New Drug Approval Process: Regulatory View

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A regulatory process by which a person/organization/sponsor/innovator gets authorization to launch a drug in the market, is known as drug approval process. In general, a drug approval process comprises of various stages: application to conduct clinical trials, conducting clinical trials, application to marketing authorization of drug and post-marketing studies. Every country has its own regulatory authority, which is responsible to enforce the rules and regulations and issue the guidelines to regulate the marketing of the drugs. This article will focus the similarities and differences in drug approval process of various regulatory bodies.

Key Words: Drug approval process, clinical trials, marketing.


In the present scenario, countries have different regulatory requirements for approval of a new drug. The single regulatory approach for marketing authorization application (MAA) of a new drug product applicable to various countries (on the basis of single dossier) is utmost difficult. Therefore, the knowledge of exact and detailed regulatory requirements for MAA of each country should be known to establish a suitable regulatory strategy [1].

The new drug approval is of two phase process - the first phase for clinical trials and second phase for marketing authorization of drug. Firstly, non-clinical studies of a drug are completed to ensure efficacy and safety, and then application for conduct of clinical trials is submitted to the competent authority of the concerned country. Thereafter, the clinical trials can be conducted (phase I to phase IV). These studies are performed to ensure the efficacy, safety and optimizing the dose of drug in human beings. After the completion of clinical studies of the drug, then an application to the competent authority of the concerned country for the approval of drug for marketing is submitted. The competent authority review the application and approve the drug for marketing only if the drug is found to be safe and effective in human being or the drug have more desirable effect as compare to the adverse effect [2].

Even after the approval of new drug, government should monitor its safety due to appearance of some side effects, when it is used in larger population. The interactions with other drugs, which were not assessed in a pre-marketing research trial and its adverse effects (in particular populations) should also be monitored[3].

Drug Approval Process In USA

In 1820, the new era of USA drug regulation was started with the establishment of U.S. Pharmacopoeia. In 1906, Congress passed the original Food and Drugs Act, which require that drugs must meet official standards of strength and purity[4]. However, in 1937, due to sulphanilamide tragedy, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (of 1938) was enacted and added new provisions that new drugs must be shown safe before marketing. Further, in 1962, the Kefauver-Harris Amendment Act was passed which require that manufacturers must prove that drug is safe and effective (for the claims made in labelling)[5,6].

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting and promoting public health. Like general drug approval process, FDA's new drug approval process is also accomplished in two phases: clinical trials (CT) and new drug application (NDA) approval[7]. FDA approval process begins only after submission of investigational new drug (IND) application. The IND application should provide high quality preclinical data to justify the testing of the drug in humans. Almost 85% of drugs are subjected to clinical trials, for which IND applications are filed. The next step is phase I clinical trials (1-3 years) on human subjects (~100). The drug's safety profile and pharmacokinetics of drug are focused in this phase. Phase II trials (2 years) are performed if the drug successfully passes phase I. To evaluate dosage, broad efficacy and additional safety in people (~300) are the main objective of the phase II. If evidence of effectiveness is shown in phase II, phase III studies (3-4 years) begins. These phase III concerns more about safety and effectiveness of drug from data of different populations, dosages and its combination with other drugs in several hundred to about 3,000 peoples[8, 9, 10]. A new drug application (NDA) can be filed only when the drug successfully passes all three phases of clinical trials and includes all animal and human data, data analyses, pharmacokinetics of drug and its manufacturing and proposed labelling. The preclinical, clinical reports and risk-benefit analysis (product's beneficial effects outweigh its possible harmful effects) are reviewed at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research by a team of scientists. Generally approval of an NDA is granted within two years (on an average), however, this process can be completed from two months to several years. The innovating company is allowed to market the drug after the approval of an NDA and is considered to be in Phase IV trials. In this phase, new areas, uses or new populations, long-term effects, and how participants respond to different dosages are explored[10, 11]. Figure 1 represents the new drug approval process of FDA.

