Bioavailability (BA) & Bioequivalence (BE) Studies

Bioavailability (BA) and bioequivalence (BE) studies in India are crucial in drug development and regulatory approval processes. These studies ensure that generic drugs are therapeutically equivalent to their branded counterparts and that new formulations perform adequately. The importance of BA/BE studies has grown significantly in India, driven by the burgeoning pharmaceutical industry and stringent regulatory requirements. 

Bioavailability (BA) & Bioequivalence (BE) Studies

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) of India regulates these studies to maintain their quality, safety, and efficacy.

This comprehensive article explores the various facets of BA/BE studies in India, including their definitions, regulatory framework, procedures, challenges, and prospects.

Understanding Bioavailability (BA) and Bioequivalence (BE)

Bioavailability refers to the rate and extent to which the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) or its active moiety is absorbed from a drug product and becomes available at the site of action. High bioavailability implies that a substantial portion of the administered dose reaches the systemic circulation.

Bioequivalence indicates that two drug products (usually a generic and a branded drug) show comparable bioavailability when studied under similar conditions. For two products to be considered bioequivalent, their bioavailability profiles should fall within an acceptable range, typically 80–125% of each other, ensuring they are therapeutically equivalent.

Market dynamics & current availability of BA and BE studies in India

India has emerged as a global hub for BA/BE studies due to its cost-effective research capabilities and a large pool of qualified professionals. Several Contract Research Organizations (CROs) and pharmaceutical companies conduct BA/BE studies, contributing significantly to the global supply of generic medicines.

The demand for BA/BE studies in India is driven by:

  • The growing generic drug market.
  • Regulatory requirements in major markets such as the US, Europe, and other regions.
  • Strategic position as a leading exporter of generic drugs.

Exact figures can vary annually, but it is estimated that India conducts several hundred BA/BE studies each year. The number of studies has been increasing steadily, reflecting the growth of the pharmaceutical sector and the regulatory emphasis on ensuring drug quality and efficacy.

Types of BA/BE studies available in India

Type of the studyObjectiveMethodologyApplication
Single-dose studiesTo compare the bioavailability of a single dose of the test product with that of the reference product.Typically involves administering a single dose of the test and reference products to healthy volunteers in a crossover design, followed by pharmacokinetic (PK) sampling to measure drug concentrations in the plasma.For immediate-release formulations and to establish the basic bioequivalence of two products
Multiple-dose (Steady-State) studiesTo compare the bioavailability of the test product with the reference product when administered multiple times to reach a steady state.After the test, researchers conduct PK sampling and administer the reference products multiple times to achieve steady-state concentrations.For drugs with complex pharmacokinetics, sustained-release formulationsWhen single-dose studies are inadequate
Fed and fasting studiesTo determine the impact of food on the bioavailability of the test product compared to the reference product.Conducted in both fed and fasting conditions, usually involving two separate study periods where participants receive the test and reference products under both conditions.For drugs where food may significantly alter bioavailability, such as those with poor solubility or high first-pass metabolism
Pharmacodynamic (PD) studiesTo compare the pharmacodynamic effects of the test and reference products.Involves measuring the pharmacodynamic response (e.g., blood pressure, glucose levels) as a surrogate marker for bioavailability.For locally acting drugs, inhaled products, and situations where plasma concentrations do not correlate well with therapeutic effects
In Vitro-In Vivo correlation (IVIVC) studiesTo establish a predictive relationship between in vitro and in vivo bioavailability.Involves conducting in vitro dissolution tests alongside in vivo BA studies to develop a correlation model.For formulating and optimizing drug products, particularly controlled-release formulations
Special population studiesTo evaluate the bioavailability and bioequivalence of drug products in special populations such as pediatric, elderly, or renal/hepatic impaired patients.Involves conducting BA/BE studies in the target population with appropriate PK sampling and analysis.For drugs that will be used predominantly or exclusively in special populations, ensuring safety and efficacy in these groups
Topical and transdermal studiesTo compare the bioavailability of topical or transdermal products with a reference product.This may involve measuring drug concentrations in plasma, skin, or other tissues and assessing local and systemic exposure.For creams, ointments, patches, and other topical formulations where systemic absorption is significant
Biosimilarity studiesTo demonstrate that a biosimilar product has no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity, and potency compared to the reference biological productInvolves a combination of analytical, non-clinical, and clinical studies, including PK/PD studies.Critical for the development and approval of biosimilars in markets where biologics are extensively used.

