Process validation is defined as the collection and evaluation of data, from the process design stage through commercial production, which establishes scientific evidence that a process is capable of consistently delivering a quality product.
Process validation involves a series of activities taking place over the lifecycle of the product and process. This guidance describes process validation activities in three stages.
- Stage 1 – Process Design: The commercial manufacturing process is defined during this stage based on knowledge gained through development and scale-up activities.
- Stage 2 – Process Qualification: During this stage, the process design is evaluated to determine if the process is capable of reproducible commercial manufacturing.
- Stage 3 – Continued Process Verification: Ongoing assurance is gained during routine production that the process remains in a state of control.
Our series on Process Validation enables those who are in the role as a validation or regulatory compliance specialist to better understand process validation activities in three stages.
Before any batch from the process is commercially distributed for use by consumers, a manufacturer should have gained a high degree of assurance in the performance of the manufacturing process such that it will consistently produce APIs and drug products meeting those attributes relating to identity, strength, quality, purity, and potency.
The assurance should be obtained from objective information and data from laboratory-, pilot-, and/or commercial-scale studies.
A successful validation program depends upon information and knowledge from product and process development.
This knowledge and understanding is the basis for establishing an approach to control the manufacturing process that results in products with the desired quality attributes. Manufacturers should:
- Understand the sources of variation
- Detect the presence and degree of variation
- Understand the impact of variation on the process and ultimately on product attributes
- Control the variation in a manner commensurate with the risk it represents to the process and product
Each manufacturer should judge whether it has gained sufficient understanding to provide a high degree of assurance in its manufacturing process to justify commercial distribution of the product.
Focusing exclusively on qualification efforts without also understanding the manufacturing process and associated variations may not lead to adequate assurance of quality. After establishing and confirming the process, manufacturers must maintain the process in a state of control over the life of the process, even as materials, equipment, production environment, personnel, and manufacturing procedures change.
Manufacturers should use ongoing programs to collect and analyze product and process data to evaluate the state of control of the process. These programs may identify process or product problems or opportunities for process improvements that can be evaluated and implemented through some of the activities described in Stages 1 and 2.
Manufacturers of legacy products can take advantage of the knowledge gained from the original process development and qualification work as well as manufacturing experience to continually improve their processes.
Implementation of the recommendations in this guidance for legacy products and processes would likely begin with the activities described in Stage 3 – Continued Process Verification.