- 7 октября 2019
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EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) is requesting as a matter of precaution that marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) for human medicines containing chemically synthesised active substances review their medicines for the possible presence of nitrosamines and test all products at risk. If nitrosamines are detected in any of their medicines, marketing authorisation holders must inform authorities promptly so that appropriate regulatory actions can be taken.
Nitrosamines are classified as probable human carcinogens, which means that long-term exposure above certain levels may increase the risk of cancer. They are present in some foods and drinking water supplies and where they have been found in medicines the risk of developing cancer has been low.
It should be reminded here that the findings of the review of sartans with a tetrazole ring indicate that there is a potential for nitrosamines to be present in APIs for other medicines (i.e. non-sartans APIs), depending on the API and the finished product manufacturing processes.
It should be also noted that traces of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) have been found in pioglitazone hydrochloride from one API manufacturer. As the nitrosamine levels in this case were within the interim limits established in the sartans review (please refer to the table below), no market action was deemed necessary. As a precaution, companies using certain reagents to manufacture pioglitazone have been requested to test their products and check their processes to rule out the presence of nitrosamine impurities. More recently nitrosamine impurities have been identified in batches of ranitidine and consequently an EU-wide review has been initiated.
Temporary limits for NDMA, NDEA as well as for NMBA, DIPNA and EIPNA impurities have been set in line with current ICH M7(R1) guidelines and are given in the table below.
NDEA, DIPNA, EIPNA
Acceptable Intake [ng/day]
Acceptable Intake [ng/day]
NDMA – N-nitrosodimethylamine
NDEA – N-nitrosodiethylamine,
NMBA – 4-(methyl)(nitroso)amino)butanoic acid
DIPNA – N-nitrosodiisopropylamine
EIPNA – N-nitrosoethylisopropylamine
Nitrosamines are not expected to be formed during the manufacture of the vast majority of APIs outside the class of sartans with a tetrazole ring. However, it is now known that these impurities can form during production under certain conditions and when certain solvents, reagents and other raw materials are used. In addition, impurities can be carried over during the manufacturing process when using already-contaminated equipment or reagents. Furthermore, in cases where nitrosamines can form or are carried over during production, the impurities should normally be controlled and removed during the manufacturing process. Therefore, despite the low risk of nitrosamines being present, Marketing Authorisation Holders (MAHs) are asked to take precautionary measures to mitigate the risk of nitrosamine formation or presence during the manufacture of all medicinal products containing chemically synthesised APIs, i.e. MAHs should review their manufacturing processes to identify and, if found, to mitigate risk of presence of nitrosamine impurities in all human medicinal products containing chemically synthesised active pharmaceutical ingredients.
MAHs should work with manufacturers of API and finished products in order to review the API and finished product manufacturing processes with respect to the arrangements for preventing nitrosamine formation as well as contamination or cross-contamination, taking into account their knowledge of the manufacturing processes as well as the potential sources of nitrosamine impurities.
MAHs are responsible for ensuring that their medicinal products are manufactured in accordance with the requirements laid down in Directive 2001/83/EC. MAHs are responsible for the quality, safety and efficacy of their products, including the quality of the APIs, excipients and raw materials used in the manufacture of finished products. MAHs should therefore ensure (via quality agreements) that they and the holder of the manufacturing authorisation have access to relevant information from the API manufacturers concerning potential formation of nitrosamine impurities and the potential for cross-contamination. The holder of the manufacturing authorisation is also reminded of their responsibility to ensure the use of APIs that have been manufactured in accordance with good manufacturing practice (GMP) for active substances.
The information necessary for risk evaluation should be made available to the MAHs by the manufacturers. Even for products with active substance master files (ASMFs) and certification of suitability to the monographs of the European Pharmacopoeia (CEPs) containing information that is not available to MAHs, MAHs remain responsible for ensuring that robust risk evaluations have been appropriately carried out by the ASMF or CEP holder to enable the MAH to take responsibility for the quality of the active substance and the medicinal product.
