A version of this article was first published in Life Sciences IP Review

There is currently no specific legislation in the UK that governs AI, or its use in healthcare. Instead, a number of general-purpose laws apply that have to be adapted to specific AI technologies. As a step towards a more coherent approach, the government recently published its response to its consultation on regulating AI in the UK.  This maintains the government’s “pro-innovation” framework of principles, to be set out in guidance rather than legislation, which will then be implemented by regulatory authorities in their respective sectors, such as by the MHRA for medicines.  The MHRA has already started this process and signalled itself as an early-adopter of the UK government’s approach. The hope is that this will lead to investment in the UK by life science companies as the UK is seen as a first-launch country for innovative technologies.Continue Reading The UK’s pro-innovation approach to AI: What does this mean for life science companies?

On 23 January 2024, the European Commission announced proposals to amend the Medical Device Regulations (EU) 2017/745 (MDR) and the In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Device Regulations (EU) 2017/746 (IVDR), as applicable, to:

  • extend the transition provisions for certain in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs) under the IVDR
  • allow for a gradual roll-out of Eudamed so that certain modules will be mandatory from late 2025
  • include a notification obligation in case of interruption of supply

The proposal will now need to be adopted by the European Parliament and Council before it enters into force. However, as the proposal follows a similar structure to the recent amendments to the MDR, we do not anticipate significant changes during the legislative process.Continue Reading Commission proposes extension to IVDR transition periods and accelerated launch of Eudamed

Spurred, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for new ways to reach patients at home, 2023 saw a boom in digital technologies and healthcare solutions: one-stop-shop telemedicine platforms, app-based remote patient monitoring, direct-to-consumer online pharmacies, software-based medical devices, and artificial intelligence/machine learning to bolster delivery of telehealth services. Then came a robust government response. In the EU and UK, regulatory bodies grappled with the introduction of machine learning, AI, and other software into healthcare services by, for example, new guidance from the EU Medical Device Coordination Group and UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on software medical devices, the EU’s AI Act and the UK government’s AI White paper, the European Medicines Agency reflection paper on use of AI in the product lifecycle, the EU Data Privacy Framework and the equivalent UK-U.S. data bridge, and the European Health Data Space

We call this the “Race to Regulate.” This push-pull dynamic between digital health innovation and government regulation is key to evaluating regulatory risks in today’s shifting legal landscape. This digest seeks to keep up with these changes and provide you with an overview of the key guidelines and developments as the landscape develops. As we come to the end of 2023 and publish our latest Digest, join us on December 13 as we unpack pivotal moments in the 2023 Race to Regulate and discuss what’s next for virtual and digital health. Continue Reading Virtual and Digital Health Digest and webinar

In a previous blog post, we discussed the UK government’s proposed changes to the regulatory framework governing clinical trials. Marking the start of this legislative change is a new notification scheme for the lowest-risk clinical trials (the scheme), published on 12 October 2023. The scheme is based on the proposal set out in the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) consultation earlier this year, which was supported by 74% of respondents.

The scheme allows for the processing of eligible clinical trials by the MHRA in less than 14 days, instead of the statutory 30 days. The scheme currently only applies to clinical trial authorisation (CTA) applications for Phase 4 and certain Phase 3 clinical trials deemed as low risk, and provided they meet the MHRA’s eligibility criteria, set out below. Initial “first in human” Phase 1 or Phase 2 trials and clinical trial amendment applications will not be eligible.

The scheme aims to reduce the time taken to get lowest-risk clinical trials up and running, to give UK patients quicker access to potentially life-saving medicines, without undermining patient safety. The MHRA encourages clinical trial sponsors to use the scheme for all eligible trials and estimates that this will include 20% of UK initial clinical trial applications.Continue Reading UK clinical trials – new notification scheme for lowest-risk clinical trials

We set out in a previous post that the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) intends to introduce a new international recognition procedure (IRP) for medicinal products, whereby decisions taken in certain countries could be recognised by the MHRA to fast-track approval in the UK.

On 30 August 2023, the MHRA published detailed guidance on how it will use the IRP for medicinal products. The IRP will be open to applicants who have already received an authorisation for the same product from one of the MHRA’s specified Reference Regulators (RRs) in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore and the United States. However, the MHRA retains the right to reject the IRP and conduct a full assessment if considered necessary.

This procedure will operate in parallel to the MHRA’s current national procedures, including the shortened 150-day timetable, offering applicants a range of authorisation routes depending on the status in other countries and type of application. The hope is that this will allow the MHRA to be able to use the decisions in other countries, while still being able to conduct its own assessment where necessary for the UK market.

The IRP will be available from 1 January 2024. However, until the Windsor framework is in place on 1 January 2025, discussed here, products falling within the scope of the EU Centralised Procedure can only be authorised in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).Continue Reading New UK International Recognition Framework for Medicines

On 19 September 2023, the UK Government launched the pilot phase of the Innovative Devices Access Pathway (IDAP), an initiative to help bring innovative technologies to the NHS where there is an unmet medical need. As discussed in a previous post, IDAP has been designed to accelerate the development of innovative medical devices, with the aim of taking delays and uncertainty out of the route to market. IDAP will provide an integrated support service for medical device developers that will include enhanced opportunities for engagement with the regulatory authorities and a streamlined adoption process.

Companies of all sizes are being invited to apply, both internationally and in the UK, where they intend to launch a device for the UK market. 8 products will be selected during the pilot phase, which is designed to test the main elements of the pathway to inform how best to build the future IDAP.

Applications for the pilot phase are open and will close after 29 October 2023; they can be made via an online application form and associated guidance.Continue Reading UK Government launches Innovative Devices Access Pathway (IDAP)

On 19 July 2023, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) published a draft Reflection paper on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the lifecycle of medicines (the Paper). The Paper recognises the value of this technology as part of the digital transformation within healthcare, and acknowledges its increasing use and potential to “support the acquisition, transformation, analysis, and interpretation of data within the medicinal product lifecycle”, provided of course it is “used correctly”.

The Paper reflects EMA’s early experience with and considerations on the use of AI, and gives a sense of how EMA expects applicants and holders of marketing authorisations to use AI and machine learning (ML) tools. The EMA has made clear that the use of AI should comply with existing rules on data requirements as applicable to the particular function that the AI is undertaking. It is clear that any data generated by AI/ML will be closely scrutinised by the EMA, and a risk-based approach should be taken depending on the AI functionality and the use for which the data is generated.

The Paper is open for consultation until 31 December 2023. EMA also plans to hold a workshop on 20-21 November 2023 to further discuss the draft Paper. EMA’s plan is to use the feedback from the public consultation to finalise the Paper and produce future detailed guidance. Our summary below sets out the key takeaways and the key issues that arise in the Paper.Continue Reading EMA publishes first draft of reflection paper on the use of AI in the medicinal product lifecycle