FDA Aims To Speed Clinical Trials, Improve Device Safety Through Post-Market Evaluation, But Funding A Hurdle

Inside Health Policy: February 16, 2016

FDA’s device center chief Jeff Shuren, in an interview with Inside Health Policy, highlighted the benefit a robust National Device Evaluation System could have in bolstering the agency’s ability to monitor devices in real-time to better inform the risk-benefit profile of approved products. Such a system, he said, could also help in the premarket approval phase to reduce the clinical trial burden on manufacturers and get products to market faster.

The program is a high priority for the Center for Devices and Radiological Health within FDA. It was recently listed in CDRH’s 2016-2017 priority agenda, and FDA in the fiscal 2017 budget requested $1.8 million in funding to help establish the system as part of President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative. The agency will hold a public workshop in March on the effort.

The goal for FDA, according to Shuren, is to move past the traditional scope of a national surveillance system and launch a program that would allow the agency to more accurately track and analyze the use of medical devices in a real-world setting and better understand the benefits and risks of specific products outside of the clinical trial setting.

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Sources point to a lack of funding as a main reason for FDA’s inability to effectively monitor medical devices in the postmarket setting. Some stakeholders pointed to the disparity in user fees between the drug and device centers as a main reason for the lack of available resources, but others defended the amount of money the device industry currently provides as reflective of the gap in market caps between large manufacturers and smaller device start-ups.

Sources say industry is lukewarm on providing additional resources for postmarket in the pending user fee reauthorization agreement, which has led patient and consumer groups to turn their attention to Congress in the hopes that additional funding for the agency’s postmarket goals will be included in next year’s spending bill.

“I think more money is problem number one and without more money the agency is never going to do a good job,” Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, told IHP.

Stakeholders have suggested the medical device user fee process is more difficult to navigate than the sister program in the drug center, given the financial disparity in the medical device industry between the large corporations and smaller start-ups. Zuckerman, however, argued that no one is expecting a small device company to pay millions in user fees to cover something like postmarket surveillance.

“There are many small companies and, yes, small companies should have user fees that are affordable, but the medium, large and extra-large sized device companies could be paying a lot more,” she said.

Johnson & Johnson, for example, pays roughly $2.4 million in user fees for a new drug application, sources say, and only $5,000 for a 510(k) submission. A spokesperson for J&J did not respond to inquiries.

Increasing the amount of user fees for the large companies, sources say, could help fund FDA’s postmarket surveillance goals. Sources familiar with the user fee discussions tell IHP, however, that the medical device industry, in particular the Advanced Medical Technology Association, has rejected the notion that industry should have to pay more for faster approvals.

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