What is Regulatory Affairs?Why is Regulatory Affairs important?How do Regulatory Affairs professionals relate to other professionals?What makes a good Regulatory Affairs professional?
What is Regulatory Affairs?
Regulatory Affairs is a comparatively new profession which has developed from the desire of governments to protect public health, by controlling the safety and efficacy of products in areas including pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicines, medical devices, pesticides, agrochemicals, cosmetics and complementary medicines.
The companies responsible for the discovery, testing, manufacture and marketing of these products also want to ensure that they supply products that are safe and make a worthwhile contribution to public health and welfare. Most companies, whether they are major multinational pharmaceutical corporations or small, innovative biotechnology companies, have specialist departments of Regulatory Affairs professionals – and those who don’t, rely on the expert advice of independent regulatory consultants to meet their obligations.
The Regulatory Affairs professional’s job is to keep track of the ever-changing legislation in all the regions in which the company wishes to distribute its products.They also advise on the legal and scientific restraints and requirements, and collect, collate, and evaluate the scientific data that their research and development colleagues are generating.
They are responsible for the presentation of registration documents to regulatory agencies, and carry out all the subsequent negotiations necessary to obtain and maintain marketing authorisation for the products concerned.
They give strategic and technical advice at the highest level in their companies, right from the beginning of the development of a product, making an important contribution both commercially and scientifically to the success of a development programme and the company as a whole.
It may take anything up to 15 years to develop and launch a new pharmaceutical product and many problems may arise in the process of scientific development and because of a changing regulatory environment. Regulatory Affairs professionals help the company avoid problems caused by badly kept records, inappropriate scientific thinking or poor presentation of data. In most product areas where regulatory requirements are imposed, restrictions are also placed upon the claims which can be made for the product on labelling or in advertising.
The Regulatory Affairs department will take part in the development of the product marketing concepts and is usually required to approve packaging and advertising before it is used commercially. Many companies operating in the high-technology health-care and related industries operate on a multinational basis and are very significant exporters.Their Regulatory Affairs departments must be aware of the regulatory requirements in all the company’s export markets.
As an added complication, despite recent international efforts towards harmonisation of requirements, the regulations laid down by different governments and their interpretation by the regulatory agencies, rarely match. Consequently, the registration data prepared for one country frequently fail to meet the requirements for another.Therefore great care has to be taken in drawing up efficient and economical research and development programmes whose results may be used as widely as possible. Regulatory Affairs professionals, with their detailed knowledge of the regulations and guidelines, are frequently called in to advise on such matters. Why is Regulatory Affairs important?
In today’s competitive environment the reduction of the time taken to reach the market is critical to a product’s and hence the company’s success.The proper conduct of its Regulatory Affairs activities is therefore of considerable economic importance for the company.
Inadequate reporting of data may prevent a timely positive evaluation of a marketing application. A new drug may have cost many millions of pounds, Euros or dollars to develop and even a three-month delay in bringing it to the market has considerable financial considerations. Even worse, failures to fully report all the available data, or the release of product bearing incorrect labelling, may easily result in the need for a product recall. Either occurrence may lead to the loss of several millions of units of sales, not to mention the resulting reduction in confidence of the investors, health professionals and patients.
A good Regulatory Affairs professional will have a ‘right first time’ approach and will play a very important part in coordinating scientific endeavour with regulatory demands throughout the life of the product, helping to maximise the cost-effective use of the company’s resources.
The Regulatory Affairs department is very often the first point of contact between the government authorities and the company.The attitudes and actions of the Regulatory Affairs professionals will condition the perceptions of the government officials to the company -for better, or for worse! Officials respond much better to a company whose representatives are scientifically accurate and knowledgeable than to one in which these qualities are absent.
The importance of the Regulatory Affairs function is such that senior Regulatory Affairs professionals are increasingly being appointed to boardroom positions, where they can advise upon and further influence the strategic decisions of their companies. How do Regulatory Affairs professionals relate to other professionals?
The very nature of the task to be done brings regulatory personnel into contact with almost every discipline within the industry. This may include scientists such as pharmacologists, toxicologists, analytical chemists, pharmacists, medical doctors, veterinarians, engineers, physical chemists and statisticians.
That being said, the work is by no means confined to science but extends to the interface with and appreciation of advertising,marketing,legal,patent and manufacturing skills.
An ability to liaise closely with every kind of specialist is a crucial part of the job. Not only must there be the ability to use and assimilate information provided by such specialists, but also to present that information to regulatory authorities and feed-back their opinions to the rest of the company and appraise staff about the current thinking of the regulatory bodies.
In short, the regulatory specialist is central to the business and has the opportunity to interact with a wide range of specialities and extend his or her knowledge while doing so.
What makes a good Regulatory Affairs professional?
Most regulatory professionals are graduates in a scientific discipline – commonly life sciences or pharmacy – although increasingly biotechnology-based degrees are valuable. Some choose to have an additional legal qualification, and TOPRA offers an MSc in Regulatory Affairs for those who wish to gain a formal professional qualification in the discipline.The ability to tackle data in a wide range of scientific areas and to quickly grasp new concepts and complex technical information is vital.
Communication skills are very important.Analysing issues and presenting both written and oral evidence before a panel of experts such as scientists, pharmacists, doctors and lawyers who run the government agencies require considerable understanding of both legal and scientific matters. An attention to detail is a pre-requisite.
An analytical frame of mind is important,too. An ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the technical and legal options open to a company and to the agency concerned is crucial.
A high degree of sensitivity is required when proposing and executing the strategy and tactics needed to obtain marketing approval in a way which will satisfy the authorities and serve the best needs of the company.
Considerable care must be exercised if the best possible case is to be presented to the authorities for the company. It must be done without obscuring the facts, enabling the authorities to arrive at a proper and rightful conclusion regarding safety, efficacy and quality of the product under application. Regulatory professionals must always exercise considerable judgement in the practice of their role. Integrity and the ability to inspire trust and confidence are valuable attributes.
Good regulatory people ‘make it happen’. Project management skills help to achieve the challenging goals they are set.They can work as part of multi-disciplinary teams and lead them when necessary.They can work under pressure and inspire and motivate others to do the same.
Regulatory Affairs is an important and exciting profession. Find out more by contacting the TOPRA office.