Publication

Medical Devices and the Public’s Health: The FDA 510(k) Clearance Process at 35 Years


Released:

Report at a Glance

  • Accompanying Letter to the FDA (PDF)
  • Press Release (HTML)
  • Report Brief (PDF, HTML)
  • Senate Testimony (PDF)

Medical devices play a critical role in the health care of Americans. They can range from simple tools, such as tongue depressors and bandages, to complex or life-saving equipment, such as pacemakers, magnetic resonance imaging machines, and heart–lung machines. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires a "reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness" before a device can be marketed, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for enforcing this requirement. Devices that are deemed to have a moderate risk to patients generally cannot go on the market until they are cleared through the 510(k) process, named for Section 510(k) of the FFDCA.  Some policymakers and patients have expressed concern about the ability of the 510(k) process to ensure that medical devices on the market are safe and effective. Other policymakers and patients, as well as the medical-device industry, have asserted that the process has become too burdensome and time-consuming and that it is delaying important new medical devices from entering the market.

The FDA turned to the IOM to review the 510(k) process and answer two questions:

  • Does the current 510(k) process protect patients optimally 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 optimally

The IOM finds that the current 510(k) process is flawed based on its legislative foundation. Rather than continuing to modify the 35-year-old 510(k) process, the IOM concludes that the FDA’s finite resources would be better invested in developing an integrated premarket and postmarket regulatory framework that provides a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness throughout the device life cycle. The IOM outlines its criteria for this framework in the report.

Last Updated: 10/19/2018, 4:44 PM Copyright © 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.

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