The way clinical trials are conducted in the European Union (EU) will undergo a major change when the Clinical Trial Regulation comes into operation in 2018. The Regulation harmonises the assessment and supervision processes for clinical trials throughout the EU, via an EU portal and database. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will set up and maintain the portal and database, in collaboration with the Member States and the European Commission.
The goal of Clinical Trial Regulation EU No. 536/2014 is to create an environment that is favourable to conducting clinical trials in the EU, with the highest standards of safety for participants and increased transparency of trial information. The Regulation will require:
- consistent rules for conducting clinical trials throughout the EU;
- information on the authorisation, conduct and results of each clinical trial carried out in the EU to be publicly available.
This will increase the efficiency of all trials in Europe with the greatest benefit for those conducted in multiple Member States. It aims to foster innovation and research, while helping avoid unnecessary duplication of clinical trials or repetition of unsuccessful trials.
When the Regulation becomes applicable, it will replace the existing EU Clinical Trial Directive (EC) No. 2001/20/EC and national legislation that was put in place to implement the Directive. It will also apply to trials authorised under the previous legislation if they are still ongoing three years after the Regulation has come into operation.
The authorisation and oversight of clinical trials remains the responsibility of Member States, with EMA managing the database and supervising content publication on the public website.
Key benefits of the Regulation
- Harmonised electronic submission and assessment process for clinical trials conducted in multiple Member States
- Improved collaboration, information-sharing and decision-making between and within Member States
- Increased transparency of information on clinical trials
- Highest standards of safety for all participants in EU clinical trials
EU clinical trial portal and database
The portal will be the single entry point for submitting clinical trial information in the EU, which will be stored in the database. EMA will make information stored in the database publicly available subject to transparency rules.
The clinical trial application form and supporting dossier will cover all regulatory and ethics assessments from the Member States concerned. It will also include the public registration of the clinical trial and any subsequent updates.
EMA published the functional specifications for the EU portal and database to be audited in December 2014, following a public consultation:
The system will contain collaboration tools, workflow and document management capabilities, accessible via individual workspaces.
A secure workspace will assist clinical trial sponsors in preparing and compiling data to submit to the database for assessment by Member States. It will allow sponsors to:
- search and access clinical trials;
- compile clinical trial application dossiers for new and updated trials;
- cross-reference to product documents in other clinical trials;
- supervise their own clinical trials and check progress;
- receive alerts and notifications for ongoing trials;
- record clinical trial results;
- upload documents for clinical trial application form submission;
- respond to requests for information and view deadlines;
- manage users and user roles.
A secure workspace will support the activities of Member States and the European Commission in overseeing clinical trials. It will allow Member States to:
- view application dossiers;
- manage tasks related to the assessment of clinical trials;
- collaborate within and between Member States;
- receive alerts and notifications for ongoing trials;
- download documents submitted by clinical trial sponsors;
- record inspections of sites and clinical trials.
Through the website, members of the public can access detailed information on all clinical trials conducted in the EU, in all official EU languages. The website will provide the following features:
- overview of clinical trial statistics;
- advanced search;
- download data and reports;
- site updates and announcements.
Although the Regulation was adopted and entered into force in 2014, the timing of its application depends on confirmation of full functionality of the EU portal and database through an independent audit. The Regulation becomes appicable six months after the European Commission publishes notice of this confirmation.
EMA drew up a delivery timeframe, in collaboration with the Member States and the European Commission. According to this timeframe, the EU portal and databse should be available for the independent audit by August 2017. If the systems pass the audit, the Regulation will come into effect by October 2018.
The EMA Management Board endorsed the timeframe in December 2015:
Please note that this is a maximum timeframe, and EMA takes every effort to bring the Regulation into operation as soon as possible.
The Clinical Trial Regulation requires all information stored in the database to be publicly available, unless exempted under the Regulation to protect:
- personal data;
- commercially confidential information, in particular the marketing-authorisation status of the medicine, unless there is an overriding public interest;
- confidential communication between Member States in the preparation of their assessment;
- supervision of clinical trials by Member States.
EMA has added two sets of requirements to the functional specifications for applying the exceptions:
- features to support making information public;
- disclosure rules describing the practical implementation of the transparency rules.
The EMA Management Board endorsed both documents in 2015:
- Revision of section 6 of the 'Functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited' setting out features to support making information public
- Appendix, on disclosure rules, to the 'Functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited'
Public consultation process
The Agency consulted on its proposals with EU Member States, the European Commission and stakeholders representing non-commercial and commercial clinical-trial sponsors, healthcare professionals and patient groups.
EMA consulted on the draft functional specifications in October 2014. A total of 47 individuals and organisations submitted more than 500 comments:
- Draft functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited
- Overview of comments received on 'Draft functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited'
EMA held a three-month consultation in 2015 on implementing the transparency rules. Over 80 different individuals and organisations submitted more than 1,100 comments:
- Draft proposal for an addendum, on transparency, to the “Functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited
- Draft Appendices to Draft proposal for an addendum, on transparency, to the Functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited
- Overview of comments on EMA/641479/2014 Draft proposal for an addendum, on transparency, to the “Functional specifications for the EU portal and EU database to be audited - EMA/42176/2014”
- Specific comments on sections 1 to 4.3
- Specific comments on section 4.4
- Specific comments on sections 4.5 to 5
- Questions and answers - Public consultation on implementation of transparency requirements of the European Clinical Trial Regulation
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