International Council on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH)

The International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) brings together the medicines regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry around the world. ICH aims to achieve greater harmonisation worldwide for the development and approval of safe, effective, and high-quality medicines in the most resource-efficient manner. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), in collaboration with EU Member States, supports the European Commission's membership in ICH and plays a key role in the development and implementation of ICH guidelines​​​​​​ .

The Council was officially established on 23 October 2015, after 25 years as the International Conference on Harmonisation. The reformed ICH is intended to transform ICH into a truly global initiative supported by a robust and transparent governance structure.

ICH achieves harmonisation through developing guidelines and technical requirements for the development, approval and safety monitoring of medicines involving regulatory and industry experts. ICH regulatory members adopt the guidelines and are expected to implement them.

The objectives and activities of ICH are similar to those of the International Cooperation for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Veterinary Medicinal Use (VICH).

For a list of ICH members and observers, see ICH: Membership.

ICH guidelines and technical requirements

ICH guidelines and technical requirements include:

The results of a survey commissioned by ICH show that the EC and EMA, in collaboration with EU Member States, adequately implement and adhere to ICH guidelines, without introducing unjustified modifications:

These results are part of a 2019 study to monitor the adequacy of implementation and adherence to ICH guidelines in regulatory member and observer countries and regions. The study report provides a gap analysis based on authorities’ and companies’ views on the implementation and adherence of regulators to ICH guidelines. It reveals a close alignment between the self-declaration of the authorities and perception among companies. 

For more information, see ICH guideline implementation on the ICH website.

EMA role

The ICH Assembly and Management Committee include an EMA representative and the chair of EMA's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP).

EMA acts as technical coordinator for ICH activities and plays a key role in EU contributions to ICH topics are developed and communicated in a timely manner. European experts nominated by the CHMP participate in the expert working groups that draft the guidelines, and can act as chair or rapporteur responsible for leading the group's work.

EMA supports ICH in its efforts to obtain early stakeholder input on a regional basis towards its good clinical practice (GCP) renovation process, by gathering the views and engaging European stakeholders via its Patients' and Consumers' (PCWP) and Healthcare Professionals' (HCPWP) Working Parties

Once an ICH guideline has been finalised, the CHMP is responsible for implementing it as a European guideline. All harmonised guidelines are published on the EMA website on Scientific guidelines: ICH guidelines.

The Agency also sits on the management board of ICH's Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA).

EMA is supporting ICH's pilot regional stakeholder engagement approach for the moderinsation of its good clinical practice guidance (ICH E6(R3)), by facilitating the obtaining of the relevant input in Europe via its Patients' and Consumers' (PCWP) and Healthcare Professionals' (HCPWP) Working Parties. The feedback gathered via EMA in Europe, along with 

Stakeholder engagement in good clinical practice revision process

EMA is coordinating the stakeholder engagement process in Europe for the revision of the International Council on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) E6 good clinical practice (GCP) guideline.

This is to help ensure that the perspectives of European patients, healthcare professionals and clinical researchers are taken into account during the revision process.

ICH has committed itself to engaging stakeholders from the outset of the revision process for this guideline. This aims to ensure that the revised guideline will meet the needs of those conducting or participating in clinical trials.

As a first step, EMA held a workshop with its Patients' and Consumers' (PCWP) and Healthcare Professionals' (HCPWP) Working Parties in June 2020 to gather their views and experiences. The workshop summary report is available:

More information on the ICH E6 revision process is available on ICH's website (see under 'GCP Renovation').

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