By George Yanulis
Each month, EAS selects one question sent in by readers to be answered by one of our experts. This month’s question is answered by George Yanulis D.Eng., an expert in medical device safety and the 510(k) process.
Question: Why is FDA proposing to change the 510(k) submission process for medical devices?
Yanulis: The rapid technological advances in the medical device arena have been dramatic. A 510(k), otherwise known as a Premarket Notification, is the mechanism by which device manufacturers notify FDA of their intent to market a medical device at least 90 days in advance of doing so. By reviewing the data in a 510(k), FDA is able to determine whether the device is equivalent to a device already placed into one of the three classification categories, Class I (General Controls requiring the least amount of regulatory control because they present minimal harm to users), Class II, (General Controls with Special Controls that must comply with specific labeling requirements, mandatory performance standards and postmarket surveillance) or Class III, (those devices requiring a PMA due to insufficient information to assure the safety and effectiveness solely through general or special controls. As a consultant, Class III medical devices have been my primary focus, particularly in the ICD and cardiac pacemaker device areas.
On November 26, 2018, then FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced changes to the process for approving medical devices for the U.S. market aimed at dramatically revamping the popular 510(k) clearance pathway which enables approvals based on predicates. FDA recognizes its current approach has the potential to limit advancing technological innovation and FDA is now looking to limit the age of predicates to ten years in order to avoid using outdated technologies as older predicates are less relevant to today’s requirements of interconnectivity and complexity.
FDA is proposing an approval outside of the 510(k) process if the comparable device being used is older than a decade, a change that would significantly disrupt the current process through which the vast majority, (80%) of devices are approved. FDA proposes creating a new alternative 510(k) pathway that will focus on objective safety and performance criteria. While devices more than 10 years old are not believed to be unsafe, nor would those devices need to be removed from the market, the change will encourage use of more modern predicates and as such encourage competition to adopt modern technologies and features while improving overall standards and improving outcomes.
As an expert who has collaborated directly with the FDA and particularly with CDRH, I welcome these changes. My expectation is that all devices will continue to be safe and effective, and substantially equivalent as dictated in the 510(k).
You may find some of the below FDA resources to be helpful, and please contact EAS with specific questions regarding your 510(k) filing.