Tag Archives: computerized systems

How to Avoid Electronic Data Integrity Issues: 7 Techniques for your Next Validation Project

The idea of this article was taking (with permission from the original authors) from Montrium:  how-to-avoid-electronic-data-integrity-issues-7-techniques-for-your-next-validation-project

Regulatory agencies around the globe are causing life science companies to be increasingly concerned with data integrity.  This comes with no surprise given that Guidance Documents for Data Integrity have been published by the MHRAFDA (draft), and WHO (draft).  In fact, the recent rise in awareness of the topic has been so tremendous that, less than two years after the original publication, the MHRA released a new draft of its guidance whose scope has been broadened from GMP to all GxP data.

Is data integrity an issue of good documentation practices? You can read GCP information about this topic here.

Good Documentation Practices for SAS / EDC Developers

Are you practising GCP?

In computerised systems, failures in data integrity management can arise from poor or complete lack of system controls.  Human error or lack of awareness may also cause data integrity issues.  Deficiencies in data integrity management are crucial because they may lead to issues with product quality and/or patient safety and, ultimately may manifest themselves through patient injury or even death.

I recently was at the vendor qualification tool that uses a hand held device to read data while the physician or expert manually put pressure on someone’s body parts (e..g. pain related). I was not impressed. Even though it seems like a nice device with its own software, the entire process was manual and therefore, questionable data integrity. The measurement seems to be all over the place and you would need the right personnel at the clinical site to perform a more accurate reading since again, it was all manual and dependent of someone else used of the device.

I also questioned the calibration of this device. The sale’s person answer ? “Well, it is reading 0 and therefore, it is calibrated.”….Really? You mean to tell me you have no way of proving when you perform calibration? Where is the paper trail proving your device is accurate? You mean to tell me I have to truth your words? Or your device’s screen that reads ‘0’? Well, I have news for you. Tell that to the regulators when they audit the trial.

What is Data Integrity?

Data can be defined as any original and true copy of paper or electronic records.  In the broadest sense, data integrity refers to the extent to which data are complete, consistent and accurate.

To have integrity and to meet regulatory expectations, data must at least meet the ALCOA criteria. Data that is ALCOA-plus is even better.

Alcoa

 

What is a Computerised System?

computerised system is not only the set of hardware and software, but also includes the people and documentation (including user guides and operating procedures) that are used to accomplish a set of specific functions.  It is a regulatory expectation that computer hardware and software are qualified, while the complete computerised system is validated to demonstrate that it is fit for its intended use.

How can you demonstrate Electronic Data Integrity through Validation?

Here are some techniques to assist you in ensuring the reliability of GxP data generated and maintained in computerised systems.

Specifications

What to do

Why you should do this

Outline your expectations for data integrity within a requirements specification.

For example:

  • Define requirements for the data review processes.
  • Define requirements for data retention (retention period and data format).
Validation is meant to demonstrate a system’s fitness for intended use.  If you define requirements for data integrity, you will be more inclined to verify that both system and procedural controls for data integrity are in place.
Verify that the system has adequate technical controls to prevent unauthorised changes to the configuration settings.

For example:

  • Define the system configuration parameter within a configuration specification.
  • Verify that the system configuration is “locked” to end-users.  Only authorized administrators should have access to the areas of the system where configuration changes can be made.
The inspection agencies expect you to be able to reconstruct any of the activities resulting in the generation of a given raw data set.  A static system configuration is key to being able to do this.

 

Verification of Procedural Controls

What to do

Why you should do this

Confirm that procedures are in place to oversee the creation of user accounts.

For example:

  • Confirm that user accounts are uniquely tied to specific individuals.
  • Confirm that generic system administrator accounts have been disabled.
  • Confirm that user accounts can be disabled.
Shared logins or generic user accounts should not be used since these would render data non-attributable to individuals.

System administrator privileges (allowing activities such as data deletion or system configuration changes) should be assigned to unique named accounts.  Individuals with administrator access should log in under his named account that allows audit trails to be attributed to that specific individual.

Confirm that procedures are in place to oversee user access management.

