FDA to Create Early Warning System for Medical Devices

Hammered for its regulation of medical device safety, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today proposed telling the public about “emerging signals” of possible device risk before it determines whether the risk actually exists.

Such early warnings already are issued for drugs through the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), a database on adverse event and medication error reports submitted to the agency. A dramatic fall-off in the number of drugs flagged for potential risk signals in FAERS since 2012 prompts FDA critics to wonder whether a similar system for medical devices will benefit the public.

In today’s proposal, the FDA explained that it historically has alerted the public about safety concerns that crop up after a device goes on the market, and usually after it has determined what to do about them. Agency responses include recommendations for the “device user community” and possible regulatory action.

However, the FDA said there is a need to notify the public “about emerging signals that the agency is monitoring or analyzing, and for which the agency does not yet have specific recommendations.” […]

Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Center for Health Research, a think tank focused on children and adults, said she does not believe that the downward trend line means that the FDA has been receiving fewer adverse event reports. Rather, the process of disseminating possible risk signals has become “moribund.”

“We think FAERS information is not being made public in a timely manner,” Dr Zuckerman told Medscape Medical News. She cites lack of regulatory and political will as the reason. FDA user fees collected from drug manufacturers “are dependent on speed of review for drug approvals, not on timely FAERS information,” she said. “Similarly, Congress has complained about the speed of drug and device approvals, not on the speed of warning safety signals.

“Unfortunately, safety is not currently a priority at the FDA or Congress,” Dr Zuckerman said. […]

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