How to assess clinical laboratories for GCP compliance is one of the more difficult issues facing GxP professionals. Is CLIA the gold standard? How do the good laboratory practice (GLP) regulations impact clinical labs? Isn’t there a handy checklist out there somewhere? What do people mean by “GCLP?” I have been dealing with this issue a lot of late and people are really all over the map. Here are some of the approaches I take, along with a handy-dandy reference list at the bottom of the post.
First, let’s look at the easy part. The primary regulation dealing with clinical laboratories is the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). Wow, that’s simple. However, CLIA specifically states that it does not have jurisdiction over research. CLIA covers the day-to-day laboratory tests that your doctor orders to check up on your cholesterol or hematocrit. For these routine tests, FDA recognizes CLIA certification as an acceptable standard. FDA also recognizes other certifications such as from the College of American Pathologists (CAP). However, FDA does not have its own laboratory program. No, the GLP regulations (Part 58) just don’t apply here. My advice is to keep them on the shelf.However, things can get more complex. Not all laboratory tests are CLIA certified, there is a whole lot of research going on out there. Research methods are being developed every day. To make matters worse, just because a lab is CLIA or CAP certified, it does not mean that they have clinical trial experience and knowledge of kit building or blinding procedures. You need to go to their laboratory and see if they are equipped to perform the tasks in your statement of work. You need to perform a chain-of-custody tour to determine that your samples will be handled and analyzed in an appropriate manner, if there is “quality control at each stage of data handling” (ICH E6 Section 5.1.3).
One document that will come in handy is the FDA Guidance for Industry: Bioanalytical Method Validation. If you have a new laboratory method, it should be validated. What about an audit plan? I use the European Medicines Agency (EMA) GCP Inspection Guidance on Clinical Laboratories (Annex II). Links to both of these documents are listed below. The important thing to remember is that you have critical safety and efficacy endpoints being evaluated by the lab and they are highly importance to your study. Give the laboratory the attention it deserves.Chronological order is a useful tool in assessing a laboratory. Follow the route of the samples starting with kit building, shipment to the sites, receipt from the sites and how they make it through the laboratory. Remember, the majority of laboratory errors take place Before sample analysis, in the pre-examination phase (source: CDC). In addition, there are more errors reported in the post-examination phase than the examination phase itself. Reporting is of critical importance. Your NDA or PMA might depend on the accuracy of those reports.
I have seen many checklists for conducting clinical laboratory audits. Most of them have issues that can impact their effectiveness. Your audit should be protocol-specific. The lab needs to be able to conduct the analyses required by the protocol. That’s why I use the EMA GCP Inspection Guidance for Clinical Laboratories as a basic audit plan. EMA has a GCP inspection program for clinical labs. Another important point is that not only do you need to pre-qualify a lab, you need to go back during the trial and audit live data. This is true for any critical vendor.Many organizations are working on the clinical laboratory dilemma. You will hear the term “GCLP” quite a bit (for good clinical laboratory practice). It is important to remember that there is not one consistent standard on what GCLP is. Wouldn’t it be nice if we did have a consistent GCLP standard recognized by the world’s regulatory authorities? Here are some important references for clinical labs and GCP. Feel free to make additions to this list in the Comments section below.
EMA GCP Inspection Guidance for Clinical Laboratories
Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CDC)
(This site has links for genetic testing and Waived Testing)
MHRA: Good Clinical Practice for Clinical Laboratories – (Please see the comments/discussion on this.)
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