FDA indicated that media fills, environmental monitoring, routine processing controls, and satisfactory sterility tests constituted a validation in principle if not in fact (12). That position is inconsistent with the concepts presented in the draft validation guidance, which requires substantially more robust evidence of the link between input and results. The difference may seem on one level to be semantic, yet a gulf nevertheless exists between the industry's and regulators' positions with respect to validation of aseptic processing. Regardless of how one views this conundrum, one point should cause little or no confusion: the statistical component of the guidance really doesn't work with respect to linking any process parameters directly to performance.
Manual processes. Operators' skills and proficiency play a major role in the outcome of a substantial number of important pharmaceutical processes such as manual sanitization of equipment and environments and aseptic gowning. In addition, the operator's abilities may sometimes negate other controls that are present. Processes that rely heavily on operator proficiency may not be considered adequately validated, regardless of the outcome. These processes include manual cleaning, wet granulation, sugar coating, and manual inspection. It is hard to conceive that any of these could attain the level of control associated with validation. These processes are likely best considered as verified, given their heavy dependence on the operator.
The qualification and validation model provided in the draft guidance appears fully applicable to validation of products and processes but only partially applicable in other areas. Its usefulness for sterilization and aseptic processing, two of the more important pharmaceutical processes, is highly questionable. An extensive effort to provide a common level of expectations between FDA and industry (as well as within FDA and industry) is urgently needed to clarify how implementation is to be addressed. For sterile products, where FDA theory and industry practice are most divergent, an update of FDA's 1994 Guidance Submission for Sterile Products might be the best way to accommodate the desired approach with current methods for validation (13).
The draft guidance about process validation is refreshingly simple and supports good science, yet it is demanding with respect to the level of effort required to properly validate a pharmaceutical production process. The variety of approaches that the pharmaceutical industry uses for process validation extends from the merely cosmetic, providing little if any real support to product quality, to overblown efforts that have nearly crippled firms with their complexity and restrictive approach. The draft guidance is not perfect, and improvement and clarification are certainly necessary, especially regarding the guidance's application to sterile products. The guidance requires a restructuring of validation programs to tie development science more closely to commercial-scale manufacturing. It clarifies FDA expectations for validation in a more coherent manner than previous documents. The expectation for life-cycle treatment with heavy statistical emphasis mandates that sound science be applied to validation more clearly than ever before.
For applications in the validation of processes and products that result from them, the author commends those who prepared the guidance for a job well done. It is essential, however, that FDA and industry proceed with special caution in the areas reviewed above because blind adherence to the concepts of the draft guidance will likely lead many astray.
1. FDA, Draft Guidance for Industry—Process Validation: General Principles and Practices (Rockville, MD, Nov. 2008).
2. J. Agalloco, "The Validation Life Cycle," J. Parenter. Sci. Technol. 47 (3), 142–147 (1993).
3. K. Chapman, "The PAR Approach to Process Validation," Pharm. Technol. 8 (12), 24–36 (1984).
4. R.E. Madsen, "Real Compliance and How to Achieve It," PDA J. Pharm. Sci. Technol. 55 (2), 59–64 (2001).
5. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Food and Drugs (General Services Administration, Washington, DC, September 2008), Part 211, pp. 51919–51933.
6. FDA, "Pharmaceutical CGMPs for the 21st Century—A Risk-Based Approach," Final Report (Rockville, MD, Sept. 2004).
7. ASTM, "E 2500-07 Standard Guide for Specification, Design, and Verification of Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Systems and Equipment," (ASTM, West Conshohocken, PA, 2007).
8. J. Agalloco, "Compliance Risk Management: Using a Top Down Validation Approach," Pharm. Technol. 32 (7), 70–78 (2008).
9. J. Harris et al., "Validation Concepts for Computer Systems Used in the Manufacture of Drug Products," in Proceedings: Concepts and Principles for the Validation of Computer Systems in the Manufacture and Control of Drug Products (Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, Chicago, 1986).
10. PDA, "Process Simulation Testing for Aseptically Filled Products, PDA Technical Report #22," PDA J. Pharm. Sci. Technol. 50 (6), supplement (1996).
11. J. Agalloco, Comments to FDA, submitted Feb. 5, 2008, Docket No. 2007N-0280.
12. Federal Register, 73 (174), pp. 51919–51933, Sept 8, 2008.
13. FDA, Guidance for Industry for the Submission Documentation for Sterilization Process Validation in Applications for Human and Veterinary Drug Products (Rockville, MD, Nov. 1994)