While the IOM study is underway, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) will convene its own internal working group to evaluate and improve the consistency of FDA decision making in the 510(k) process.

“Good government conducts periodic reviews and evaluations of its programs,” said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., acting director of CDRH. “Our working group and the IOM’s independent evaluation will help us determine how the 510(k) process can be improved to better support FDA’s mission to protect and promote the public health.”

The 510(k) process was established under the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 with two goals:

Make safe and effective devices available to consumers

Promote innovation in the medical device industry.

During the past three decades, technology and the medical device industry have changed dramatically, making it an appropriate time for CDRH to review the adequacy of the premarket notification program in meeting these two goals.

Established by the National Academy of Sciences, the IOM provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.

As part of the study, the IOM will convene a committee to answer two principal questions:

Does the current 510(k) process optimally protect patients and promote innovation in support of public health?

If not, what legislative, regulatory, or administrative changes are recommended to achieve the goals of the 510(k) process?

The $1.3 million IOM review is slated for completion in 2011, and is one of six priorities Dr. Shuren has outlined for CDRH. Others include:

Creating an internal task force on the use of science in regulatory decision-making

Developing an effective compliance strategy

Optimally integrating premarket and postmarket information

Increasing transparency in decision-making

Establishing clear procedures to resolve differences of opinion.

The IOM will hold two public workshops during the next nine months as part of its review, and will publish a final report in March 2011 containing its conclusions and recommendations.

The FDA classifies medical devices into three categories according to their level of risk. Class III devices represent the highest level of risk and generally require premarket approval to support their safety and effectiveness before they may be marketed. Class III devices include heart valves and intraocular lenses.

Class I and Class II devices pose lower risks and include devices such as adhesive bandages and wheelchairs. Most Class II devices and some Class I devices can be marketed after submission of premarket notifications—also called 510(k) applications—that support their substantial equivalence to legally marketed devices that do not require premarket approval.

Devices that present a new intended use or include new technology that presents new questions of safety or effectiveness may not be found substantially equivalent and require premarket approval.