Drug Approval Process In Europe

In European Union (EU), the medical products were approved for marketing at the National level initially. The mutual recognization procedure was introduced in 1983 and a single national review in case of pharmaceutical/medicinal product for marketing authorizations in all EU's countries was made feasible. The primary aim of this procedure was to create a united standard for product review among national regulatory authorities. In 1987, for high-technology or biologically derived products, the concertration procedure was established by directive 87/22, in which product assessment should be completed by Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products (CPMP) besides the the normal national regulatory review. Further, in 1993, by council regulation (EEC) 2309/93, the concertration procedure was replaced with centralised procedure, by which all the high-tech and biologically derived product was reviewed and granted EU's wide marketing authorization by the EU's CPMP[12].

Similarly, the drug approval process in European countries is also accomplished in two phases: clinical trial and marketing authorization. A clinical trial application (CTA) is filed to the competent authority of the state to conduct the clinical trial within EU. The competent authority of that member state evaluates the application. The clinical trials are conducted only after the approval. The purpose and phases of clinical trials are similar as specified in FDA drug approval process[13]. Figure 2 represent the clinical trial authorization process in EU.

After completing of all three phases of clinical trial, marketing authorization application is filed including all animal and human data, its analyses, as well as pharmacokinetics, manufacturing and proposed labelling. In the EU's countries, the company have a choice of following regulatory procedures:

Centralized Procedure

The Committee for Human Medicinal Products (CHMP) evaluate the applications received by the EMEA. In view of the applicant's preference, CHMP contracts out assessment work in one of the member states (the "rapporteur"). After the complete assessment, the CHMP deliver opinion to EU Commission within 210 days. The EU Commission requests comments from other member states, if a positive opinion from CHMP is received. The other member states can respond in about 28 days. When a licence is recommended, a European Public Assessment Report (EPAR) is produced and marketing authorisation is issued. This authorisation is valid throughout the European Union and is for five years, however, the extension can be applied to the EMEA three months before the expiration of this period[14]. Figure 3 represent the centralized procedure for marketing authorization.

Decentralised Procedure

In order to obtain marketing authorizations in several member states, the centralised procedure is not mandatory; in such case the decentralized procedure is to be used. An application is submitted to competent authorities of each of the member states, where a marketing authorization is to be sought. The information like quality, efficacy, safety, administrative information shall be submitted and a list of all Concerned Member States (CMSs) and one member state to act as Reference Member State (RMS). A draft assessment report on the medicinal product is prepared and the CMSs and the RMS validate the application within a time frame of 14 days. The RMS prepare draft summary of product characteristics, labeling and package leaflet within 120 days. This report can be approved within 90 days. However, if a medicinal product is supposed to cause potential serious risk to public health, CMS(s) will inform to other CMS, RMS and applicant and further decision in this regard is taken within 30 days. Within 60 days of the communication of the points of disagreement, all member states reach to an agreement on the action to be taken. After reaching to an agreement of the member states, the RMS records the agreement and informs to the applicant. However, if the member states could not reach an agreement, then CHMP intervenes and take a final decision keeping in view of the written or oral explanations of the applicant[15,16,17,18]. Figure 4 represent the decentralized procedure for marketing authorization in EU.

National Procedure

This type of authorization is granted on country-by-country basis by the competent authorities, in each member state. Products only intended for one market and not obliged to use the centralized procedure[19].

Mutual Recognition Procedure

The mutual recognition procedure (MRP) is similar to the de-centralized procedure with some differences. The mutual recognition procedure is applicable to medicinal products which have received a marketing authorization in any member state whereas the decentralized procedure is applicable to those products which were never approved in any member states of the European Union. The MRP is used to obtain marketing authorizations in various several member states. The evaluation of application by RMS can be taken within 90 days instead of 120 days (in decentralized procedure)[20]. After the grant of marketing authorization, the product can be marketed, which may be called as Phase IV trials, wherein new uses or new populations, long-term effects etc. can be explored[21].

