US FDA | Transformative new steps to advance the review of the safety and effectiveness of medical devices



Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Jeff Shuren, M.D., Director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, on transformative new steps to modernize FDA’s 510(k) program to advance the review of the safety and effectiveness of medical devices

Forty-two years ago, Congress passed the law establishing the framework for evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medical devices. Today, we’re announcing changes to modernize the FDA’s 510(k) clearance pathway, which accounts for the majority of devices that the FDA reviews. We’re pursuing these changes to help keep pace with the increasing complexity of rapidly evolving technology. The new technology that we’re seeing holds tremendous public health promise for patients. But with the advances also come new complexities that can make the review of safety and effectiveness more challenging. The framework we propose is aimed at efficiently advancing beneficial technology to patients, while solidifying FDA’s gold standard for safety.

We believe that where appropriate, new medical devices that come to market under the 510(k) pathway should either account for advances in technology or demonstrate that they meet more modern safety and performance criteria. We want to make sure that new devices are evaluated against advances in technology that can improve patient safety and performance. In making these reviews, where appropriate, we want to rely on modern safety and performance criteria. At the same time, we’re going to pursue additional actions that will allow the FDA to retire outdated predicates, especially in cases where we’ve seen safer or more effective technology emerge. 

We believe firmly in the merits of the 510(k) process. But we also believe that framework needs to be modernized to reflect advances in technology, safety and the capabilities of a new generation of medical devices. In short, we believe that it’s time to fundamentally modernize an approach first adopted in 1976, when Congress considered the vast diversity of devices that would become subject to the FDA’s regulatory oversight and established many of the predicate devices that served as the basis for 510(k) clearances during the last 40 years.

The 510(k) process allows the FDA to recognize that medical devices exist across a continuum of complexity and risk and that the scope of premarket review should reflect this risk continuum. This is a contemporary approach to regulation. A one-size-fits-all regulatory approach wouldn’t optimize public health outcomes, wouldn’t be efficient in advancing beneficial new technologies to patients, and wouldn’t allow the FDA to effectively prioritize its scientific resources.

Congress’s creation of the 510(k) process was a paradigm shift from the FDA’s regulation of drugs. It recognized the distinct challenges of regulating such a broad, diverse group of medical products. Today, the FDA regulates more than 190,000 distinct devices. Although the regulatory approach to devices is different than for drugs, the public health objective – assuring that all medical products meet the FDA’s standards for safety and effectiveness – is the same.

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