COVID-19 guidance: evaluation and marketing authorisation

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) assesses applications for COVID-19 medicines under the minimum timeframe necessary to allow for a thorough evaluation of the medicine’s benefits and risks. Dedicated guidance and rapid procedures are available.

Rapid procedures

EMA rapid procedures can accelerate every step of the regulatory pathway while ensuring that robust evidence on efficacy, safety and quality is generated to support scientific and regulatory decisions.

They are available for initial marketing-authorisation applications for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19, as well as for applications to ‘repurpose’ medicines already authorised for other conditions, by extending their indications to include COVID-19.

Rolling review
  • EMA's scientific committees (Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) and Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC)), with the support of the COVID-ETF, review data as they become available on a rolling basis, while development is still ongoing
  • Several rolling review cycles can be carried out during the evaluation of one product as data continue to emerge, with each cycle lasting a minimum of two weeks depending on the amount of data to be assessed
  • Each submission occurs in eCTD format. In addition to the newly available data, this would normally include also an application form, Module 2 overview(s) and responses to all outstanding questions from previous review cycles
  • Once the data package is complete, the developer submits a formal marketing authorisation application which is then processed under a shortened timetable
Accelerated assessment
  • Can be considered for medicines and vaccines not undergoing a rolling review
  • Requires a complete application to be available at the time of submission (unlike a rolling review)
  • Review is reduced to 150 days (from 210 days) or less after validation of a complete application

For more information see Accelerated assessment

Conditional marketing authorisation
  • Is a regulatory tool to fast track medicines for use in emergency situations by granting a marketing authorisation as soon as sufficient data becomes available to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the risks
  • Ensures that the medicine is manufactured and controlled according to high pharmaceutical standards compatible with large scale commercialisation
  • Once a it has been granted, companies must provide further data from ongoing or new studies within pre-defined deadlines to confirm that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks
  • Is valid for one year and renewable

For more information see Conditional marketing authorisation

EMA is ready to apply further flexibility, where it is established that shortening of any other procedural step could have an important public-health impact in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, EMA will substantially accelerate the linguistic review process for procedures related to COVID-19.

It will also keep the European Commission informed about COVID-19-related applications to help speed up decisions on authorisations.

Marketing authorisation guidance for COVID-19 vaccines

Guidance is available for developers of potential COVID-19 vaccines on the clinical evidence to include in marketing authorisation applications:

    EMA encourages developers of potential vaccines to take these considerations into account when planning their strategy for applying for marketing authorisation.

    EMA and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) also encourage developers to submit applications for EU marketing authorisation via EMA. This is the case even for vaccines that do not fall under the centralised procedure’s mandatory scope.

    This aims to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines reach all EU Member States at the same time.

    For more information, see:

    Labelling flexibilities for COVID-19 vaccines

    Guidance is available on flexibilities to help developers of COVID-19 vaccines prepare and roll out packaging and labelling for their vaccines quickly. It includes practical advice on exemptions to some requirements that are possible, while keeping in line with regulatory requirements:

    The guidance aims to facilitate the large-scale and rapid deployment of COVID-19 vaccines within the EU.

    It provides details further to the European Commission's memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Member States on regulatory flexibility for COVID-19 vaccines.

    For more information, see:

    Labelling flexibilities for COVID-19 treatments

    Guidance is available on flexibilities to help developers of COVID-19 treatments prepare and roll out packaging and labelling for their treatments quickly.

    It describes EMA’s criteria for deciding if a COVID-19 treatment can benefit from the same temporary labelling exemptions as COVID-19 vaccines.

    For more information, see:

    Adapting COVID-19 vaccines to SARS-CoV-2 variants

    Guidance is available for developers planning to adapt COVID-19 vaccines to address SARS-CoV-2 variants.

    reflection paper from EMA’s CHMP details the non-clinicalclinicalquality and manufacturing data needed to support the approval of such adaptations in the EU.

    CHMP expects new ‘variant’ vaccines to largely rely on the same technologies and platforms as their ‘parent’ vaccine, but with a different antigen selected to trigger the immune response. The parent would be a vaccine already approved in the EU to prevent COVID-19.

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