Drug Approval Process In China

In 1963, for the management of new drugs, Chinese Ministry of Health planned drug regulation. The China's State Pharmaceutical Administration in collaboration with Ministry of Health, in 1979, published the New Drug Management Regulations (no need to conduct systematic scientific experiments on new drugs). In view of protecting the public health and promoting the economic developments in pharmaceuticals, the first comprehensive Drug Administrative Law was framed in 1985. This law was amended in 1999 by two additional provisions for new drug approval and provisions for new biological product approval. The approval process of New Drug Applications (NDA) includes sufficient preclinical data for verification of drug's safety and justification of the commencement of clinical trials. The Drug Administrative Law was further revised in 2001 requiring premarket testing, approval for new drug products, and prohibits drug adulteration[22].

The Drug Administrative Law authorizes the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) to approve new drugs for marketing. The new drug registration process also consists of the clinical study application and the new drug application. The Provincial Drug Administration Authorities (PDAAs) should organize the works of the formal review of submitted materials i.e. on-site examination and sampling just after receiving the drug registration application. The aim behind the formal review is to guarantee the content and format of the submitted materials is in line with the requirements and all the required materials have been submitted. After formal review, the PDAAs send the qualified applications to the SFDA for further review. The import drug registration application should be directly submitted to SFDA by the applicant. SFDA's Department of Drug Registration carefully reviews the completeness of the submitted materials, files the qualified applications and transmits all the materials of qualified applications to the Center for Drug Evaluation (CDE) directly attracted to SFDA. CDE determine whether the safety and effectiveness information submitted for a new drug are adequate for manufacturing and marketing approval and send the report of review to SFDA. SFDA Carefully consider the recommendations and review results of CDE and makes a decision whether or not the drug registration application can be approved and issues the certificate of drug approval and drug approval number to the qualified applicant. Figure 5 -6 represents the clinical trial approval process and new drug approval process of China, respectively[22,23,24,25].

Drug Aproval Process In Australia

In the history of drug regulatory system in Australian, thalidomide disaster was a key factor. In 1948, the first advisory committee to review drugs was set up and further in 1964, the first Commonwealth advisory committee in Australia was established. The first federal act relating to therapeutic goods was enacted in 1965. In response of lacking control over locally manufactured products, the Therapeutic Goods Act was changed in 1989 and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) was created [26].

Any person seeking approval of a new drug in Australia should first file a clinical trial application for conducting human studies. The clinical trials in Australia can be conducted under two schemes, i.e. either under the Clinical Trial Exemption (CTX) Scheme or under the Clinical Trial Notification (CTN) Scheme. In the latter scheme, application is directly submitted to the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) which assesses the validity of design of clinical trial, its ethical acceptability, approval, safety and efficacy of the drug as well. The final consent for conducting trial is given by the approving authority after due advice from the HREC. The commencement of clinical trial takes place only after the due notification to the TGA and the appropriate notification fee to be paid. In CTX scheme, an application to conduct clinical trials is submitted to the TGA for evaluation and comment. The clinical trials can be conducted (under the CTX application) without further assessment by the TGA and the conduct of each trial should be notified to the TGA[27,28]. Figure 7 represents the CTA by CTX scheme. An application is submitted to TGA to register the drug in Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) after the completion of clinical trials. The application consists of data to support the quality, safety and efficacy of the product for its intended use. The application is assessed (on an administrative level) to make sure for compliance with basic guidelines and further evaluated by different sections and advice can also be sought on key issues to take final decision. A company can make comments on the evaluation report, if necessary. A delegate (decision-maker) within the TGA after due advice of the ADEC, take a decision to approve or reject the product. The Australian Drug Evaluation Committee (ADEC) usually gives advice for new medicines. Figure 8 represent the new drug approval process in Australia. When the drug is approved and distributed in the market the drug, it is considered to be in Phase IV trials. In this phase, new uses or new populations, long-term effects, etc. can be explored[29,30].

