The centralised procedure
An approval for a medicinal product intended for use in all EU countries may be obtained by applying to the EMEA (European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products) in London. Within the EMEA two scientific committees have been established:
For human medicinal products, the CPMP (Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products)and for veterinary medicinal products, the CVMP (Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products).
These committees prepare an opinion preceeding the formal approval by the Commission. The member states have two representatives in each committee. The assessment work of the application is done by any of the EU countries. When EMEA has received a centralised application the responsible committee appoints a rapporteur/co-rapporteur. On the basis of the opinion from the scientific committees the Commission (or the Council) issues the formal decision to authorise a product in the centralised procedure. The Commission is assisted in the decision-making procedure by a Standing Committee with representatives from each Member State.
Mutual recognition means that EU countries may approve the decision made about a medicinal product by another EU country. The pharmaceutical company submits their application to the country chosen to carry out the assessment work, which then approves or rejects the application. The other countries have to decide within 90 days whether they approve or reject the decision made by the original country. Two groups are working for the facilitation of the Mutual Recognition Procedure:
For human medicinal products, the MRFG (Mutual Recognition Facilitation Group),
and for veterinary medicinal products, the VMFRG (Veterinary Mutual Recognition Facilitation Group).
In case where a Member State cannot recognise the marketing authorisation issued by the Reference Member State, a referral to the CPMP/CVMP for arbitration may be made through its secretariat at the EMEA.
The national procedure
Until 1998, the pharmaceutical industry could apply for a national approval. The product can then only be sold in that particular EU country. A marketing authorisation (MA) is valid for five years and the MA must be renewed every five years. In order to obtain an approval the product must be submitted with an SPC (Summary of Products Characteristics) which is the basis for the marketing of the product. For some products, i.e. products intended for national use in one Member State only, it will be possible to use the national procedure also after 1998.