Wednesday, January 19, 2011

FDA to Revise Device Rules, but Most are Minor for Now

In a press release today, the FDA announced that it will be making 25 changes this year to its 510(k) medical device clearance program, but will hold off on any major moves until after the release of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report scheduled for this summer.

The agency's Center for Devices and Radiological Health said it would implement changes including the streamlining of the "de novo" review process for lower-risk devices, more clarity on when medical device manufacturers must submit clinical data in a 510(k) submission, and the creation of a council to improve regulatory science.

Most of the controversial changes to the 510(k) program proposed by the agency last year were temporarily taken off the table until the release of the IOM review slated for this summer.  They include the ability to revoke 510(K) clearances, increased post-market surveillance, and the establishment of a new classification (IIb) for medical devices that would require the submission of clinical evidence.

The agency maintains that the changes (PDF) will be a boon for the process by which the vast majority of medical devices are cleared for the U.S. market, delivering "a smarter medical device program that supports innovation, keeps jobs here at home and brings important, safe and effective technologies to patients quickly," according to a statement by Shuren.

In order to facilitate innovation in medical devices, Shuren said the FDA will:
  • Streamline the review process for innovative, lower-risk products, called the "de novo" process by Sept. 30.
  • Publish guidance for industry to clarify when clinical data should be submitted to increase predictability and transparency on July 31.
  • Develop a network of external experts who can use their knowledge and experience to help the agency address important scientific issues regarding new medical device technologies by Sept. 15.
  • Establish a new Center Science Council of senior FDA experts within the agency’s medical device center to assure more timely and consistent science-based decision making. FDA will publish the charter for the council its website on March 31. The agency plans to publish initial results of a 510(k) audit by the council on June 15.
To bolster the safety of medical devices, Shuren said the FDA will:
  • Establish a public database of important device information, such as medical device photographs, labeling and summaries of the basis for the FDA’s decision to clear specific devices. The database will be discussed at a public meeting taking place April 7 and 8.
  • Require a brief description of scientific information regarding the safety and effectiveness known to the manufacturer for select higher-risk devices on a case-by-case basis through device-specific guidance.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

President signs food safety legislation

President Obama signed into law Tuesday legislation that represents the first major overhaul of the nation's food-safety infrastructure since 1938.

The Food Safety Modernization Act moves the FDA away from its previous role of responding to adulterated food to a more modern one of requiring companies to stop contamination before it happens by looking for the places where things can go wrong and fixing them.

The Act also allows the agency to issue mandatory recalls and hire more food-safety inspectors.

The FDA will need to draft regulations to enforce the new law.

Some of the changes the Act puts into place:

Before Now
Surveillance Under the FDA's original statute from 1938, the focus was on responding to adulterated food once it was discovered. Under the new rules, the FDA's focus shifts to stopping outbreaks before they start, by requiring farmers to address places in production where contamination might occur and to require processors to implement written food-safety plans.
Enforcement The FDA couldn't force a company to recall tainted food; it could only seek a voluntary recall. When needed, the FDA can order the recall of tainted food.
Specific targets The FDA had to treat all foods the same, despite the fact that some are more likely to become contaminated than others. FDA can develop regulations that focus on the highest-risk foods, including fruits, vegetables and imports.
Inspections The FDA was able to inspect fewer than 20% of domestic food facilities and 1% of foreign food imports. More than half of food facilities have gone five or more years without a federal inspection, according to a 2010 report from the Health and Human Services inspector general. The FDA will be able to hire 2,500 more field safety inspectors and food-safety experts by 2014 and increase substantially domestic and foreign inspections. The riskiest domestic facilities will be inspected every three years, beginning in 2015.
Records checks For most plants, when the FDA conducted an inspection, it could only require a spot check of what was happening that day. The FDA will have access to the food-safety plan, records and test results that are linked to the safety plan.
Exemptions Big and small farms and producers were treated the same under the statute. Farmers who primarily sell to farmers' markets or to restaurants, and who sell less than $500,000 a year, don't have to follow the new regulations.