For example:

  • Verify that a security matrix is maintained, listing the individuals authorized to access the system and with what privileges.
A security matrix is a visual tool for reviewing and evaluating whether appropriate permissions are assigned to an individual. The risk of tampering with data is reduced if users are restricted to areas of the system that solely allow them to perform their job functions.
Confirm that procedures are in place to oversee training.

For example:

  • Ensure that only qualified users are granted access to the system.
People make up the part of the system that is most prone to error (intentional or not).  Untrained or unqualified users may use the system incorrectly, leading to the generation of inaccurate data or even rendering the system inoperable.

Procedures can be implemented to instruct people on the correct usage of the system.  If followed, procedures can minimize data integrity issues caused by human error. Individuals should also be sensitized to the consequences and potential harm that could arise from data integrity issues resulting from system misuse.

Logical security procedures may outline controls (such as password policies) and codes of conduct (such as prohibition of password sharing) that contribute to maintaining data integrity.

 

Testing of Technical Controls

What to do

Why you should do this

Verify calculations performed on GxP data.

For example:

  • Devise a test scenario where input data is manipulated and double-check that the calculated output is exact.
When calculations are part of the system’s intended use, they must be verified to ensure that they produce accurate results.
Verify the system is capable of generating audit trails for GxP records.

For example:

  • Devise a test scenario where data is created, modified, and deleted.  Verify each action is captured in a computer-generated audit trail.
  • Verify the audit trail includes the identity of the user performing the action on the record
  • Verify the audit trail includes a time stamp
  • Verify the system time zone settings and synchronisation.
With the intent of minimizing the falsification of data, GxP record-keeping practices prevent data from being lost or obscured.  Audit trails capture who, when and why a record was created, modified or deleted.  The record’s chronology allows for reconstruction of the course of events related to the record.

The content of the audit trails ensures that data is always attributable and contemporaneous.

For data and the corresponding audit trails to be contemporaneous, system time settings must be accurate.

 

 

 

Who can delete data?

Adequately validated and have sufficient controls to
prevent unauthorized access or changes to data.

Implement a data integrity lifecycle concept:

  • Activate audit trail and its backup
  • Backup and archiving processes
  • Disaster recovery plan
  • Verification of restoration of raw data
  • Security, user access and role privileges (Admin)

Warning Signs – Red Flags

  • Design and configuration of systems are poor
  • Data review limited to printed records – no review
    of e-source data
  • System administrators during QC, can delete data (no proper documentation)
  • Shared Identity/Passwords
  • Lack of culture of quality
  • Poor documentation practices
  • Old computerized systems not complying with part 11 or Annex 11
  • Lack of audit trail and data reviews
  • Is QA oversight lacking? Symptom of weak QMS?
I love being audited

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perform Self Audits

  • Focus on raw data handling & data review/verification
  • Consider external support to avoid bias
  • Verify the expected sequence of activities: dates,
    times, quantities, identifiers (such as batch,
    sample or equipment numbers) and signatures
  • Constantly double check and cross reference
  • Verify signatures against a master signature list
  • Check source of materials received
  • Review batch record for inconsistencies
  • Interview staff not the managers

FDA 483 observations

“…over-writing electronic raw data…..”

“…OOS not investigated as required by SOP….”

“….records are not completed contemporaneously”

“… back-dating….”

“… fabricating data…”

“…. No saving electronic or hard copy data…”

“…results failing specifications are retested until
acceptable results are obtained….”

  • No traceability of reported data to source documents

Conclusion:

Even though we try to comply with regulations (regulatory expectations from different agencies e.g. EMA, MHRA, FDA, etc), data integrity is not always easy to detect. It is important the staff working in a regulated environment be properly trained and continuous refresher provided through their career (awareness training of new regulations and updates to regulations).

Companies should also integrate a self-audit program and develop a strong quality culture by implementing lesson learned from audits.

Sources:

You can read more about data integrity findings by searching the followng topics:

MHRA GMP Data Integrity Definitions & Guidance for the Industry,
MHRA DI blogs: org behaviour, ALCOA principles
FDA Warning Letters and Import Alerts
EUDRA GMDP database noncompliance

The Mind-Numbing Way FDA Uncovers Data
Integrity Laps”, Gold Sheet, 30 January 2015

Data Integrity Pitfalls – Expectations and Experiences

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21 CFR and Passwords: Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

The free Internet that many of us loved has become a surveillance web, serving governments and mega-corps, while abusing the rest of us. It is important that you start protecting your data, while browsing the internet and using communication tools while performing your role. This article will guide you through a new set of skills using secure technology and developing careful practices.

