Implications for Shipping of Clinical Materials into the European Market

Recently, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) opened an investigation into a patient complaint of mould on paracetamol (acetaminophen) tablets.

It discovered the product was shipped by sea from India to multiple companies in the UK at temperatures reaching up to 60 degrees Celsius. Labeling for paracetamol tablets typically states they should be kept below 30 degrees Celsius. In addition, MHRA discovered the humidity levels exceeded 80 percent during shipping, which is too high for the packaging that was used.

These excursions impacted the drug’s ability to maintain the stability and quality intended by the manufacturer. As a result, MHRA ordered a recall of four shipping containers, which included over 100 batches of the drug product. Because the company arranging these shipments had failed to follow the recommended practices outlined in the EU Good Distribution Practice (GDP) guidelines, the mistake not only cost it time and money but it also put the future of any company receiving the product at risk.

It is up to pharmaceutical companies sponsoring clinical trials in the EU to have comprehensive control of their supply chain and procedures of the shipping of clinical materials. This ensures the quality of their drug supply is not compromised and patients are not inadvertently administered counterfeit or falsified drugs. The intent of the original EU GDP Guidelines created in 1994 was to encourage the safety and security of the pharmaceutical supply chain and outline the standards expected by EU countries and those trading with the EU. While the guidance was focused on commercial products, it is considered best practice for clinical trial shipments. It also helps prepare companies for what is expected when a product is approved for commercial marketing.

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