Engaging with international partners on COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Canada is working closely with domestic and international partners to anticipate and meet Canadians' health product needs. This involves discussing, collaborating and leveraging resources on issues related to:

International collaboration ensures that our policies and regulatory approaches are aligned and that health products are effective and made available to Canadians quickly.

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Working with international regulators

International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA)

Health Canada is a member of the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA). This executive-level initiative of regulatory authorities comprises 29 regulators with the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer. It provides strategic leadership to address current and emerging regulatory and safety challenges in human medicines.

ICMRA members have published a statement demonstrating our commitment to a strengthening of global collaboration in the fight against COVID-19.

ICMRA members have agreed that new treatments and vaccines should be studied in well-conducted, robust clinical trials. The trials should take place on a global scale with collaboration among different countries before new drugs are made available for broader use.

We participate in regular ICMRA teleconferences to address COVID-19 pandemic issues. We also co-chair real-world evidence meetings with the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

ICMRA meeting reports

Australia-Canada-Singapore-Switzerland consortium (ACSS)

The Australia-Canada-Singapore-Switzerland (ACSS) consortium fosters regulatory collaboration to address emerging scientific and regulatory issues on health products. The consortium also leverages resources and expertise. ACSS regulators have published a statement pledging support to tackle COVID-19.

To address this worldwide public health crisis, ACSS members are collaborating to advance the regulatory science needed to support the rapid development of diagnostic tests, as well as vaccines and treatments against COVID-19. Consortium members remain committed to review and collaborate on possible COVID-19 investigational vaccines and treatment options, with the goal of expediting their development.

Multilateral COVID-19 "Cluster" Meetings

We also participate in regular scientific working-level meetings with several international partners, such as the US FDA and EMA. These 'cluster' meetings are held to discuss topics related to the regulation of various health products. Regular cluster meetings focus on topics such as:

Recent meetings of these clusters have focused on issues related to COVID-19. In particular, the vaccines cluster is being leveraged to discuss emerging COVID-19 vaccines and associated regulatory requirements.

International Post-Market Surveillance Group

Health Canada participates in teleconference meetings of the International Post-Market Surveillance Group, along with several international regulators. This group monitors the safety of pharmaceutical drugs or medical devices on the market, including products used for COVID-19.

Through an information-sharing network, participating agencies exchange information on COVID-19 post market health product safety issues. This is critical, particularly when important statements or communications on COVID-19 have to go out quickly.

Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) management committee

The Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) is a rich, very specific, standardized medical dictionary developed by the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH). Health Canada is a member of the MedDRA management committee and a standing member of ICH.

A large number of terms specific to COVID-19 are being added to the MedDRA database. Common definitions are used to ensure consistency in activities like adverse event reporting. This helps industry and regulators more effectively monitor the safety of drugs throughout their lifecycle, from clinical trials to post-market surveillance.

We have updated our notice to industry to incorporate these updates.

International medical device regulators

We meet regularly with other trusted regulators to exchange best practices and published guidance on regulatory pathways for medical device authorization. We also discuss potential medical device shortages with our international partners. This work covers diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Working groups are established as needed to discuss specific issues, like the minimum requirements for serological tests.

Interim Order provisions allow for:

Working with global health organizations

World Health Organization (WHO)

We are participating in the World Health Organization's (WHO) research and development (R&D) blueprint vaccines plan to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Our contributions include helping to develop the blueprint, a global strategy and preparedness plan. This is designed to help countries quickly undertake R&D activities during epidemics.

We are also participating in the WHO's blueprint vaccines subgroup to keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccine technologies being developed. International collaboration on COVID-19 vaccine development is highlighted in WHO's declaration.

The WHO is conducting the Solidarity trial, an international clinical trial of candidate vaccines against COVID-19. Health Canada has also approved a number of Canadian clinical trials.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is an international health agency for the Americas. It specializes in engaging in technical cooperation with member countries to:

PAHO's national regulatory pandemic response framework helps to guide the PAHO region during a pandemic. Health Canada is a member of its COVID-19 task group, which consists of representatives from each national regulatory authority in the PAHO region.

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