After more than 20 years of broadly accepted success, the European directives on medical devices are in line for a major overhaul. The European Commission has recently published its proposals for regulations on medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices. This article highlights selected revisions of the medical device proposal.
On 26 September 2012, the European Commission adopted a “package on innovation in health” consisting of the “Communication on safe, effective and innovative medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices for the benefit of patients, consumers and healthcare professionals”1, a proposal for the regulation of medical devices2 and a proposal for the regulation of in vitro diagnostic (IVD) medical devices.3 The proposed medical device regulation will cover in one regulation devices that are currently the subject of two separate directives, the Active Implantable Medical Devices Directive (AIMDD; 90/385/EEC) and Medical Devices Directive (MDD; 93/42/EEC). The use of regulations instead of directives is important because regulations are directly in force across all countries in the European Union (EU), whereas directives must be transposed into national law in each member state. The transposition process led to variations in national implementation of the directives, which should be avoided by the use of regulations.
It is not surprising that the medical device proposal reflects a more stringent approach to European device regulation; however, the number and level of stringency of some of the proposed provisions is surprising and in some cases perplexing. Of course, important changes could still be made before it is published as a final regulation, which is expected to be during 2014. In any case, readers are strongly encouraged to thoroughly review the proposal to gain a general understanding of the depth and range of the proposed revisions. This will take time because the entire proposal is 194 pages and includes 13 pages of an explanatory memorandum, 13 pages of recitals (“whereas” statements), 73 pages containing 97 articles, 75 pages containing 16 annexes, and a 20-page legislative financial statement. This article provides only an introduction to the proposed regulation; future articles will discuss some of the proposed revisions in more detail.
Broadened scope and regulatory reach
The proposed regulation includes several important new categories of products that are either currently outside the scope of the European medical device directives or where there is doubt of coverage. These include:
Proposed scrutiny procedure
The proposal calls for the formation of an expert committee called the Medical Device Coordination Group (MDCG), made up of members appointed by the member states and chaired by the European Commission. One of the major, and most controversial, roles of this group would be to subject a number of conformity assessment files for innovative, high-risk devices to an additional central scrutiny procedure. Under this procedure, Notified Bodies would be obligated to notify the Commission of applications for conformity assessments of new Class III devices. The Commission would pass details of the new device to the MDCG, who would have 28 days to decide whether or not to request the Notified Body to submit a summary of the preliminary conformity assessment prior to issuing a certificate.
The MDCG would have to submit comments on the summary within 60 days; during the first 30 days, the MDCG may request additional information that “for scientifically valid grounds are necessary for the analysis of the Notified Body’s preliminary conformity assessment.” The Notified Body would need to give due consideration to any comments received from the MDCG and provide the Commission with an explanation of how these comments have been taken into consideration. The explanation would have to include any justification for not following the comments received and the Notified Body’s final decision regarding the conformity assessment in question.
As proposed, this procedure would add a significant layer of bureaucracy to the proposed regulation that already contains other provisions meant to strengthen the evaluation of new Class III devices; its health benefit is difficult to understand.
Under Article 13, Person responsible for regulatory compliance, manufacturers would need to have available within their organisations at least one qualified person who possesses expert knowledge in the field of medical devices. The expert knowledge would need to be demonstrated by either specified educational qualifications or five years of professional experience in regulatory affairs or in quality management systems related to medical devices. The qualified person would be responsible for ensuring that:
These responsibilities have their origin in pharmaceutical legislation, which requires a “qualified person” for batch release reporting of adverse events. These responsibilities are already fulfilled by one or more persons in the typical medical manufacturing organisation, regardless of size, under the quality systems enshrined in Annexes II, V and VI of the MDD.
Authorised representatives would also be required to have available within their organisation at least one qualified person who possesses expert knowledge regarding European medical device regulatory requirements.
Common technical specifications
Article 7, Common technical specifications, would allow the Commission to publish common technical specifications (CTS) where no harmonised standards exist or where relevant harmonised standards “are not sufficient.” Their purpose would be to provide a presumption of conformity with the general safety and performance requirements of Annex I. CTS are already used in the IVD sector, but will be new to other manufacturers.
Any judgement by the Commission that a harmonised standard is not sufficient should be made carefully, with adequate input from those who are knowledgeable of the use of the standard. Otherwise, there is a danger that standards, historically recognised as state of the art within the New Approach framework, are no longer recognised as such. This has the potential to compromise global acceptance of international consensus standards. If the Commission seeks to influence the acceptability of standards, it might be more productive for it to send its subject-matter experts to standardisation technical committee and working group meetings, rather than have European requirements differ from those accepted in the rest of the world.
Examples of other important proposed revisions include:
The proposal must now be submitted for review by the European Parliament and European Council. This process could take between one and two years for a common position to be reached. Once the final wording of the regulation is published in the Official Journal of the European Communities, it will enter into force 20 days from publication and come into full effect three years after entry into force. Thus, it is likely to be 2017 before manufacturers are required to comply with the new requirements, although there is a provision in the proposal for manufacturers to be able to conform at any time after entry into force.
Prudent medical device companies will keep a very close watch on this process and, where possible, make their views known, for example, through their industry associations, if they believe that the proposed revision is likely to be more detrimental than beneficial to European citizens.
1. Communication on safe, effective and innovative medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices for the benefit of patients, consumers and healthcare professionals; http://ec.europa.eu/health/medical-devices/files/revision_docs/com_2012_...
2. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on medical devices, and amending Directive 2001/83/EC, Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 and Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009; http://ec.europa.eu/health/medical-devices/files/revision_docs/proposal_...
3. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on in vitro diagnostic medical devices; http://ec.europa.eu/health/medical-devices/files/revision_docs/proposal_...