Comparison between European Medicines Agency and US Food and Drug Administration in Granting Accelerated Marketing Authorizations for Covid-19 Medicines and their Utilized Regulations

Marina Ghadanian , Ellen Schafheutle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to ensure timely and safe access to medicines during a pandemic, the aim of this study was to compare and contrast the EU and US regulations, processes and outcomes pertaining to the granting of accelerated Marketing Authorizations (MAs) for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments with a view to determining how effective these regulations were in delivering safe medicines in a timely manner.

MAs for medicines approved for Covid-related indications in the first two pandemic years (March 2020 – February 2022) were identified using the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) websites. Authorization reports and utilized regulations were reviewed to determine and compare approval timelines, facilitated pathways, accepted clinical evidence, and effectiveness of the regulations by assessing them against time and safety standards.

By the end of February 2022, the EMA and FDA had granted 12 and 14 MAs, respectively. Two EU and two US approvals were issued in relation to new indications for already-approved treatments; the remaining ones were first-time approvals of novel vaccines and treatments.
The median time to approval was 24 days for the EMA’s conditional MAs and 36 days for the USFDA’s Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for all Covid-19 medicines. This compared with 23 and 28 days, respectively, specifically for first-time novel vaccines and treatments authorized by both USFDA and EMA. The USFDA and EMA differed markedly in terms of the time taken to approve new indications of already-approved treatment, the USFDA took 65 days for such approval, compared with 133 days for the EMA. Where MAs were issued by both authorities, USFDA approvals were issued before EMA approvals; applications for approval were submitted to the FDA before submission to the EMA.
Three EU and two US MAs were based on data from two or more phase 3 clinical trials; the remaining ones were based on single trial data. Only six EU and four US trials had completed by the time of authorization. This was in line with regulations.
While the applicable regulations shared many similarities, there were marked differences. For instance, the EU’s conditional MA regulation pertains only to first approvals of new treatments. It does not cover new indications of already-approved treatments. This contrasts with the US, where the EUA regulation applies to both types of applications, something that may have impacted approval timelines.
Overall, both EU and US utilized regulations were considered to be effective. For most cases, utilizing such regulations for Covid-19 MAs resulted in faster approval timelines compared to standard MAs. They were flexible enough to manage the process of granting emergency approvals while maintaining strict requirements and allowing comprehensive reviews of the supporting evidence.

US and EU regulations were effective in ensuring timely accelerated market access to Covid-19 medicines during the pandemic without compromising the approval standards related to safety or efficacy. The population in both regions will receive comparable access to medicines during a pandemic if sponsors submit their applications to both authorities in parallel.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTherapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Aug 2023


  • Covid-19
  • Regulations
  • Conditional
  • Emergency Use
  • Marketing Authorizations


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