For medicinal products containing APIs other than sartans with a tetrazole ring,
the following steps should be taken:
Step 3: Changes to the marketing authorisation
MAHs should perform risk evaluation of their medicinal products containing chemically synthesised API (i.e. all authorised human medicinal products including generics and over-the counter (OTC) products) using quality risk management principles and evaluate possibility of nitrosamines being present in every concerned medicine at the latest within 6 months of the publication of the notification (26 September 2019),
NEW! Update [23/11/2019]
i.e. MAHs should report the outcome by 26 March 2020 at the latest;
MAHs should prioritise products in order to establish the sequence in which their products are to be evaluated, starting with medicines more likely to be at risk of containing nitrosamines;
for the purposes of this prioritisation, MAHs may consider factors such as the maximum daily dose taken, duration of treatment, therapeutic indication and number of patients treated; for example, medicinal products with higher daily dose and those for chronic use may take priority;
MAHs should take into account findings from CHMP’s review of sartans;
MAHs should inform the concerned Competent Authorities of outcome of risk evaluations;
in the event that a risk of presence of nitrosamines is identified as a result of the risk evaluation, confirmatory testing should be carried out using appropriately validated and sensitive methods in accordance with the prioritisation deriving from the risk evaluation;
Acceptable Intakes (AIs) on which temporary limits should be based for NDMA, NDEA, NMBA, DIPNA and EIPNA are presented in the table above;
products identified as high priority should be tested as soon as possible;
confirmatory testing of all medicinal products identified to be at risk of presence of nitrosamines and submission of required changes in the manufacturing authorisations should be concluded at the latest within 3 years of the publication of the notification (26 September 2019) or at an earlier time if otherwise justified;
MAHs should inform the competent authorities immediately if tests confirm the presence of an nitrosamine impurity irrespective of the amount detected;
MAHs should apply for a variation in a timely manner to introduce any required changes, such as amendment of the manufacturing process or changes to product specifications;
At all steps, timelines should be shortened and authorities immediately informed if findings indicate
an immediate risk to public health.
NEW! Update [23/11/2019]
Although EDQM does not expect that the issue regarding presence of nitrosamines impacts many substances, it is now appropriate to expand the review to all other APIs (other than sartans with a tetrazole ring). manufactured from chemical synthesis for which CEPs have been granted. EDQM therefore requests that the holders of such CEPs follow the process described here (which is a similar stepwise approach to that for MAH).
Revision to the CEP
companies holding CEPs should perform a risk evaluation of their chemically synthesised APIs with regards nitrosamine formation, using quality risk management principles, as outlined in the ICH Q9 guideline;
the CEP holders should prioritise substances in order to establish the sequence in which they are to be evaluated;
if any substances are identified as high priority, the risk evaluation should be done immediately;
the risk evaluation should address not only risks from the manufacturing process but also those from the introduction of materials used in the manufacturing process (e.g. starting materials, reagents, solvents – fresh and recovered etc.);
the risk evaluation for all CEPs should be concluded at the latest by 26th March 2020;
CEP holders are not required to confirm to EDQM that step 1 has been completed where no risk is identified; however where a risk is identified, EDQM should be immediately informed and the company should progress to step 2, confirmatory testing, and the timescales for when the confirmatory testing results will be provided to EDQM should be indicated to EDQM;
the outcome of step 1 relating to the risk evaluation performed for a CEP should be communicated to the customers in all cases (even if no risk is identified) such that the MAHs can use this information to fulfil their responsibilities;
in the event that a risk of presence of nitrosamines is identified as a result of the risk evaluation, confirmatory testing should be carried out using appropriately validated and sensitive methods in accordance with the prioritisation deriving from the risk evaluation conducted in step 1;
substances identified as high priority should be tested as soon as possible;
all APIs identified to be at risk of presence of nitrosamines should be tested and the results provided to EDQM with, if needed, a proposal for subsequent actions (such as revision of the CEP);
CEP holders should inform the EDQM immediately if the tests confirm the presence of a nitrosamine impurity, irrespective of the amount detected, and provide the results;. the companies should then progress to step 3 after informing EDQM of the plan and timescales to complete step 3;
where nitrosamine impurities have been detected, CEP holders should apply for a revision to their application(s) in a timely manner to introduce any required changes, such as amendment of the manufacturing process or changes to specifications and introduction of controls;
the required revisions to the CEP applications should be concluded at the latest by 26th September 2022 or at an earlier time if otherwise justified;
CEP holders are reminded that it is their responsibility to complete the procedure described above for all their impacted CEPs.
EDQM may contact CEP holders for information on the risk of nitrosamines at any step of this review and any such requests should be responded to fully and in a timely manner.
EDQM will take action on any CEP (e.g. suspension) where information becomes available regarding an unacceptable level of nitrosamine impurities in the active substance which is the subject of a CEP.
EDQM reminds CEP holders that they should provide the appropriate information relating to the risk evaluation they have performed for their CEP to their customers in all cases (for steps 1 to 3, and for step 1 even if no risk has been identified) such that the MAHs can use this information to fulfil their responsibilities in a timely manner.
Source: EMA, EDQM