The Italian Ministry of Health has recently strengthened the requirements to obtain the authorization to manufacture and use advanced therapy medicinal products (“ATMPs” ) which are non-routinely produced. In fact, following the enactment of the Decree of the Ministry of Health of January 16th, 2015, published only last week (the “ATMP Decree”), more control on such drugs’ hospital use is expected. The ATMP Decree does not apply to ATMPs under clinical trial and solely focus on compassionate use of non-routine ATMPs.
THE PREVIOUS REGULATORY SCENARIO. Prior to 2006, the use of gene therapy and cell therapy medicinal products, for which a marketing authorization had not been obtained, was authorized only within clinical trials. In 2006 non-profit manufacturing and compassionate use of gene therapy and somatic cell therapy medicinal products was first allowed.
The 2006 Decree allowed the use of such products on the basis of certain requirements, checked by the Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco, the governmental agency in charge of pharmaceuticals (“AIFA”). Given the lack of therapeutic alternatives in a life threatening condition, the requirements for production and use of gene therapy and cell therapy medicinal products were not especially strict and heavily relied on the patient’s consent and positive feedback by the Ethics Committee, as well as on the self-certification on the existence of the requirements by the doctor responsible for the drugs administering.
THE NEW RULES INTRODUCED. The ATMP Decree was introduced to protect consumers from fraudulent conducts. Even though the Decree does not make specific reference to it, it is widely accepted that the ATMP Decree aims at limiting the proliferation of cases like the famous “Stamina case”, where therapies for treatment of life-threatening diseases have been provided to patients in sheer lack of scientific grounds. AIFA will enforce the new rules by way of on-site inspections that may lead to suspension or revocation of a previously granted authorization to manufacture, as well as to the prohibition to administer the drug. The ATMP Decree can be summarized as follows:
- AUTHORIZATION TO MANUFACTURE. Manufacturing of ATMPs for non-routine hospital use now requires a prior authorization by AIFA, which is only issued to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified manufacturers. Prior to issuing its authorization, AIFA checks compliance of the manufacturing site. The process may altogether take up to 120 days, save for further inquiries by AIFA.
- AUTHORIZATION TO USE. Use of ATMPs is limited to “compassionate use”. Only certain public research hospitals will be suitable candidates to obtain AIFA’s authorization. Moreover, the authorization will be released only upon approval by (i) a Committee for the Assessment of Admissibility to Phase I of Clinical Trials, composed of expert biologists and clinicians, and (ii) by the concerned hospital’s Ethical Committee. The authorization is issued after an analysis of all documents necessary to assess risks and benefits of the proposed treatment, as well as data concerning safety and efficacy available from previous clinical trials.
- COOPERATION BY MANUFACTURERS AND PHYSICIANS.
- Manufacturers of ATMPs must ensure traceability of medicinal products as well as of patients for thirty years, and must report to AIFA any adverse events. Also, manufacturers can deliver ATMPs only after authorization to use has been issued and in compliance with a physicians’ prescriptions.
- Physicians, on the other hand, must ensure that the patient’s informed consent is obtained, and must comply with Good Clinical Practice principles in administering ATMPs in accordance with the protocol approved by the Ethics Committee. Finally, traceability of the drug and patient must be ensured and adverse events must be communicated promptly.
CONCLUSIONS. Manufacturing and use of ATMPs on non-routine basis shall follow objective requirements, to be assessed by governmental entities who are able to appreciate their scientific basis, rather than – as in the past – used under the mere responsibility of physicians and on the basis of self-certified manufacturing facilities. If, on the one hand, it would be advisable that all who need to resort to compassionate use of medicinal products can access medicinal products as quickly as possible, on the other hand it must be ensured that the same people receive adequate protection from deceitful conducts. The Stamina case showed how vulnerable to deception patients who are in a life threatening condition without any available cure can be to false hopes spread by therapies without scientific basis: the recent ATMP Decree attempts to protect them.
 According to Section 2 of Regulation (EC) No. 1394/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2007 on advanced therapy medicinal products and amending Directive 2001/83/EC and Regulation (EC) No. 726/2004 ATMPs include gene therapy products, somatic cell therapy products and tissue engineered products.
 The ATMP Decree has been published on the Official Gazette no. 56 of March 9th, 2015 and will become effective fifteen days after publication.
 See Section 1 of Ministerial Decree of March 2, 2004. Such non-routinely manufactured drugs were also excluded by the scope of the Pharma Code (Legislative Decree no. 219 of 2006) which focused on the industrial manufacturing of medicinal products and excluded non-routine drugs from its scope.
 Ministerial Decree n. 25520 of December 5th, 2006.
 According to Ministerial Decree n. 11521 of May 8th, 2013 “compassionate use” or “expanded access” of medicinal products may occur when no suitable alternative is available, in case of life-threatening situations, when serious harm to a patient’s health is potential, or in case of serious diseases with fast progression.
 The “Stamina Method”, created by Prof. Vannoni for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, is based on the conversion of mesenchymal stem cells into neurons and apparently lacks any scientific foundation. The method itself was also harshly criticized by Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals (http://www.nature.com/news/italian-stem-cell-trial-based-on-flawed-data-1.13329). Prof. Vannoni manufactured ATMPs while completely disregarding GMPs. Prof. Vannoni was criminally charged and prosecuted for organized crime with the purpose of fraud and recently plea bargained.
 Principles and guidelines of GMPs are contained in Commission Directive 2003/94/EC of 8 October 2003 laying down the principles and guidelines of good manufacturing practice in respect of medicinal products for human use and investigational medicinal products for human use.
 The process also includes submittal of request for authorization, along with a report on the ATMP.