What do stakeholders think of FDA’s latest effort to get patients timelier access to devices?

By Michael Williamson, Bloomberg BNA

The FDA April 8 released two final guidance documents that will help provide timely patient access to high-quality, safe and effective medical devices for unmet medical needs, Jeffrey Shuren, the director of the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a blog posting.

Reaction to the two documents is mixed – pitting industry against some patient advocates.

One guidance document describes the FDA’s Expedited Access Program (EAP), which should “speed qualifying devices to patients with life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating conditions” without compromising the agency’s high standards for safety and effectiveness, Shuren’s blog posting said. The other guidance document outlines the agency’s current policy on balancing premarket and postmarket data collection during FDA review of premarket approval (PMA) applications. In addition, the document addresses whether or not the circumstances when postmarket data collection is appropriate for PMAs meet the criteria for the EAP.

Two stakeholders seemed pleased with the EAP document. The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), “commends the agency for its efforts to explore supplementary review pathways to provide more timely patient access to new technologies for life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions that addresses an unmet medical need,” Janet Trunzo, the association’s senior executive vice president for technology and regulatory affairs, told me in a April 9 e-mail.

In addition, Ben Moscovitch, officer with the medical device project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonproft policy organization, told me April 9 many of the recommendations his group made on the draft version of the EAP document were included in the final document. For example, he told me that the EAP final guidance document reflects a Pew suggestion from 2014 that the FDA should require the initiation of postmarket trials and completion of those studies within a certain timeframe.

Not everyone is pleased with the guidance, however. The EAP final guidance “is part of a larger problem where the FDA is bowing to pressure from Congress to weaken safeguards that are intended to protect patients from unsafe medical products,” Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, told me in an April 9 e-mail. She is also president of the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.

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