Friday, January 23, 2009

The eCTD Summit is moving!

We are re-locating The eCTD Summit to a new location that will allow us to provide additional content such as RSS feeds, upcoming events and more.

From now on, no new posts will appear on this site. New posts will appear on:

Please visit us there, bookmark the page, and sign up for an RSS feed so you will be automatically notified of new posts!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

FDA to begin rejecting eCTDs for significant technical issues

Due to the increased adoption of the eCTD and number of submissions received by the U.S. FDA, submission quality is receiving increased focus and attention at the U.S. FDA. In recent conversations with FDA officials, they have expressed a commitment to increase their diligence and oversight with respect to submission quality and have signaled their intention to begin rejecting eCTD sequences having significant technical issues. Although no specific date has been established for this step, expect an announcement of intent early in 2009, with enforcement beginning some months later.

What are Significant Technical Issues?

Significant technical issues are those defined in eCTD validation criteria However, expect these criteria to be updated and re-issued based on several factors:

  • Enhancement of FDA's Validation Software. FDA recently updated their validation software (GlobalSubmit VALIDATE Version 5). The updated software detects additional errors not documented in the current validation criteria. These error checks were added based on feedback from FDA IT staff and reviewers. The new software went live in CBER on November 18th, and in CDER on November 24th.

  • Analysis of Error Trends. The new software also allows the FDA to fulfill a PDUFA mandate to report back to sponsors on eCTD errors. Specifically, PDUFA IV Information Technology Plan, DRAFT, December 2007, requires reports on “Total number of standards-based electronic submissions that fail to comply with FDA electronic submission standards, along with a distribution of these submission failures across categories of failure or problem type”. After studying the distribution of eCTD submission errors, FDA may choose to re-classify the severity of some of the errors.

  • Issues and Inefficiencies Caused by Problematic eCTDs. FDA also experienced problems with invalid data (especially application and sequence numbers) in the course of moving to VALIDATE 5 and integrating with other databases and systems at FDA. This caused a significant amount of manual processing to address the problems and resulted in delays in the upgrade and integration process. As the number of eCTD sequences received by the FDA is growing exponentially, they cannot continue to accept sequences that need to be manually corrected before they can be loaded and made available to reviewers.

    Groundwork Already Established

    This action should not come as a major surprise to sponsors. FDA has been laying the groundwork for this step for some time. FDA validation criteria defines the impact of a high severity error as “The error is a serious technical error which prevents the processing of the submission and will require resubmission. The submission is considered not received by FDA.”

    In the guidance document “Guidance for Industry: Providing Regulatory Submissions in Electronic Format — Receipt Date”, they say:

    The FDA will consider a technically deficient application not received until the technical deficiencies are resolved and the application is resubmitted. Examples:

  • Defect in media, lack of electronically readable application form, re-use of sequence number, missing index.xml and/or us-regional.xml, virus

  • High priority errors identified in validation criteria

    Sanctions are also discussed in Section IIH of "Providing Regulatory Submissions in Electronic Format - Human Pharmaceutical Product Applications and Related Submissions Using the eCTD Specifications".

    Impact and Recommendations

    FDA anticipates that the step may result in the rejection a few percent of all sequences, based on the quality of submissions currently being received. It is not their intent to issue Refuse to File for a rejection, but it will prevent the PDUFA clock from starting, resulting in a significant cost impact to sponsors. Delays also increase the chance of a complete response - which stops or extends the PDUFA clock.

    I strongly recommend that all organizations who produce eCTDs establish quality processes and procedures to ensure the quality of submissions. Tools that support eCTD review and validation are essential to ensure the overall quality and integrity of the submission to avoid costly errors and the potential rejection of the submission sequences. However,even the best tool must be used in combination with a thorough, repeatable, documented process in order to yield consistently excellent results.

    [Note in the interest of full disclosure - I presently serve as the Director of Professional Services for GlobalSubmit.]
  • Friday, January 9, 2009

    Goodby NeeS!

    Sounds like EMEA stayed busy through the holiday season as they posted four new or updated guidance documents at the end of December. Most significantly, EMEA implementation of electronic-only submissions and mandatory eCTD submissions in the centralised procedure: Statement of Intent tells us:

    "From 1 January 2010, the EMEA will mandate the use of the eCTD format for all electronic-only submissions for all applications (new and existing) and all submission types. Rapporteurs and CHMP members will not receive paper copies or other electronic formats."

    As with the rest of the EMEA's statements and guidelines pertaining to eCTD, this only applies to the Centralised Procedure.

    A "matching" statement of intent for non-eCTD electronic submissions tells of the retirement of NeeS. It also announces the introduction of a set of specific guidelines on submission structure, format and presentation, which non-eCTD submissions should adhere to for the centralised procedure from 1 February 2009 until such time as the eCTD format is mandatory. These guidelines are found in EMEA implementation of electronic-only submissions eCTD submission: Practical guidelines relating to Non-eCTD submissions.

    Finally, the highly useful document EMEA Implementation of Electronic Submissions and eCTD Submissions Statement of Intent Q&A Relating to Practical and Technical Aspects has been re-issued. Changes are minor and include asking for virus checking information in the cover letter instead of a reviewer guide, and acknowledging a discrepancy between the eCTD file naming
    convention and the PDF file naming requirements for EPAR (product information) documents (you are advised to use eCTD file naming conventions for the time being).

    My collegue discussed this announcement with EMEA representatives this week, and they have indicated that although they are not in a legal position to require electronic submissions, they strongly recommend against paper submissions.

    (P.S. After an internal struggle, I suppressed the urge to label this post "It's Been NeeS".)

