The preceding four blogs discussed some of the problems I have observed with clients concerning private for-profit Notified Bodies and regulatory compliance with the three EU Medical Devices Directives. In the January 31, 2012 blog, I wrote the following paragraph concerning one possible alternative Notified Body approach to Medical Device approvals:
“Something akin to an FDA 510(k) also should be created with device efficacy built in as major requirement. It isn’t a perfect solution because the 510(k) predicate device requirement doesn’t always avoid device defects in design and materials, but it is overseen by FDA not a private third party.”
The Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) signed between the US and EU in 1997, covered four areas, one being medical devices. The MRA provided for the creation of CABs (Conformity Assessment Bodies) approved by FDA to administer 510(k)s for selected Class II Medical Devices. Several of these CABs also are EU Notified Bodies. In this blog I want to return to the statement, “It isn’t a perfect solution because the 510(k) predicate device requirement doesn’t always avoid device defects in design and materials.”
US Politics Today
Presently, there is a move in the US House of Representatives supported by some Senators to ease medical device regulations for Medical Device Manufacturers, hypothetically to encourage innovation and speed devices to the market. Even though the US has just begun to emerge from the disaster of deregulation of the US economy that allowed financial institutions to run amuck and create the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a convoluted ideology continues to appeal, i.e., regulation is bad, deregulation is good! Political ideology is a powerful force, uninformed by scientific knowledge and intelligence. Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln would have been appalled.
The regulatory and enforcement problem afflicting CE Marking breast implant manufacturing and enforcement for the EU Medical DEvices Directives is different from the regulatory problem in the US, namely the weakness of the 510(k) approach. On February 1st my wife received the following correspondence from Jim Guest, the President of Consumer Reports.
“It's a nightmare scenario. The implant that fixed your knee or your heart may actually be a ticking time bomb that could disable or kill you.
This isn't science fiction. Millions of medical devices including artificial hips, contact lens solution, heart stents, and pacemakers are being recalled - 700 different products a year.
And the vast majority of recalled products were never safety tested in humans, because the manufacturers claimed they were "similar" to products already on the market.
Tell Congress we don't want to be guinea pigs anymore!
Every new prescription drug must undergo rigorous testing on humans before it can be sold, even if it is similar to another drug already in use. Not so with medical devices. Because of this loophole in our safety laws, more than 90 percent of medical devices aren't safety tested before being sold nor are they routinely tracked afterwards to identify safety problems.
For example, a metal hip implant marketed by Johnson & Johnson was approved in 2005 without first undergoing clinical safety trials. It was recalled five years later after having a 1 in 8 failure rate in the UK, and releasing potentially toxic metals into the body. Countless patients had to undergo a second, painful 'revision' surgery.
It's time safety standards for medical devices are as strong as those for prescription drugs! E-mail your members now!
The device industry has unleashed an army of lobbyists and they don't want things to change. It will take a wave of consumers weighing in to make sure medical devices are safe and effective. Please take action, then forward this to friends and family. Thank you!
President, Consumer Reports
(Note: Consumer Reports is the largest and oldest independent non-profit testing and information organization in the US, serving only consumers since 1936.)
What are some of the problems with the 510(k)?
Today the 35 year-old 510(k) System is used by FDA to review 90 percent of medical device applications each year. After numerous problems and ongoing billion dollar lawsuits concerning 510(k) approved medical devices, in 2009 FDA commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study the problem and report back to FDA, which they did in August 2011.
The IOM report stated, “the process of using existing or “predicate” devices as the basis for evaluating the safety and effectiveness of a new device is “untenable.” The authors recommended that the FDA immediately stop using the protocol for Class III devices – considered to pose the highest potential risk to patients. “As devices have evolved and become more complex, our device-approval system has become incapable of assuring safety and effectiveness,” wrote New England Journal of Medicine executive editor Dr. Gregory Curfman and Dr. Rita Redberg, editor of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The system we use today was created 35 years ago in an era of much simpler and fewer devices and it is now outdated.
The New England Journal of Medicine editorial discussing the IOM report, specifically pointed out the ongoing problems with metal-on-metal hip implants including Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy ASR Acetabular System and DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. The DePuy ASR XL Acetabular System was introduced in the US in 2005.
The [DePuy] ASR was constructed by borrowing a metal alloy cup from a different hip device known as the [DePuy] ASR Hit Resurfacing System and retrofitting it onto a standard hip implant. The manufacturer successfully made the case that the reengineered implant was “substantially equivalent” to a predicate device. Its marketing clearance was therefore based not on trials or other clinical data but on bench testing in a laboratory, which was inadequate to simulate the stresses that would be placed on it in patients’ bodies. It soon became clear that the device failed at the astonishing rate of at least one in eight. (Brett Emerson, Injury Board.com, October 20, 2011)
The metal-on-metal hip implants were found to shred minute metal particles into patients’ bloodstreams over time.
What Are The Institute of Medicine Recommendations?
To begin the IOM, recommended that the agency (FDA) ditch the program entirely and replace it with an “integrated pre-market and post-market regulatory framework. It’s not clear that the 510(k) process is serving the needs of either the industry or patients, and simply modifying again will not help, said David Challoner who chaired the committee that wrote the report. The 510(k) Process cannot achieve its stated goals – to achieve innovation and make safe, effective devices available to patients in a timely manner – because they are fundamentally at odds with statutes that govern how FDA must implement the process.
Other IOM recommendations are:
- Boosting post-market surveillance and strengthening the FDA’s post-market authority;
- Ban all Class III devices, those of the highest risk, from the 510(k) fast-track process;
- Eliminate clearance using multiple predicate devices, by which a new device can be cleared by demonstrating equivalence to device that was also cleared through equivalence, forming a chain of devices that were never clinically tested, and
- Implement a formal post-market surveillance program.
The [IOM] report concluded that it was impossible for 510(k) clearance to assure safety and effectiveness, because it assesses neither, instead establishing only “substantial equivalence” to an existing device.
As anticipated, the medical device industry rose up to complain about the reforms even though billion-dollar product liability lawsuits are working their way through the courts right now and will cost medical device companies a substantial amount of money. Not to mention that patients who suffer pain from the existing device and need to have the devices explanted and a new device inserted with no clear indication of how the surgical costs will be covered.
To return to the question about whether FDA’s 510(k) might serve as a model for EU regulation of its medical devices directives, the answer is no. The two regulatory systems face different issues:
- In the EU the issue is the competence of Notified Body device experts, the effectiveness of 70 for-profit Notified Bodies overseeing medical device manufacturers’ ISO 13485 Quality Management Systems, and the professional quality of oversight by 27 EU competent bodies.
- In the US the issue is a regulatory process that employs two strategies, (1) clinical trials for new high-risk device medical device, and (2) a 510(k) System focused “substantial equivalence” and expedience that doesn’t assure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices and consequently doesn’t focus on patient safety and product (device) safety.
Both the EU and US will have to work out their respective regulatory systems in the context of what presently exists but is not working. It’s not a simple process and it will take some work but it is essential that it be resolved in both the EU and US. Hopefully, private self-interest, political interference and intrusion won’t create a corrupted process that worsens what exists today.
My focus on International Regulatory Compliance has always included both the requirements of regulatory authorities and the legal implications of compliance, non-compliance, documentation and sloppy attention to detail that could result in compromised product safety and product liability lawsuits. In particular, I focus on product safety, patient safety and the steps necessary to create a safe product. I would be happy to help. If you have questions regarding CE Marking lawsuits you can contact me for a free preliminary consultation at my e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.