Process of conducting BA/BE studies

Conducting BA/BE studies involves several critical steps, from designing to analyzing and reporting the data. The following sections outline these steps in detail:

Study design

  • Single-dose vs. multiple-dose studies: Single-dose studies are more common and involve administering a single dose of the test and reference products. Researchers conduct multiple-dose studies less frequently and use them when single-dose studies are not feasible or appropriate.
  • Crossover design: Researchers typically use a two-period, two-sequence crossover design where each participant receives the test and reference products in different periods.
  • Washout period: To ensure the participant’s system sufficiently clears the drug from the first study, researchers include a washout period between the two study periods.

Study population

  • Selection criteria: Researchers usually prefer healthy volunteers to minimize variability. But they may use patient populations for certain drugs.
  • Sample size: Determining the sample size is crucial to ensure statistical power. Researchers generally use a sample size of 18–36 participants for standard crossover studies.

Ethical considerations

  • Informed consent: Participants must provide informed consent after being fully informed about the purpose, procedures, risks, and benefits of the study.
  • Ethics Committee approval: The Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC) must review and approve the study protocol.

Study Conduct

  • Drug administration: Researchers administer the test and reference products under controlled conditions.
  • Blood sampling: Blood samples are collected at specified intervals to measure the drug concentration in plasma.
  • Pharmacokinetic analysis: This involves calculating parameters such as Cmax (maximum concentration), Tmax (time to reach Cmax), and AUC (area under the curve) to compare the bioavailability of the test and reference products.

Data analysis

  • Statistical methods: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) is used to compare pharmacokinetic parameters. Bioequivalence is established if the 90% confidence intervals for the ratio of the test to reference product fall within the 80–125% range.
  • Reporting: Detailed reports are prepared, including study design, methodology, results, and conclusions. These reports are submitted to regulatory authorities for review.

Would you like to learn about conducting clinical trials in India? Click here

Regulatory framework for BA/BE studies in India

The regulatory oversight of BA/BE studies in India is primarily managed by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), under the aegis of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Several guidelines and regulations govern the conduct of these studies:

  • Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and Rules, 1945: This act provides India’s foundational legal framework for drug regulation.
  • Schedule Y: Part of the drugs and cosmetics rules, schedule Y outlines the requirements for conducting clinical trials, including BA/BE studies. It details the necessary documentation, ethical considerations, and protocol requirements.
  • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines: These ethical guidelines ensure the protection of participants in clinical research, emphasizing informed consent and ethical review.
  • Bioavailability and bioequivalence studies guidelines (2018): Issued by CDSCO, these guidelines provide detailed instructions on conducting BA/BE studies, including study design, statistical analysis, and reporting.