As we know, the FDA regulates computerized systems used in clinical trials under the authority of Title 21 the Code of Federal Regulations Part 11 (21 CFR Part 11). These regulations apply only to use of systems in trials the results of which will be submitted to the FDA as part of the drug development/approval process.

As we are currently in the wake of yet another password breach, this time encompassing over 5 million Gmail passwords, it seems like no matter what you do, your password can and will be stolen. What should you do if your organization is a victim? Furthermore, how can your staff pick a safer password?

CRF 21 requires rigid and rigorous password de-activation and temporary generation protocols and data encryption and transaction safeguards to prevent sniffing (SSL, JavaScript) during a software development process of computerized systems used in clinical trials.

Here are some recommendations on how to manage your passwords:

  • Use a two-factor authentication or two-steps login: I know that it can be a pain, but it will help keep your online accounts safer. If for any reason your password is hacked, someone won’t be able to login to your account without the 2nd authentication.
  • Don’t be lazy. We have heard it all before. Using common passwords like

password
admin
12345678
iloveyou

    • Do not choose a password that is related to anything that has special meaning to you, ie: your pets name, birthday, address, family members names, etc. We know, we know, it’s easy to remember though.
    • Use a string of random words.
Source: Free Stock Photos
Source: Free Stock Photos

Which of the following two passwords is stronger, more secure, and more difficult to crack?

D0g…………………

PrXyc.N(n4k77#L!eVdAfp9

ENTROPY: If you are mathematically inclined, or if you have some security knowledge and training, you may be familiar with the idea of the “entropy” or the randomness and unpredictability of data. If so, you’ll have noticed that the first, stronger password has much less entropy than the second (weaker) password. Virtually everyone has always believed or been told that passwords derived their strength from having “high entropy”. But as we see now, when the only available attack is guessing, that long-standing common wisdom  . . . is  . . . not  . . . correct! (Retrieved from: https://www.grc.com/haystack.htm)

Consider alphanumeric password of n characters. A-Z, a-z, numbers: Total 56 possible options for each slot. Therefore, a truly random password would have 56^n possible options. (Ten-character: 303,305,489,096,114,176; or, 2^58 and then some.) Of course, generating such of a password is more difficult. One way is to condense an easy-to-remember phrase, though this does limit the search space, too, if your method is know.

For disk encryption (and password safe), we recommend selecting a minimum of six words

A company I used to work for had a nice password generator for their massive database administration, which even low-level employees need to access regularly. It generates 3 words, bridges them together with special case characters and adds a spelling mistake (repeated or missing character) to one of the words.

Should your IT department provide a password generator (manager) to all clinical staff? Additionally security encryption should be taken in consideration. To make this password creator page more safe though, you should set up this page so that it didn’t cache in browser so that the initially generated password is visible there. Optionally, using SSL connection to encrypt page and hence password so that traffic isn’t intercepted.

Ask your systems administrators to look for software offering an implementation of the open standard “Time-Based One-Time Passwords” or RFC 6238.

Remember to keep a backup of your password safe

What tricks do you use when choosing and creating passwords AND keeping them safe? As far as password management goes, I’ve personally found KeePass to be an excellent solution. I use a combination of password management tools (my personal computer has a fingerprint recognition system with keepass embedded in it).

Comments? Join us at {EDC Developer}

Anayansi Gamboa, MPM, an EDC Developer Consultant and clinical programmer for the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industry with more than 13 years of experience.

Available for short-term contracts or ad-hoc requests. See my specialties section (Oracle, SQL Server, EDC Inform, EDC Rave, OpenClinica, SAS and other CDM tools)

As the 3 C’s of life states: Choices, Chances and Changes- you must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. I continually seek to implement means of improving processes to reduce cycle time and decrease work effort.

Subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed and email newsletter to get immediate updates on latest news, articles, and tips. I am available on LinkedIn. Connect with me there for technical discussions.

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