Moving Toward a National Medical Device Postmarket Surveillance System

By: Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D. and Thomas P. Gross, M.D., MPH

Jeffrey Shuren

Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., Director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Despite rigorous premarket evaluation, what really counts is how well a medical device works when it’s used day-to-day by patients, caregivers and clinicians. Beyond clinical trials, real-life patient experience may reveal unanticipated device risks and confirm long-term benefits. Similar to other medical products such as drugs or vaccines, medical devices offer vital, sometimes life-saving, benefits, but they must be balanced against certain risks. A strong postmarket surveillance system can provide more robust and timely benefit-risk profiles for devices so that providers and patients can make better informed health care decisions.

In 2012, CDRH laid out a strategy to strengthen the nation’s postmarket surveillance system for devices. As described in that strategy, our vision for medical device postmarket surveillance consists of a national system that quickly identifies poorly performing devices, accurately characterizes and disseminates risk and benefit information about real-world device performance, and efficiently generates data to help support premarket clearance or approval of new devices and new uses of currently marketed devices.

Thomas Gross, MD, MPH, Director, Office of Surveillance and Biometrics in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Thomas Gross, MD, MPH, Director, Office of Surveillance and Biometrics in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health

We cannot create a system like this alone. Achieving our vision for a national system requires thoughtful input and active participation from many key national and international stakeholders—now and in the future.  In 2013, after receiving public input on the 2012 strategy, we published an update that described the five major steps the FDA would take to create a National Medical Device Postmarket Surveillance System (MDS):

(1) Establish a multi-stakeholder Medical Device Postmarket Surveillance System Planning Board to identify the governance structure, practices, policies, procedures, methods and business model(s) necessary to facilitate the creation of a sustainable, integrated medical device postmarket surveillance system.

(2) Establish a unique device identification (UDI) system and promote its incorporation into electronic health information.

(3) Promote the development of national and international device registries for selected products.

(4) Modernize adverse event reporting and analysis.

(5) Develop and use new methods for evidence generation, synthesis, and appraisal.

Over the past year, we’ve made tremendous progress in laying the groundwork for this national system. We have begun implementing the UDI rule, including development of a Global UDI Database (GUDID) as the repository for information that unambiguously identifies devices through their distribution and use. We continued to build registry capabilities both domestically (such as the National Breast Implant Registry) and internationally (such as the International Consortium of Vascular Registries).  And we established a Medical Device Registry Task Force consisting of key registry stakeholders under CDRH’s Medical Device Epidemiology Network (MDEpiNet) Program. Importantly, we also commissioned the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution to convene and oversee deliberations of the Medical Device Postmarket Surveillance System Planning Board.

Today, we are happy to announce the release of the Planning Board’s report Strengthening Patient Care: Building an Effective National Medical Device Surveillance System, which outlines recommended steps toward achieving the MDS and strategies for implementation. The report provides a pathway to realizing a national system that harnesses novel data sources, modern analytical techniques and the participation of all stakeholders to optimize patient care. Interested stakeholders will be able to share their feedback on the report through a public docket.

In the coming months, we will also get reports from the Medical Device Registry Task Force. As noted in the 2013 Update, these reports will address significant issues such as defining effective registry governance and data quality practices, which will enrich the national dialogue on development of registries as a crucial source of data on device performance.

Our vision of a National Medical Device Postmarket Surveillance System is a 21st Century solution to an age-old problem. The system relies on the experience gained by health care providers in their daily use of medical devices leveraged by modern technology. This experience, made possible by new tools and systems unimaginable a generation ago, gives us real-time data about what happens to patients in clinical practice. We will be able to leverage these capabilities not only to quickly identify poorly performing devices, but also to facilitate device approval/clearance and patient access, to reduce postmarket data collection for manufacturers, and to better inform healthcare decisions by providers and patients alike.  We look forward to overcoming the challenges and embracing the opportunities that lie ahead. We are optimistic that with the engagement of the public and private sectors, we can collectively build a medical device postmarket surveillance system that will achieve all of our goals.

Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., Director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Thomas Gross, MD, MPH, Director, Office of Surveillance and Biometrics in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health

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