Drug Aproval Process In India

The Drug and Cosmetic Act 1940 and Rules 1945 were passed by the India's parliament to regulate the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs and cosmetics. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), and the office of its leader, the Drugs Controller General (India) [DCGI] was established. In 1988, the Indian government added Schedule Y to the Drug and Cosmetics Rules 1945. Schedule Y provides the guidelines and requirements for clinical trials, which was further revised in 2005 to bring it at par with internationally accepted procedure. The changes includes, establishing definitions for Phase I-IV trials and clear responsibilities for investigators and sponsors[31]. The clinical trials were further divided into two categories in 2006. In one category (category A) clinical trials can be conducted in other markets with competent and mature regulatory systems whereas the remaining ones fall in to another category (category B) Other than A. Clinical trials of category A (approved in the U.S., Britain, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Japan and European Union) are eligible for fast tracking in India, and are likely to be approved within eight weeks. The clinical trials of category B are under more scrutiny, and approve within 16 to 18 weeks[32].

An application to conduct clinical trials in India should be submitted along with the data of chemistry, manufacturing, control and animal studies to DCGI. The date regarding the trial protocol, investigator's brochures, and informed consent documents should also be attached. A copy of the application must be submitted to the ethical committee and the clinical trials are conducted only after approval of DCGI and ethical committee. To determine the maximum tolerated dose in humans, adverse reactions, etc. on healthy human volunteers, Phase I clinical trials are conducted. The therapeutic uses and effective dose ranges are determined in Phase II trials in 10-12 patients at each dose level[32]. The confirmatory trials (Phase III) are conducted to generate data regarding the efficacy and safety of the drug in ~ 100 patients (in 3-4 centers) to confirm efficacy and safety claims. Phase III trials should be conducted on a minimum of 500 patients spread across 10-15 centers, If the new drug substance is not marketed in any other country[32,33,34,35]. The new drug registration (using form # 44 along with full pre-clinical and clinical testing information) is applied after the completion of clinical trials. The comprehensive information on the marketing status of the drug in other countries is also required other than the information on safety and efficacy. The information regarding the prescription, samples and testing protocols, product monograph, labels, and cartons must also be submitted[36]. The application can be reviewed in a range of about 12-18 months. Figure 10 represents the new drug approval process of India. After the NDA approval, when a company is allowed to distribute and market the product, it is considered to be in Phase IV trials, in which new uses or new populations, long-term effects, etc. are explored[33,37].

The drug approval process varies from one country to another. In some countries, only a single body regulates the drugs and responsible for all regulatory task such as approval of new drugs, providing license for manufacturing and inspection of manufacturing plants e.g. in USA, FDA performs all the functions. However in some counties all tasks are not performed by a single regulatory authority, such as in India, this responsibility is divided on Centralised and State authorities. Other issues where the difference appears are, time taken for the approval of a CTA application, time taken in evaluation of marketing authorization application, registration fee, registration process and marketing exclusivity (Table 1).

Some counties have two review processes as normal review process and accelerated review process as in USA, China etc. and some countries have only a single review process as in India. Similarly, the format used for the presentation of dossier submitted for approval of drug is also different. In some countries like as in USA, EU, and Japan , it is mandatory that the dossier prepared in CTD format, however, in some countries it is optional such as in India.


Generally, the drug approval process comprised mainly the two steps, application to conduct clinical trial and application to the regulatory authority for marketing authorization of drug. The new drug approval process of various countries is similar in some of the aspects whereas it differs in some aspects. In most of the counties, sponsor firstly files an application to conduct clinical trial, and only after the approval by the regulatory authority, the applicant conducts the clinical studies and further submits an application to the regulatory authority for marketing authorization of drug. In all countries, information submitted to regulatory authorities regarding the quality, safety and efficacy of drug is similar; however, the time, fee and review process of clinical trials and marketing authorization application differs. For the purpose of harmonisation, the International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) has taken major steps for recommendations in the uniform interpretation and application of technical guidelines and requirements. This step will ultimately reduce the need to duplicate work carried out during the research and development of new drugs. Therefore, harmonization of drug approval processes either by ICH or WHO may be initiated at global level.


