SPECIFICATIONS: Test Procedures And Acceptance Criteria For New Drug Substances And New Drug Products: Chemical Substance.

Specifications: Definition and Justification

Definition of Specifications:-

A specification is defined as a list of tests, references to analytical procedures, and appropriate acceptance criteria which are numerical limits, ranges, or other criteria for the tests described. It establishes the set of criteria to which a new drug substance or new drug product should conform to be considered acceptable for its intended use. “Conformance to specifications” means that the drug substance and / or drug product, when tested according to the listed analytical procedures, will meet the listed acceptance criteria. Specifications are critical quality standards that are proposed and justified by the manufacturer and approved by regulatory authorities as conditions of approval. It is possible that, in addition to release tests, a specification may list in-process tests, periodic (skip) tests, and other tests which are not always conducted on a batch-by-batch basis. In such cases the applicant should specify which tests are routinely conducted batch-by-batch, and which tests are not, with an indication and justification of the actual testing frequency. In this situation, the drug substance and / or drug product should meet the acceptance criteria if tested. It should be noted that changes in the specification after approval of the application may need prior approval by the regulatory authority.

Justification of Specifications

When a specification is first proposed, justification should be presented for each procedure and each acceptance criterion included. The justification should refer to relevant development data, Pharmacopoeial standards, test data for drug substances and drug products used in toxicology and clinical studies, and results from accelerated and long term stability studies, as appropriate. Additionally, a reasonable range of expected analytical and manufacturing variability should be considered. It is important to consider all of this information. Approaches other than those set forth in this guideline may be applicable and acceptable. The applicant should justify alternative approaches. Such justification should be based on data derived from the new drug substance synthesis and/or the new drug product manufacturing process. This justification may consider theoretical tolerances for a given procedure or acceptance criterion, but the actual results obtained should form the primary basis for whatever approach is taken. Test results from stability and scale-up / validation batches, with emphasis on the primary stability batches, should be considered in setting and justifying specifications. If multiple manufacturing sites are planned, it may be valuable to consider data from these sites in establishing the initial tests and acceptance criteria. This is particularly true when there is limited initial experience with the manufacture of the drug substance or drug product at any particular site. If data from a single representative manufacturing site are used in setting tests and acceptance criteria, product manufactured at all sites should still comply with these criteria. Presentation of test results in graphic format may be helpful in justifying individual acceptance criteria, particularly for assay values and impurity levels. Data from development work should be included in such a presentation, along with stability data available for new drug substance or new drug product batches manufactured by the proposed commercial processes. Justification for proposing exclusion of a test from the specification should be based on development data and on process validation data (where appropriate).

New Drug Products

The following tests and acceptance criteria are considered generally applicable to all new drug products:

  1. Description: A qualitative description of the dosage form should be provided (e.g., size, shape, and color). If any of these characteristics change during manufacture or storage, this change should be investigated and appropriate action taken. The acceptance criteria should include the final acceptable appearance. If color changes during storage, a quantitative procedure may be appropriate.
  2. Identification: Identification testing should establish the identity of the new drug substance(s) in the new drug product and should be able to discriminate between compounds of closely related structure which are likely to be present. Identity tests should be specific for the new drug substance, e.g., infrared spectroscopy. Identification solely by a single chromatographic retention time, for example, is not regarded as being specific. However, the use of two chromatographic procedures, where the separation is based on different principles, or combination of tests into a single procedure, such as HPLC/UV diode array, HPLC/MS, or GC/MS, is generally acceptable.
  3. Assay: A specific, stability-indicating assay to determine strength (content) should be included for all new drug products. In many cases it is possible to employ the same procedure (e.g., HPLC) for both assay of the new drug substance and quantitation of impurities. Results of content uniformity testing for new drug products can be used for quantitation of drug product strength, if the methods used for content uniformity are also appropriate as assays. In cases where use of a non-specific assay is justified, other supporting analytical procedures should be used to achieve overall specificity. For example, where titration is adopted to assay the drug substance for release, the combination of the assay and a suitable test for impurities can be used. A specific procedure should be used when there is evidence of excipient interference with the non-specific assay.
  4. Impurities: Organic and inorganic impurities (degradation products) and residual solvents are included in this category. Refer to the ICH Guidelines Impurities in New Drug Products and Residual Solvents for detailed information.

