Perhaps my title is somewhat harsh but I perceive more than a little frustration in the announcement today from the MHRA that they are revising their definition of critical inspection findings to include cases “where provision of the Trial Master File (TMF) does not comply with Regulation 31A 1-3, as the TMF is not readily available or accessible, or the TMF is incomplete to such an extent that it cannot form the basis of inspection and therefore impedes or obstructs inspectors carrying out their duties in verifying compliance with the regulations“.
It seems like an age that consultants like myself and other experts have been telling industry that once a clinical trial is closed-out, no matter how wonderfully the trial was completed the only artifact that is left are the trial records….. the trial master file. This forms the basis for GCP inspections i.e. to demonstrate that all applicable regulations were complied with and that the data generated during the study can be trusted as being accurate and complete. So, maintenance of a trial master file is not just a case of filing away a set of documents and ticking them off some sort of inventory list. The trial master file must “tell the story” of the clinical trial….. how the trial was conducted and how decisions were made, for example. And when it comes to the time for an inspection, the TMF must be a complete and accurate record of the facts.
In amending the definition of criticial findings to include the unavailability or incompleteness of the TMF, the MHRA are raising the stakes. TMF management is not a process that should be considered a low priority administrative task but a criticial activity that is central to GCP compliance. And increasingly, TMF vendors are coming to realise that an eTMF is more than just a repository for PDF files; it is a critical tool to assist in trial conduct and trial management. I don’t think it will be too long before other regulatory agencies follow the MHRA’s lead on this.
About Rammell Consulting: We are a specialist records management consulting company, providing a range of consultancy, training and education services to the life sciences/healthcare sector. Topics that we advise on include the trial master file, electronic archiving and digital preservation. Please refer to our website for further information. Our Introduction to Records Management training module takes place on Thursday June 12th in the UK (last few places remaining).