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14. (assessed on May 13th 2010).

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16. (assessed on October 21st 2009).

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21. (assessed on May 19th 2010).

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24.SFDA Order No. 28:Provisions for Drug Registration (assessed on June 09th 2010).

25.Drug Administration Law of the People's Republic of China on March 19th 2010).

26.A History of Therapeutic Goods Regulation in Australia (assessed on July 11th 2010).

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29.Australian Regulatory Guidelines for Prescription Medicines (ARGPM)-2003 (assessed on October 08 th 2009).

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32. (assessed on February 24th 2010).

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35. (assessed on February 16th 2010).

36. (assessed on February 24th 2010).

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Table 1. Comparison of Drug approval process.


Time for Regulatory Approval of CTA/IND Application

Time for Evaluation of MAA



120 day

50 days



50 days

180 days



16-18 weeks

8-12 weeks

50,000 INR


35 days

210 days



30 days

180 days


*By Centralized Procedure; MAA-Marketing Authorization Application, IND-Investigational New Drug, CTA-Clinical Trial Authorization, DNA-Data Not Available.

New Drug Application Approval Process of FDA

IND-Investigational New Drug, FDA-Food and Drug Administration, NDA-New Drug Application, CDER-Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research

Figure 1: New Drug Application Approval Process of FDA

Clinical Trial Authorization Process of EU

Figure 2: Clinical Trial Authorization Process of EU

Centralized Procedure for Marketing Authorizat

MAA-Marketing Authorization Application, EMEA-European Medicine Evaluation Agency, EU-European Unionion in EU

Figure 3:Centralized Procedure for Marketing Authorizat

Decentralised Procedure for Marketing Authorization in EU

CMS(s)-Concerned Member State(s), RMS-Reference Member State, CHMP-Committee for Human Medicinal Products

Figure 4: Decentralised Procedure for Marketing Authorization in EU

Clinical Trial Application Approval Process of China

CDE-Centre for Drug Evaluation, SFDA-State Food and Drug Administration

Figure 5: Clinical Trial Application Approval Process of China

New Drug Registration Process of China

Figure 6: New Drug Registration Process of China

Clinical Trial Authorization Process of Australia under CTX Scheme

Figure 7: Clinical Trial Authorization Process of Australia under CTX Scheme

New Drug Registration Process of Australia

NDA-New Drug Application, DSEB-Drug Safety and Evaluation Branch, TGA-Therapeutic Goods Administration, ADEC-Australian Drug Evaluation Committee

Figure 8: New Drug Registration Process of Australia

New Drug Registration Process of India

IND-Investigational New Drug, DCGI-Drug Controller General of India, CDSCO-Centre for Drug Standards Control organization.

Figure 9: New Drug Registration Process of India.

About Authors:

Dr. Harish Dureja

Dr. Harish Dureja studied Pharmacy at C. C. S. University (India) and earned his Masters Degree in Pharmaceutics from Punjabi University (India). During his association with Dr. Sunil Gupta, he got interested in application of experimental designs for formulation and process development. He developed novel fourth generation graph invariants and various models for the prediction of biopharmaceutical, pharmacological and physiochemical properties of drugs during his Ph.D. work with Prof. A. K. Madan at M. D. University, Rohtak. He has authored/coauthored more than 60 publications in various International and National journals to his credit. He has written two monographs in the book entitled " Mathematical Chemistry Monographs, No. 9"


Dulichand studied B.Pharmacy from Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, Hisar. He is presently M. Pharm. Pharmaceutics (Drug Regulatory Affairs) student at Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. Dulichand can be contacted at

Volumes and Issues: 


Shikha Chauhan's picture

Dear Sir, I have a n query, what is best strategy to market the product in Europe...I mean beeficial from idustrial view point.. Centralised route or decentralised route.

