IOM Report Calls for Gutting Current 510(k) Review Process, Angers Everyone

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Michael Causey, Editor & Publisher,

Tyra Banks aside, not many 35 year olds look as pristine and buff as they did in younger days.

But if the new Institute of Medicine (IOM) report has its way, the FDA’s 35 year-old 510(k) process should be put out to pasture entirely.

I suppose there’s something to be said for the fact that IOM’s controversial new report seems to have made almost everyone mad.

FDA is reportedly not happy and surprised that it calls for scrapping the current 510(k) system.

Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), said industry isn’t happy with it, either. “The report’s conclusions do not deserve serious consideration from the Congress or the Administration. It proposes abandoning efforts to address the serious problems with the administration of the current program by replacing it at some unknown date with an untried, unproven and unspecified new legal structure. This would be a disservice to patients and the public health.”

Ulb goes on, “Numerous academic studies have shown that the 510(k) process is overwhelmingly safe. The IOM committee itself acknowledges that there is no evidence that the 510(k) process is failing to assure safety and effectiveness. Yet the report recommends entirely scrapping this proven process with a vague new plan that contains no useful guidance. It even goes so far as to say that further investment in 510(k) process improvements would not be ‘a wise use of FDA resources.”

But IOM’s report seems to have surprised everyone with its stark view of the situation.

“The committee concludes that the 510(k) process lacks the legal basis to be a reliable premarket screen of the safety and effective­ness of moderate-risk devices and, furthermore, that it cannot be transformed into one,” the report says.

IOM believes “the current 510(k) process is flawed based on its legislative foundation. Rather than continuing to modify the 35-year-old 510(k) process, the IOM concludes that the FDA’s finite resources would be better invested in developing an integrated premarket and postmarket regulatory framework that provides a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness throughout the device life cycle.”

In other words, junk it. Start over.

Has the FDA’s 510(k) process hindered innovation (as much of the medical device industry maintains), or has it struck the best balance between protecting patients and spurring new ideas?

Sorry, IOM punted on that one. “It is unclear—and the committee concludes that it is indeterminable, given current information— whether the 510(k) process over the last 35 years has had a positive or negative effect on innovation. To answer this question, the FDA should commission an assessment to determine this effect.”

In other words, do another study.

Respected industry attorney and Hogan Lovells Partner John Smith tells us, “the report is extremely disappointing given the time and effort that has been dedicated to this process. The assumptions underlying the IOMs conclusions are fundamentally flawed and those conclusions are vague and highly questionable.”

Specifically, he faults the IOM report for saying the 510(k) process does not evaluate safety and effectiveness. “This is simply not true in FDA’s application of the 510(k) paradigm to new medical devices. Although the standard for clearance is ‘substantial equivalence,’ the agency routinely integrates an evaluation of both safety and effectiveness into its substantial equivalence determinations. In other words, the IOM analysis lacks a ‘real world’ perspective and appears to have relied upon on a very conservative reading of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and its implementing regulations to reach this conclusion.”

IOM says scrap the 510(k) system, but some say scrap the IOM report.

“The Institute’s primary conclusion that the 510(k) process should be abandoned completely ignores the considerable debate that lead to its creation and the successful applicable of the 510(k) paradigm over 35 years,” Smith says. “No specific, systemic shortcomings that would justify such a radical restructuring were convincingly identified. Simply put, establishing the 510(k) paradigm was a thorough, thoughtful process and the process served both FDA and industry well since its inception. The Institute also fails to offer concrete recommendations as to potential alternatives, likely reflecting how difficult it will be to improve on the existing 510(k) paradigm.”

Watch the IOM’s webcast unveiling the report here.

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