of infection to patients is one of the few direct consequences that pharmaceutical manufacturers can directly link between manufacturing practice and patient safety, which is one of the goals of Quality by Design. Is the safety threat from changes to filter properties and microbe size in the presence of slightly different formulations substantial? I don’t think so, especially not in proportion to the cost to demonstrate this specifically. But the data aren’t available to demonstrate this hypothesis, because the industry has no shared database to demonstrate a range of aqueous based protein solutions have no effect on bacterial retention. There is really nothing proprietary about this data, and the only organizations that benefit from keeping it confidential are the testing labs. Sharing this data should benefit all of us. An organization like PDA or ISPE should have an interest in polling this data and then making a case to the FDA and EMEA that the vast majority of protein formulations have been bracketed by testing that already exists, and that the revalidation of bacterial retention on filters following formulation changes is mostly superfluous.

In the meantime, if you don’t have enough product to perform bacterial retention studies, at least check the excipients, as in a placebo or diluents buffer. A filter failure is far more likely due to the excipients than the active ingredient, which is typically present in much smaller amounts (by weight and molarity). By doing this, you are both protecting your patients in early clinical testing, and reducing your risk with regulators.

1 comment:

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