Organic impurities arising from degradation of the new drug substance and impurities that arise during the manufacturing process for the drug product should be monitored in the new drug product. Acceptance limits should be stated for individual specified degradation products, which may include both identified and unidentified degradation products as appropriate, and total degradation products. Process impurities from the new drug substance synthesis are normally controlled during drug substance testing, and therefore are not included in the total impurities limit. However, when a synthesis impurity is also a degradation product, its level should be monitored and included in the total degradation product limit. When it has been conclusively demonstrated via appropriate analytical methodology, that the drug substance does not degrade in the specific formulation, and under the specific storage conditions proposed in the new drug application, degradation product testing may be reduced or eliminated upon approval by the regulatory authorities.

Specific Tests / Criteria

In addition to the universal tests listed above, the following tests may be considered on a case by case basis for drug substances and/or drug products. Individual tests/criteria should be included in the specification when the tests have an impact on the quality of the drug substance and drug product for batch control. Tests other than those listed below may be needed in particular situations or as new information becomes available.

New Drug Substances

  1.  Physicochemical properties: These are properties such as pH of an aqueous solution, melting point / range, and refractive index. The procedures used for the measurement of these properties are usually unique and do not need much elaboration, e.g., capillary melting point, Abbé refractometry. The tests performed in this category should be determined by the physical nature of the new drug substance and by its intended use.
  2.  Particle size: For some new drug substances intended for use in solid or suspension drug products, particle size can have a significant effect on dissolution rates, bioavailability, and / or stability. In such instances, testing for particle size distribution should be carried out using an appropriate procedure, and acceptance criteria should be provided.
  3.  Polymorphic forms: Some new drug substances exist in different crystalline forms which differ in their physical properties. Polymorphism may also include solvation or hydration products (also known as pseudopolymorphs) and amorphous forms. Differences in these forms could, in some cases, affect the quality or performance of the new drug products. In cases where differences exist which have been shown to affect drug product performance, bioavailability or stability, then the appropriate solid state should be specified. Physicochemical measurements and techniques are commonly used to determine whether multiple forms exist. Examples of these procedures are: melting point (including hot-stage microscopy), solid state IR, X-ray powder diffraction, thermal analysis procedures (like DSC, TGA and DTA), Raman spectroscopy, optical microscopy, and solid state NMR.
  4. Tests for chiral new drug substances: Where a new drug substance is
    predominantly one enantiomer, the opposite enantiomer is excluded from the
    qualification and identification thresholds given in the ICH Guidelines on Impurities in New Drug Substances and Impurities in New Drug Products because of practical difficulties in quantifying it at those levels. However, that impurity in the chiral new drug substance and the resulting new drug product(s) should otherwise be treated according to the principles established in those Guidelines.
  5. Water content: This test is important in cases where the new drug substance is
    known to be hygroscopic or degraded by moisture or when the drug substance is
    known to be a stoichiometric hydrate. The acceptance criteria may be justified with
    data on the effects of hydration or moisture absorption. In some cases, a Loss on
    Drying procedure may be considered adequate; however, a detection procedure that is specific for water (e.g., Karl Fischer titration) is preferred.
  6. Inorganic impurities: The need for inclusion of tests and acceptance criteria for
    inorganic impurities (e.g., catalysts) should be studied during development and based on knowledge of the manufacturing process. Procedures and acceptance criteria for sulfated ash / residue on ignition should follow pharmacopoeial precedents; other inorganic impurities may be determined by other appropriate procedures, e.g., atomic absorption spectroscopy.
  7. Microbial limits: There may be a need to specify the total count of aerobic microorganisms, the total count of yeasts and molds, and the absence of specific
    objectionable bacteria (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella,
    Pseudomonas aeruginosa). These should be suitably determined using pharmacopoeial procedures. The type of microbial test(s) and acceptance criteria
    should be based on the nature of the drug substance, method of manufacture, and the intended use of the drug product. For example, sterility testing may be appropriate for drug substances manufactured as sterile and endotoxin testing may be appropriate for drug substances used to formulate an injectable drug product.

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  1. Melvina Stoltzfus

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