A GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE?
A Cycle of 510(k) Whitepapers by Nancy J Stark and Kathleen Johnson
In August 2010, CDRH's 510(k) Working Group published a preliminary report consisting of more than 60 recommendations grouped under seven findings aimed at improving the Center's effectiveness in implementing its missions. Will the recommendations work? Do they comprise a forward-thinking strategic plan for the device industry? Herein you'll find CDG's summation of Finding 3 and part of Finding 4, along with our opinions of their worth.
Finding 5: CDRH's knowledge management infrastructure is limited
Neither Center staff nor 510(k) submitters have access to meaningful information
The only comprehensive electronic source of non-public information on prior 510(k) reviews available to Center staff is a database of archived image files. The database is searchable only by 510(k) number. To find information within each file, staff must conduct a labor-intensive, file-by-file text search. Without looking through each file individually, it is impossible to determine what predicate(s) the reviewer used as the basis for a substantial equivalence determination, and what the rationale for the decision was. Moreover, archived files contain varied levels of detail. Older 510(k) submissions and review memoranda are inconsistent in format and content, and many of them are handwritten.
 Enhanced 510k database needed
The Working Group recommends that both internal and public information systems be enhanced.
CDG agrees and further suggests the databases be made available through PubMed, Embase, or even Google where the ability to limit date ranges, use 'not' operators, turn on keyword explosion, use fuzzy logic, and use sophisticated text-search tools are available. Furthermore, the database in its entirety should be downloadable to Excel. The Summaries of Safety and Effectiveness or 510(k)s themselves should be keyworded by K number, product code, predicates, generic and brand names to allow for 'family trees' or 510k pedigrees to be constructed. The information should be available all the way back to 1976, and not stop at 2002.
CDG can write your 510(k)
CDG's extensive Network Staff has expertise in writing 510(k)s in a wide variety of therapeutic, management, or diagnostic areas. My co-author, Kathleen Johnson is a regulatory consultant with more than 10 years experience in medical devices. CDG has capabilities in regulatory submissions, clinical research, toxicology, biostatistics, information research, medical writing, design control—we focus exclusively on medical device pre-approval issues.
Our style is to work collaboratively with a point-person on your side so that you are involved in the process every step of the way. Phone or email us at 773-489-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Product Codes, also known as classification numbers
Product codes are the underpinning for CDRH’s information management systems. They are the primary tool for organizing medical device information in CDRH’s databases, and staff across the Center rely on product codes in their day-to-day work. Product codes are used for tracking and analysis of medical device data across a device’s total product life cycle, including information from premarket submissions, adverse event reports, device recalls, inspections, and compliance actions. Review staff and 510(k) submitters use product code searches to identify and obtain information about potential predicate devices. Product codes were intended to provide more granular distinctions than the general descriptive language provided in the classification regulations. However, inconsistencies in the way product codes are assigned make it difficult to access meaningful device information.
The origin of "product codes" is so old even the Working Group could not give it an accurate reference; a day of research revealed the term "classification number" on FDA Form 2892, which was introduced in 1977 in 21 CFR 807.26, somehow transformed itself into the term "product code" (for a three letter, non-numeric code) at some point in time.
Working Group Recommendations
The Working Group recommends that the agency develop procedures for assigning product codes consistently and that special attention be given to IVD multiplex devices.
CDG agrees and suggests the search engine for product codes be improved. At this time, in order to find a predicate device you can: 1) search keywords in the classification database (simple search) to get a list of product codes and regulation numbers that match your keywords, 2) then search on the product code in the 510(k) database to find possible predicates for your new device. But this method is laborious, time-consuming, and the list that results may not contain good matches for your device. Furthermore, if your device is made of multiple components you will have to do a separate search for each component. And the list does not go back to 1976, so a comprehensive search is not possible. We also suggest that the device listing Form FDA 2892 ask for a product code rather than a classification number to dispel confusion, and that a history of the relationship between the two terms be clarified.
 510(k) Databases
The 510(k) database is not easily searchable for either reviewers or submitters. Lacking a reliable source of accurate information, 510(k) submitters may be forced to look at how the predicate is advertised, which does not necessarily reflect the intended use for which it was cleared. Once cleared, device 510(k) are not accompanied by a revewer-prepared Decision Summary or a reviewer-prepared Summary Basis of Approval, as are IVD 510(k)s or pharmaceuticals. These Summaries are written by the FDA reviewer and capture the thought process and rationale for clearance.
The data are from page 39 of the Working Group Preliminary Report
Working Group Recommendations
The Working Group recommends that CDRH develop a publicly available, easily searchable database that includes, for each cleared device, a verified 510(k) summary, photographs and schematics of the device (to the extent that they do not contain proprietary information), and information showing how cleared 510(k)s relate to each other and identifying the premarket submission that provided the original data or validation for a particular product type.
CDG believes that if a decently searchable 510(k) database were made available to submitters, the quality of submissions and appropriateness of predicates would improve automatically and the time to clearance would decrease. The database should go as far back as 1976 to facilate comprehensive searches. No further changes or requirements should be made until a functional seach engine is developed.
CDG further recommends that a reviewer-prepared Decision Summary be prepared for every cleared 510(k) as an enhancement to the 510(k) Quality Review Program (I96-1). It should be made available to the public, along with the company-prepared 510(k) Statement or Summary. This would enhance quality in 510(k) submissions and consistency in 510(k) clearances.
 Final Device Labeling
One frustration for FDA is that final device labeling and updates to labeling are not routinely reviewed; hence labeling may be inconsistent with, or over-interpret, cleared indications.
Working Group Recommendatons
The Working Group recommended the agency explore the requiring manufacturers to submit final device labeling to FDA by the time of clearance or within a reasonable period of time after clearance, and also to provide regular, periodic updates to device labeling.
CDG's concern is that requiring final labeling before a 510(k) is cleared would merely add to the timeframe for clearance. Annually updating device labeling—when taken together with the previous recommendations for annual updates for device modifications and the recommendation that all scientific information be included in the original submission, regardless of whether or not it supports an argument of substantial equivalence—is tantamount to requiring an annual 510(k) supplement similar to that required for PMAs. It is unduly burdensome for manufacturers of 510(k) devices and an already overburdened FDA staff could not handle the additional data.
We suggest that FDA update the 1997 guidance document "Deciding When to Submit a 510(k) for a Change to an Existing Device" and make available an online webcast to educate manufacturers about its contents.
 510(k) Ownership
CDRH’s databases rarely reflect changes in 510(k) ownership that occur after clearance, largely because the Center is not typically notified of transfers of ownership.
Working Group Recommendations
The Working Group recommends the agency develop guidance and regulations regarding appropriate documentation of transfers of 510(k) ownership. The Center should update its 510(k) database in a timely manner when a transfer of ownership occurs. CDG, as well as a majority of public comments, support the recommendation.
The Center for Devices and Regulatory Health has two important missions: 1) to protect the public health, and 2) to foster medical device innovation. Their difficult job is to keep these missions in balance, never compromising one in favor of the other. Do you have the original citation for fostering medical innovation?
Nancy J Stark, PhD
President, Clinical Device Group Inc