Clinical Trial Regulation

The way clinical trials are conducted in the European Union (EU) will undergo a major change when the Clinical Trial Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 536/2014) comes into application. The Regulation harmonises the assessment and supervision processes for clinical trials throughout the EU, via a Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS, formerly the EU clinical trial portal and database). The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will set up and maintain the information system, in collaboration with the Member States and the European Commission.

Although the Clinical Trials Regulation was adopted and entered into force in 2014, the timing of its application depends on confirmation of full functionality of the Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS) through an independent audit. The Regulation becomes applicable six months after the European Commission publishes notice of this confirmation.

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 Clinical Trials Information System and supervising content publication on the public website.

Aims and key benefits of the Regulation

The goal of Clinical Trial Regulation 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.

Its key benefits include:

  • 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.

Clinical Trials Information System delivery status

EMA's Management Board endorsed a delivery timeframe in December 2015. However, the system's go-live date has been postponed due to technical difficulties with the development of the IT systems.

The IT supplier has submitted to EMA a revised project plan with improved project management, development and testing processes, resources and increased contingency. EMA has also subsequently revised the CTIS project methodology and delivery plan.

Member States and stakeholders are now directly engaged in the development of CTIS through nominated ‘product owners’ to ensure that their expectations are taken into account. This means that business expert representatives have an enhanced and continuous opportunity to review, select and verify functionalities.

Update: In October 2019, EMA's Management Board endorsed the six-monthly monitoring report on the development of the CTIS, which assesses the performance of the IT supplier against agreed key performance indicators. The Board agreed that actions proposed in the report should be further developed, for example improving the quality of the work delivered by the supplier and selecting the critical items needed for audit, as well as extending the monitoring period for at least three releases. 

The product owners validated the first release developed in the agile, iterative delivery in September 2019, confirming that all 79 items had been delivered.

The release enhanced CTIS functionalities for the submission of clinical trials and the assessment process, user management and included other general improvements. 

The product owners will begin to carry out an operational assessment of the system to identify critical business blockers, in order to enable EMA's Management Board to consider the timing of the audit of the system.

EMA and the Member States are fully committed to ensuring the success of this project and its delivery. The CTIS continues to be a priority in PDF iconEMA's Brexit preparedness business continuity plan .

For more information on the original delivery timeframe, see:

How the Clinical Trials Information System will work

The Clinical Trials Information System will be the single entry point for submitting clinical trial information in the EU, which will be stored in the system. EMA will make information stored in the system 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 Clinical Trials Information System 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.

Sponsor workspace

A secure workspace will assist clinical trial sponsors in preparing and compiling data to submit to the system 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.

Authority workspace

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.

Public website

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.

Transparency rules

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:

Public consultations

European Commission consultations

In preparation for the implementation of the Regulation, the European Commission published on 1 June 2016 the following guidance documents for public consultation until 31 August 2016:

For more information, see European Commission: Clinical trials - Major developments.

Consultations on the Clinical Trials Information System

The Agency consults 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:

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:

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