Thanks and Regards, Shikha Chauhan Lecturer (Pharmaceutics) Amity Institute of Pharmacy Amity University Noida Email:

Lakshmana Pramod's picture

Dear Madam, In Europe, Best strategy depends on type of product. The Centralised Procedure is administered by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) in London. It consists of a single application which, when approved, grants marketing authorisation for all markets within the European Union. This procedure is obligatory for high-tech and biotechnology-derived products, for products used for the rare diseases (so called: orphan products), and for products used for treating AIDS, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and diabetes, as well as for auto-immune and viral diseases since May 2008. This procedure may be also used for authorisation of products with new active substances and for all other products bringing therapeutic or scientific progress and which are important for patients and animals at the Community level. This procedure may also be used for generic medicines applications once the data exclusivity periods granted to originator products authorised through this procedure begin to expire. The detailed guidelines on how to apply for Marketing Authorisation of medicinal product via the Centralised Procedure is available on the EMEA website, particularly in the document outlining Pre-submission Guidance. Mutual Recognition Procedure (MRP) The majority of authorisations for generic medicines are granted through the Mutual Recognition Procedure and the Decentralised Procedure. Under MRP, the assessment and marketing authorisation of one Member State, (the "Reference Member State") should be "mutually recognised" by other "Concerned Member States". Since the introduction of the DCP, the MRP is mainly used for extending the existing marketing authorisation to other countries in what is known as the "repeat use" procedure. The Decentralised came into operation in late 2005. It is applicable in cases where an authorisation does not yet exist in any of the EU Member States. Identical dossiers are submitted in all Member States where a marketing authorisation is sought. A Reference Member State, selected by the applicant, will prepare draft assessment documents and send them to the Concerned Member States. They, in turn, will either approve the assessment or the application will continue into arbitration procedures. The new Decentralised Procedure involves Concerned Member States at an earlier stage of the evaluation than under the MRP in an effort to minimise disagreements and to facilitate the application for marketing authorisation in as many markets as possible. The Mutual Recognition Procedure and the new Decentralised Procedure are set out in Directive 2001/83/EC, as amended by Directive 2004/27/EC, and further guidance is given in the Notice to Applicants, which forms Chapter 2 of the Rules Governing Medicinal Products in the EU. See: EudraLex: The Rules Governing Medicinal Products in the European Union. The detailed guidelines on how to apply for Marketing Authorisation for a medicinal product via the Mutual Recognition Procedure and the new Decentralised Procedure are also available on the Heads of the Medicines Agencies website, particularly under the CMD(h) (Coordination Group for the Mutual Recognition and the Decentralised Procedure) section.

G.L.Pramod, B.Pharmacy, MS.c(Ph.Regulatory Affairs), Executive, EU Regulatoty Affairs, ELC, Ahemdabad.

Duli Chand Rohilla's picture

Dear Sikha mam Thanks for your comment and query. to approve the product in Europe, the route which should follows depends up on the category of the drugs as for some drugs it is mandatory to follows the centrlised process i.e biotechnical products, new chemical intity etc. but if you have both option, as my opinion acquire by knowlege from literature search and industrials discussion the decentrlised process is the best route to approved the drugs becouse you have the freedom to choose the country where you wants to registered drug unlike cetralised process.


Alpesh Chudasama's picture

Dear Sir, Its really very great efforts to make this very informatiove & useful.

Alpesh Chudasama

MANOJ's picture

sir, I hope the information you provided above will be of great help in clarifying all the doubts about procedure for applying patent. Hope will hear many interesting topics from you very soon. Thank you.
Jayalaxmi S's picture

The article is very informative. Clear understanding of approval process. I would like to know, apart from this, what related information should be known for a student who wish to join regulatory affairs as per the industry needs?? Regards Jayalaxmi S.

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