Step-wise process for regulatory approval for BA/BE studies in India

  1. Pre-submission preparation
    • Study protocol development: Develop a detailed protocol outlining the study design, objectives, methodology, and statistical analysis plan.
    • Site selection: Identify and select qualified study sites and investigators.
  2. Submission to the ethics committee
    • Informed Consent Form (ICF): Prepare the ICF for participants.
    • Ethics Committee Review: Submit the study protocol, ICF, and other relevant documents to an Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC) for review and approval.
  3. Application to CDSCO
    • Dossier preparation: Compile a comprehensive dossier including the study protocol, IEC approval, investigator details, and site information.
    • Form submission: Submit the application using the prescribed forms (e.g., Form 44 for new drugs and clinical trials).
  4. Review process
    • Technical evaluation: The CDSCO reviews the submitted dossier for technical and scientific validity.
    • Queries and clarifications: Address any questions or requests for additional information from the CDSCO.
  5. Approval
    • Grant of permission: The CDSCO grants permission to conduct the BA/BE study upon satisfactory review.
    • Study initiation: Commence the study as per the approved protocol.
  6. Conduct of study
    • Study execution: Conduct the study according to GCP guidelines and the approved protocol.
    • Data collection and analysis: Collect and analyze pharmacokinetic data.
  7. Submission of results
    • Study report: Prepare a comprehensive report including methodology, results, and conclusions.
    • Submission to regulatory authorities: Submit the study report to the CDSCO for final review.
  8. Post-approval compliance
    • Inspections and audits: Be prepared for regulatory inspections and audits to ensure compliance with GCP and regulatory requirements.
    • Reporting: Ensure timely reporting of any adverse events or deviations from the protocol.

Timeline & fees

The timeline for obtaining regulatory approval for BA/BE studies can vary based on several factors, including the submission, the complexity of the study, and the regulatory workload. Generally, the process can take several months to over a year.

Fees for BA/BE studies vary depending on the scope and scale of the study. The fees charged by CROs for conducting BA/BE studies in India are generally lower than in Western countries, making India an attractive destination for these studies. However, specific fee structures are often proprietary and negotiated between the sponsor and the CRO.

Challenges in BA/BE studies in India

While BA/BE studies are integral to the pharmaceutical industry, several challenges persist in their conduct and regulation in India:

  1. Regulatory hurdles: Despite comprehensive guidelines, navigating the regulatory landscape can be complex and time-consuming.
  2. Infrastructure and quality standards: Ensuring high-quality infrastructure and adherence to Good Clinical Practice (GCP) standards is crucial. Some research facilities may lack the necessary infrastructure or fail to meet international standards, impacting the reliability of study results.
  3. Ethical concerns: Maintaining high ethical standards is imperative. Issues related to informed consent, participant safety, and ethical review processes can pose significant challenges.
  4. Data integrity and transparency: Ensuring the integrity and transparency of study data is essential for regulatory approval.

Prospects of BA/BE studies in India

The future of BA/BE studies in India appears promising, with several developments poised to enhance the landscape:

  1. Regulatory reforms: Ongoing reforms aimed at streamlining the regulatory process and enhancing transparency can facilitate faster approvals and more robust oversight of BA/BE studies.
  2. Technological advancements: Innovations in analytical techniques, bioanalytical methodologies, and data analytics can improve the accuracy and efficiency of BA/BE studies.
  3. Collaborations and partnerships: Increased collaborations between academic institutions, research organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry can foster knowledge exchange and enhance the quality of BA/BE studies.
  4. Global recognition: As Indian pharmaceutical companies continue to gain global recognition, there is a growing emphasis on adhering to international standards, which can boost the credibility and acceptance of BA/BE studies conducted in India.
  5. Ethical enhancements: Strengthening ethical frameworks and ensuring rigorous adherence to ethical guidelines can enhance participant protection and improve the overall integrity of BA/BE studies.


The landscape of BA/BE studies in India is robust and dynamic, characterized by a strong regulatory framework, a growing number of studies, and a competitive market. With India’s strategic advantage in cost-effective research and a skilled workforce, the country continues to be a preferred destination for BA/BE studies.

Adhering to regulatory requirements and maintaining high standards of ethical conduct and data integrity are crucial for the continued growth and credibility of BA/BE studies in India. The step-wise regulatory approval process ensures that these studies meet global standards of quality and efficacy, ultimately benefiting patients and the pharmaceutical industry worldwide.

Do You Have Any Questions Regarding BA/BE Studies In India?

Do you have any questions about conducting clinical trials in India, or do you need support with this process? Reach out to our team of experts by providing your details below, and we will connect with you to discuss your clinical trial needs.

Provide brief info about what kind of support you are looking for
Provide your work email, where we can contact you