Regulatory Requirements for the Development of Second-Entry Semisolid Topical Products in the European Union

Publication: Pharmaceutics


The development of second-entry topical products is hampered by several factors. The excipient composition should be similar to the reference product because excipients may also contribute to efficacy. Conventional pharmacokinetic bioequivalence studies were not considered acceptable because drug concentrations are measured downstream after the site of action. There was no agreed methodology to characterize the microstructure of semisolids, and waivers of therapeutic equivalence studies with clinical endpoints were not possible. Only the vasoconstrictor assay for corticosteroids was accepted as a surrogate. This paper describes the implementation of the European Union’s stepwise approach for locally acting products to cutaneous products, discusses the equivalence requirements of the EMA Draft Guideline on the Quality and Equivalence of Topical Products, and compares them with the US Food and Drug Administration recommendations. Step 1 includes the possibility of waivers for simple formulations based on in vitro data only (Q1 + Q2 + Q3 + IVRT). Step 2 includes step 1 requirements plus a kinetic study (TS/IVPT/PKBE) to compare the local availability of complex formulations. Step 3 refers to clinical studies with pharmacodynamic/clinical endpoints. As excipients may affect the local tolerability and efficacy of the products, the similarity of excipient composition is required in all steps, except where clinical endpoints are compared.

By Alfredo García Arieta, John Gordon, Luther Gwaza, Virginia Merino, Victor Mangas-Sanjuan