The International Council for Harmonization (ICH) announced revisions to its Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines, marking a significant move towards more closely aligning clinical practice with the rapidly evolving technological landscape.
The purpose of the ICH and adherence to GCP standards is to safeguard the health, wellbeing and safety of clinical trial participants, establishing a clear standard for how clinical research is conducted ethically and scientifically worldwide.
What Is ICH and GCP?
ICH is a global organization which was established to unify the various stakeholders involved in the pharmaceutical industry to enforce a standard for developing, evaluating, and registering medicines in accordance with high safety, efficacy, and quality standards. Within the ICH, GCPs have been developed to ensure that safe and effective medicines are developed and registered in the most resource-efficient manner across different markets, upholding strong patient safety standards and promoting equitable global health outcomes.
Organizations that prioritize adherence to these guidelines enable efficient data exchange and ensure the integrity and security of their clinical data, enhancing organizational collaboration and driving tenacious risk mitigation strategies. With an international push towards optimized clinical research standards, there has been widespread adoption of the guidelines by leading pharmaceutical and biotech organizations, reflecting a broader move towards optimized clinical trial quality, efficacy and safety.
GCP (ICH E6) is an international ethical and scientific quality standard for designing, conducting, recording and reporting trials that involve the participation of human subjects, to provide a unified standard to facilitate the mutual acceptance of clinical data by different regulatory authorities. GCP covers aspects of monitoring, reporting and archiving of clinical trials, and incorporates addenda on the Essential Documents and on the Investigator's Brochure. Its first version was finalized in 1996, then amended in 2016 with an integrated Addendum to encourage implementation of improved and more efficient approaches to clinical trial design, conduct, oversight, recording and reporting, and including updated standards regarding electronic records and essential documents. The latest work will be the third revision to this pivotal guidance.
The GCP Update: Embracing Advanced Technology
The uptake of digital health tools and various clinical technologies has vastly widened the scope of data collection. The use of wearable devices/sensors and portable devices has been transformational in asynchronous, remote data capture, offering increased real-time insight into patients’ health and behaviours. With the incorporation of remote monitoring, decentralized clinical trials, and emphasis on improved patient centricity, the impact of advanced technology is tangible across clinical ecosystems, bridging many data gaps to facilitate robust assessments and outcomes.
The latest update to the guidelines, known as ICH E6(R3), encourages flexibility and innovation in approaches to trial planning in alignment with broader industry advancement, spotlighting technologies and trial designs that foster diverse patient input, mitigated quality risk, and efficient, simplified conduct. It primes trials to implement new and emerging data collection modalities and technologies into existing research frameworks, indicating a move towards streamlining data collection and management across different countries.
The revision to the guidelines has been drawn up to include efficiency for data management, ensuring integrity and traceability in alignment with regulatory requirements. Packaged within this, organizations continue to be encouraged to publicly register clinical trials and make the results of said trials available to the public, reinforcing a principle of transparency, and providing both patients and the public alike with key insights into the efficacy of a trial product. This is a welcome recommendation, the transparency of which is expected to foster a stronger sense of trust and au-fait to pertinent trial results where patients previously felt left in the dark in relation to the outcomes of a trial once completed.
Implications for the Future of Clinical Product Development
The newest guidance prompts the question: What does this mean for the future of clinical trials and product development?
Within its key features emerges an effort to accommodate the nuances and intricacies of an evolving clinical research, with increasing complexities deriving from the emergence of novel designs and technologies. Considerations have been made for how the guidelines can be applied in trial design characteristics, indication, and data collection methodologies. There are also heightened expectations of data systems and records management, including a simplification of retention timelines for essential record keeping, and required notifications where changes are made in investigator records. The over-arching theme is one that aims to maximize efficiency and flexibility while continuing to safeguard patient safety and data integrity.
Within the new guidance, there is an opportunity for sponsors to redefine their clinical technology and data strategy. The principle of the ICH is one of harmonization among stakeholders, which is reinforced in the guidelines via the encouragement of enhanced global collaboration on data governance, exchange, and security. Continuing to implement, or bringing onboard robust infrastructure that adheres to this principle enables those organizations to position themselves as future-thinking industry leaders. Consequently, global research stands to benefit considerably from the involvement of diverse perspectives, shared resources, and acceleration in medical research advancement.
A Step Towards a Future of Advanced, Secure Clinical Trial Environments
A welcome update, ICH E6(R3) is reflective on an industry appetite to continue towards more technically agile, innovative, data-driven clinical trials. It positions the key importance of incorporating advanced clinical technologies into research initiatives and treatments, facilitating a future of more efficient, inclusive, and collaborative clinical trials.
With the continued evolution of the ICH’s GCPs, there is great anticipation for how they will shape the landscape of clinical product development and the way we approach healthcare innovations.
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