The future of pharmaceutical quality and the path to get there

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While six sigma quality has long been achieved in other industries, it is rarely seen in the pharmaceutical sector. However, consumers and patients deserve six sigma quality pharmaceuticals with minimal risks of shortages or recalls. We propose that the future of pharmaceutical quality is six sigma, meaning that no more than 3.4 defects occur per million opportunities. We discuss the path to get there, including economic drivers, performance-based regulation, Quality by Design, advanced manufacturing technologies, and continuous improvement and operational excellence. This article outlines an ambitious goal and is intended to be thought-provoking in spite of the challenging path to get there. This goal is envisioned because it is in the best interest of patients and consumers and is realizable with continued advances and investments in science and technology. The fundamental destination of pharmaceutical quality has been long envisioned: a maximally efficient, agile, flexible pharmaceutical manufacturing sector that reliably produces high quality drugs without extensive regulatory oversight.

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