FDA issues new Draft Guidance on Elemental Impurities

The recently issued FDA Guideline on Elemental Impurities as a draft describes the procedure for controlling elemental impurities for medicinal products with and without official USP monograph. Read in what cases the FDA expects the fulfilment of the requirements of the Guideline ICH Q3D respectively of the general USP Chapter <232> und <233>.



The ICH Q3D “Guideline for Elemental Impurities” was issued in December 2014 and recommended for adoption in the regulations portfolio of the ICH regions Europe, USA and Japan according to the ICH step-by-step procedure (Step 5). With the publication of the “ICH guideline Q3D on elemental impurities” (EMA/CHMP/ICH/353369/2013) in August 2015 the European Medicines Agency (EMA) implemented this step and determined June 2016 (for medicinal products to be newly approved) and December 2017 (for already approved medicinal products) as the dates for the Guideline to come into effect. The FDA took over the ICH Q3D Guideline in September 2015.

On 30 June 2016 the FDA Guidance for Industry “Elemental Impurities in Drug Products” was issued as a draft and is now open for comments for a period of 60 days.

The requirements of the Guidance apply to

  • New compendial and noncompendial NDA or ANDA drug products
  • Drug products not approved under an NDA or ANDA – as, e.g., compendial and noncompendial nonprescription OTC products.

Compendial medicinal products are generally supposed to fulfil the requirements defined in the general USP Chapters <232> und <233>. However, in the following cases the provisions of ICH Q3D have to be met:

  • For noncompendial drug products,
  • For metallic impurities listed only in ICH Q3D but not in the general USP Chapters <232> and <233>.

Correspondingly these provisions do also apply for changes to approved medicinal products, made with the goal to fulfil the requirements of the chapters <232> and <233> respectively of ICH Q3D. For compendial medicinal products the result of the change must be the compliance with <232> and <233>, noncompendial products have to comply with the provisions of ICH Q3D.

The FDA generally considers these kind of changes as low risk with regard to negative effects on identity, strength, quality, purity or potency. For that reason they are not subject to the CBE change procedure and can be reported to the FDA as part of the annual report.

The general USP Chapter <232> only comprises the PDE values of 15 elements, while ICH Q3D covers 24 elements. Otherwise both chapters were adapted to ICH Q3D and issued in the second supplementary volume of USP 38-NF 33 on 1 December 2015. However, both chapters can only be applied to compendial products starting on 1 January 2018 – the date mentioned in the General Notices 5.60.30 “Elemental Impurities in USP Drug Products and Dietary Supplements”. This is nearly the date (December 2017) determined for the application of ICH Q3D respectively the European Guideline (EMA/CHMP/ICH 353369/2013).

///////////FDA, Draft Guidance, Elemental Impurities


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