Senate Committee Approves Legislation to Speed Approval of Medical Devices

Thomas M. Burton, The Wall Street Journal: March 9, 2016

WASHINGTON—A Senate committee Wednesday approved a slate of bills that would relax requirements for approval of medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration, part of a larger effort aimed at speeding up the regulatory process and boosting medical research.

Most of the measures were approved with bipartisan support, but there are indications of discord on the package. Some patient-safety advocates said the legislation would weaken the FDA’s ability to ensure the dependability and safety of medical devices.


At issue is how aggressively the FDA will regulate medical products. The “breakthrough” [products] bill, for example, would allow the use of shorter or smaller clinical studies and quicker measures of success, and medical-device safety experts have already expressed concern that the standards for device approval are significantly lower than those for drugs.


The “breakthrough” bill “sets a low bar to qualify for ‘breakthrough’ status’ ” and “lowers standards for safety and effectiveness,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research in Washington, a medical research and advocacy group.


“We are concerned that the focus of these bills is on getting medical products to market more quickly, instead of making sure that they are safe and effective,” Dr. Zuckerman wrote on behalf of her group and 13 other medical safety groups in a letter to the senators on the HELP committee.

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