ICH-harmonised guidances on genotoxicity testing of pharmaceuticals: evolution, reasoning and impact

Mutat Res. 1999 May;436(3):195-225. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5742(99)00004-6.


The International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) has convened an expert working group which consisted of the authors of this paper and their respective committees, consulting groups and task forces. Two ICH guidances regarding genotoxicity testing have been issued: S2A, 'Guidance on Specific Aspects of Regulatory Genotoxicity Tests' and S2B, 'Genotoxicity: A Standard Battery for Genotoxicity Testing of Pharmaceuticals.' Together, these guidance documents now form the regulatory backbone for genotoxicity testing and assessment of pharmaceuticals in the European Union, Japan, and the USA. These guidances do not constitute a revolutionary new approach to genotoxicity testing and assessment, instead they are an evolution from preexisting regional guidelines, guidances and technical approaches. Both guidances describe a number of specific criteria as well as a general test philosophy in genotoxicity testing. Although these guidances were previously released within the participating regions in their respective regulatory communiqués, to ensure their wider distribution and better understanding, the texts of the guidances are reproduced here in their entirety (see Appendix A) and the background for the recommendations are described. The establishment of a standard battery for genotoxicity testing of pharmaceuticals was one of the most important issues of the harmonisation effort. This battery currently consists of: (i) a test for gene mutation in bacteria, (ii) an in vitro test with cytogenetic evaluation of chromosomal damage with mammalian cells or an in vitro mouse lymphoma tk assay, (iii) an in vivo test for chromosomal damage using rodent hematopoietic cells. A major change in testing philosophy is the acceptance of the interchangeability of testing for chromosomal aberrations in mammalian cells and the mouse lymphoma tk assay. This agreement was reached on the basis of the extensive review of databases and newly generated experimental data which are in part described in this publication. The authors are fully aware of the fact that some of the recommendations given in these ICH guidances are transient in nature and that the dynamic qualities and ongoing evolution of genetic toxicology makes necessary a continuous maintenance process that would serve to update the guidance as necessary.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Mutagenicity Tests / standards*
  • Mutagenicity Tests / trends
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations