The Rapid Micro Blog

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EMA Promotes the Use of Rapid Microbiological Methods for Water Testing

In 2005, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) explored the regulatory consequences of implementing an alternative method for rapid control of microbiological quality of water for injection (WFI) and Purified water. Discussions between the Quality Working Party, the Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Distribution Practices Inspectors Working Groups and the Committees for Human and Veterinary Medicinal Products concluded Since it is expected that the water will continue to meet Ph. Eur. specifications, if tested, no change to dossier requirements* (variations) would be involved and therefore no regulatory impact on individual products would normally be anticipated.
  • *However, this will depend on the level of detail in the original dossiers concerned.
Following discussions over the last 2-3 years around the revision of the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.) WFI monograph (0169), the Water Working Party concluded that there was evidence to support a revision of the monograph, which proposes to take account of current manufacturing practices using methods other than distillation for producing water of injectable quality.

The Ph.Eur. monograph (Monograph 169) was revised to include, in addition to distillation, reverse
osmosis (RO) coupled with suitable techniques, for the production of WFI.

In order to provide clarification and guidance in relation to the use of reverse osmosis in the manufacture of WFI and also to provide more detailed guidance on the control of biofilms, the Water Working Party developed a draft set of Questions and Answers that were sent out for public consultation on August 5, 2016, with an end of consultation date (i.e., the deadline for comments) of November 4, 2016. The draft Q&A is intended to provide preliminary guidance until such time the on-going revision of Annex I of the GMP guide is complete.

One of the questions posed by the working party is, “What testing should be employed during initial qualification and routine operation sampling?”

In answering this question, the working party states:
  • Use of rapid microbiological methods should be employed as a prerequisite to the control strategy to aid with rapid responses to deterioration of the system.” 
  • Methods to be considered should include, “rapid endotoxin testing – use of more sensitive and point of use test methods,” and “quantitative microbiological test methods – in line with Ph.Eur. 5.1.6 monograph Alternative Methods for control of Microbiological Quality. 
  • Due consideration should be given to employing alternate methods for the rapid quantitative determination of the contamination levels existing within the water system. The validation of such system should be in line with the above referenced monograph.
As such, EMA is encouraging the industry to employ rapid microbiological methods for the quantitative assessment of viable organisms and the presence of endotoxin in WFI and purified water. Additionally, the use of such methods should be validating according to Ph. Eur. chapter 5.1.6.

In my opinion, this is long-overdo step in the right direction. Technologies for the rapid analysis of pharmaceutical grade water have been available for years, and a number of firms who have experienced water system-related contamination events could have benefited from using a rapid method to quickly detect, and most importantly, remediate issues that have directly impacted their manufacturing facilities and/or finished product.

The full Q&A draft may be viewed at:

Comments on the draft are due by November 4, 2016.

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