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What are the Quality (CMC) Components of the eCTD?


The Electronic Common Technical Document (eCTD) streamlines the submission process to regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among its various modules, Module 3, dedicated to Quality (Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls), is an important yet complex component.

3 beakers on a lab table; one has orange liquid in it

The term "Quality" in the context of the Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) section of eCTD refers to the comprehensive evaluation and documentation of a drug's design, development, manufacturing process, quality control, and assurance processes. This section is called "Quality" because it focuses on ensuring that the drug substance (active pharmaceutical ingredient) and drug product (final formulated and packaged product) are consistently produced and controlled to meet the quality standards appropriate for their intended use as defined by regulatory authorities like the FDA.

This section, coupled with related summaries in Module 2, forms the backbone of the FDA’s assessment of a drug's quality and manufacturability. Understanding the Quality components of the eCTD is crucial for submission success.

Module 2 Summary of Module 3

Quality Overall Summary (QOS)

The Module 2 Quality Overall Summary (QOS) distills the comprehensive data of Module 3 into an overview format. The QOS offers a high-level summary of technical information on the drug substance and the drug product. It encompasses discussions on pharmaceutical development, summarizing the manufacturing process and control strategies. The summary encapsulates critical aspects of the drug’s quality, including its formulation, physical and chemical properties, and the stability of the drug substance and product.

This summary enables the FDA to gain an immediate understanding of the application’s quality aspects. It’s an important tool for initial screening and assessment, ensuring that the submission adheres to the required quality standards.

Module 3: Quality (Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls or "CMC")

Module 3 provides detailed information about the drug substance and drug product, ensuring their quality and consistency. The drug product covers other ingredients known as excipients (such as fillers, stabilizers, preservatives, and flavoring agents) that help to deliver the drug substance to the body in a safe and effective manner.

3.2.S: Drug Substance

This section provides the regulatory authority with detailed insight into the drug’s active ingredients, their quality, and the robustness of their manufacturing process. It delves into the specifics of the drug substance, including its synthesis, characterization, and methods of control.

3.2.S.1 General Information provides foundational details about the drug substance (active pharmaceutical ingredient, API), including the chemical name, structure, nomenclature, and a general introduction.

3.2.S.2 Manufacture details the manufacturing process of the drug substance, including information on the manufacturers, materials used, and the controls in place to ensure consistency and quality of the drug substance.

3.2.S.3 Characterization refers to a comprehensive set of activities and analytical techniques used to identify and understand the physical, chemical, biological, and microbiological properties of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).

3.2.S.4 Control of Drug Substance documents the strategies, techniques, and procedures used to ensure the quality, safety, and efficacy of pharmaceutical products. They may include various activities, including analytical methods, process controls, environmental monitoring, stability and batch release testing, and the validation and qualification of processes, systems, and equipment.

3.2.S.5 Reference Standards or Materials covers information about the reference standards and materials used in the analysis and quality control of the drug substance, including their source, purity, and how they are characterized.

3.2.S.6, Container Closure System describes the packaging and container closure systems used for the drug substance, including materials, design, and any specific treatments or coatings to ensure stability and integrity.

3.2.S.7 Stability details the stability data for the drug substance, outlining the studies conducted under various conditions to assess its shelf life, degradation pathways, and storage recommendations.

3.2.P: Drug Product

Here, the focus shifts to the final drug product. It includes details on formulation, manufacturing processes, and quality control measures. This subsection is crucial for the FDA to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drug product.

3.2.P.1 Description and Composition of the Drug Product offers an overview of the drug product, including its formulation, components, and their respective functions within the product.

3.2.P.2 Pharmaceutical Development demonstrates that the drug product is developed based on a thorough understanding of its formulation and manufacturing process, ensuring it meets all quality, efficacy, and safety requirements. It provides a scientific basis for the product's design and a rationale for the approaches taken during its development.

3.2.P.3 Manufacture demonstrates the consistent production of a high-quality product with a detailed description of the manufacturing process, validation of the process, and identification of critical process parameters. It also details material controls, the quality of ingredients used, and the justification of specifications for raw materials, intermediates, and final products. When applicable, it discusses the considerations and adjustments made during the scale-up of the manufacturing process from pilot to commercial scale. The manufacturing process description may also include considerations for environmental, health, and safety (EHS) impacts, ensuring that the process is not only effective but also compliant with EHS regulations.

3.2.P.4 Control of Excipients describes the specifications, quality standards, and testing methods for each excipient used in the drug product, ensuring their suitability for use.

3.2.P.5 Control of Drug Product outlines the specifications and analytical methods for the final drug product, including physical, chemical, and microbiological tests to ensure product quality and consistency.

3.2.P.6 Reference Standards or Materials explains the reference standards and materials used in the quality control of the drug product, including information on their selection, purity, and characterization.

3.2.P.7 Container Closure System discusses the packaging materials and closure systems for the drug product, ensuring they are suitable and do not adversely affect the product's quality, safety, or efficacy.

3.2.P.8 Stability provides stability data for the drug product, including the results of studies conducted under various environmental conditions to determine shelf life and storage requirements.

3.2.R Regional Information

This section is reserved for region-specific information about the drug substance and/or drug product. For example, in the US, applicants can include executed batch records in this section.

3.2.A Appendices

This section encompasses supplementary data and documents supporting the drug substance and product's quality, including detailed manufacturing processes, analytical method validation, stability data, environmental assessments, and regulatory certificates. These appendices provide essential background and validation for the claims made in the main sections of the application, facilitating regulatory review and approval.

Literature References

This section provides references to scientific literature used to support information and statements made in Module 3. These references can provide justification for the selection of specific analytical methods and manufacturing processes, support the validation of analytical methods used, offer a scientific rationale for the established specifications, or support the design of stability studies. They may also be used to provide comparative data on similar drug substances or products, which can help in demonstrating bioequivalence, bioavailability, or consistency in manufacturing processes.


The Module 2 QOS and Module 3 of the eCTD present all the Quality information about the product. Module 2 facilitates a high-level review by summarizing the key quality aspects of the drug, while Module 3 provides the detailed evidence and data necessary for a thorough assessment of the product's quality. Utilizing this information, the FDA can determine whether the product is manufactured in a consistent manner that ensures its identity, strength, quality, and purity. Together, these modules enable the FDA to make informed decisions regarding the approval of new drugs, ensuring they meet the necessary standards for safety and efficacy.

You can learn more about the Quality aspects of the eCTD by reading the ICH Guidance.

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