    Monday, December 29, 2008

    More news and updates from the EU agencies

    As the EU authorities continue their progress towards welcoming eSubmissions, information continues to surface on their web sites and elsewhere.

    The Swedish National Authority (MPA) has updated their web site with new eSubmission information - see Electronic submissions to the MPA. The MPA maintains a dedicated email address ( for general questions on electronic submissions. They also provide guidance on media, cover letters, handling of MS Word documents, etc. Some of the information is only in Swedish (which BabelFish unfortunately won't translate!).

    If you visit the web site of the Spanish agency La Agencia EspaƱola de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios, look for a Welcome link in the top toolbar to access some content in English. Click the Electronic Submission link and look for the link to Instructions for electronic submission eCTD/NEES Pilot Phase. The agency has instructions for generating electronic submissions, to take effect in January 2009. The agency requuires sponsors to register new authorizations and variations in the AEMPS Regulatory Tool: RAEFAR, and to use the Belgian tool eCTDchecker on NEES submissions. A more detailed guide is available in Spanish: Guide AEMPS v1.11 .

    Finally, an interesting presentation on Electronic Submissions in Hungary, by Dr. Gergely Zajzon of National Institute of Pharmacy is available. Since 2006, the National Institute of Pharmacy (OGYI) in Hungary has been accepting full electronic eCTD applications, without any printed sections of the dossier. Dr. Zajzon's presentation discusses status, progress, challenges, requirements for eCTD and NEES in Hungary, and the agency's ongoing program to digitize paper submissions.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    How's Your Italian??

    I'm honored to have been referenced on a new Italian eCTD web site, the User Group. The site references a post of mine about Gary Gensinger's remarks at DIA on a page called eCTD: The Quality of the Dossier: Fortunately, my ability to read and speak Italian like a native served me well here... Just kidding ;-)

    But seriously, there are some interesting articles on this site. You can access a translated version by googling "" and clicking on the Translate this Page link (for some reason this only seems to work from and not from my google toolbar). With this approach, Google will continue to translage the pages as you follow the links.

    Common eCTD Mistakes - as Described by FDA (Part 2)

    Continued from last time... Notes from my discussion with Virginia Ventura.

    Virginia mentioned lack of a cover letter, or lack of a useful cover letter, as a significant issue. Although the cover letter is not a regulatory requirement, it serves as the reviewers' "Road Map" to the submission, and Virginia can't understand why a sponsor would not take advantage of the opportunity to provide clarity on the structure and contents of the submission. Her recommendations here:

    • When you reference documents in your cover letter, provide hyperlinks to those documents.
    • Review your cover letter closely for accuracy. Mistakes in the cover letter can cause significant confusion.

    We discussed the concept of providing more detailed reviewer guides as well. Again, these are not a regulatory requirement, but some companies consistently provide well-structured guides that make reviewing much easier. These should not just reproduce the TOC, but might included details and discussions such as the following:

    • How the eCTD was constructed (for example, using which software package) and how it was submitted (via the gateway, etc.)
    • Version of specs used
    • Brief description of pivotal studies, with mention of where they are located and hyperlinks to key documents and summary sections
    • Discussion of how study reports were constructed (ICH granularity, etc.)

    You also may wish to discuss placement issues (for example, when a study could legitimately be placed in more than one section), instances when the same document was submitted in more than one section, etc.

    As a reminder, FDA has organized documents related to electronic submissions on This is a great collection of resources, and Virginia mentioned that not all sponsors are aware that this page exists before they contact her.

    Specifically pertinent to this post, FDA has a posted presentation, eCTD Validation, available on their website. This was presented by Don Duggan in February at DIA EDM in Philadelphia.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Common eCTD Mistakes - as Described by FDA

    I recently had a great chance to talk to Virginia Ventura of FDA's Electronic Submission Support Team about the common mistakes made by sponsors in preparing eCTDs. Virginia told me that mistakes are not confined to small or inexperienced companies. In many cases, these errors result from a lack of basic QC. Here are some examples:

    Not updating documents that were created based on templates intended for paper.

    Of course, adding hyperlinks is a big part of this. In some cases, sponsors have not only failed to add hyperlinks, but have retained references to paper volumes, which are of course useless in the eCTD environment.

    My colleague Shannon Strom, Director of Regulatory Operations at Cato Research, gave a great example of the need to change practices at a recent presentation: consider the previous practices of using a sentence such as:

    Tables 1-3 Indicate The Significant SAEs Reported For Each Clinical Study.

    This was fine in the paper world, but in the eCTD world, it gives the publisher no way to hyperlink to Table 2! Thus a better structure is:

    All Significant SAEs Reported For Each Clinical Study Are Indicated In Table 1, Table 2, And Table 3.

    Bottom line: make sure your documents have been updated for proper presentation in an electronic environment, and as always, keep the reviewer in mind! Virginia says that the FDA has received a number of submissions that were essentially "un-reviewable" due to lack of hyperlinking.

    Lack of consistency in the Application Number
    The application number appears in four places in an eCTD:
  • The regional backbone (us-regional.xml in the US)
  • The root folder of the eCTD content
  • The application form
  • The cover letter

    It's really important that the application number matches in all four places. (By the way, if it does not match, the FDA will consult your cover letter for arbitration - so heaven help you if it's wrong!)

    That also brings up the topic of using the PDF Fillable Form provided by FDA for your application form. They really want you to do this!! Virginia says that lack of a fillable form is the #2 error that the FDA sees for eCTDs. (Interestingly, the #1 error is clicking twice when submitting via the gateway - this causes your submission to be submitted twice, resulting in a number of errors, as you would expect.)

    More on my talk with Virgina next time...