Tag Archives: safety

Beleaguered FDA in talks for drug-company funding

Eleanor Laise, Marketplace: July 13, 2021


Fees paid by drug and device makers influence agency operations at the expense of patient safety, critics say.

Amid a firestorm over its approval of a new Alzheimer’s treatment, the Food and Drug Administration is holding closed-door meetings with companies it regulates — talks that critics say allow drug and device makers to exert outsize influence over the agency’s operations, threatening to erode public trust in the agency at a critical moment.

The talks focus on “user fees” that pharmaceutical and medical-device companies pay to the FDA annually and when applying for approval of new products. The FDA in recent years has become increasingly reliant on such payments, which funded nearly half of the agency’s total spending in fiscal year 2020. In exchange for the fees, the FDA agrees to certain deadlines for reviewing new-product applications, the type and frequency of meetings with companies submitting applications, and other commitments. The medical-product user-fee agreements are generally renegotiated every five years — a process that’s happening now, in advance of the current agreements’ expiration next year — and submitted to Congress for authorization.

Although the FDA is required by law to consult with patient and consumer advocacy groups on the discussions and make minutes of its industry meetings public, the meat of the talks often remains hidden, observers say. Since September of last year, the FDA has held more than 150 meetings with industry to discuss fee agreements for brand-name prescription drugs, generics, medical devices and biosimilars (products similar to branded biologic drugs), which together are expected to generate nearly $2 billion for the agency this fiscal year. Yet consumer advocates and other outside groups attempting to track the discussions say they remain in the dark about most of the details. FDA summaries of some recent meetings have been posted months after the fact or sum up a discussion in a single sentence. Medical-product safety experts say they’ve repeatedly asked for more access and details on the negotiations, to no avail.

“We simply can’t get a view into this process, and the lack of transparency is deliberate,” says Madris Kinard, a former public health analyst at the FDA and CEO of Device Events, which tracks medical-device adverse-event reports.

Details about the negotiations that have trickled out raise alarms among some medical-product safety experts, academic researchers and consumer advocates that the industry’s leverage in these talks ultimately puts patients at risk. User fees are speeding more products to market without a corresponding increase in resources to track the safety of those products, critics say. Yet in the current round of negotiations, FDA efforts to allocate more user fees toward monitoring the safety of medical products already on the market have met industry resistance.

[….]

The main idea behind the user-fee programs was to speed up FDA review of medical-product marketing applications — and they’ve delivered on that front. The median time to approval for standard new-drug applications was 10 months in fiscal 2018. In the years before user fees were first enacted, the median FDA application review time was nearly three years, according to a study by Kesselheim and colleagues at Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

[….]

But user-fee deadlines can have serious side effects, some experts say. As the opioid crisis was exploding, “there was a question of ‘Why does the FDA keep approving the opioids?’ ” says a former FDA official. “One reason was that they had applications and had user-fee obligations to review the applications.” So long as an application met the standard requirements, “it would be approved,” he says. “That’s an example of the mindset” created by the deadlines.

Several studies have linked faster drug-approval timelines to safety issues. A 2014 study in Health Affairs found that drugs approved after user fees were enacted were more likely to get new black-box warnings or be withdrawn from the market than drugs approved in the pre-user-fee era. Other studies have found that, compared with drugs approved at other times, drugs given the green light shortly before their user-fee deadlines were more likely to have subsequent safety issues.

[….]

In the current round of medical-device user-fee negotiations, one of the FDA’s goals is to improve device safety, including through increased funding for surveillance of devices already on the market, the agency says. That proposal met stiff resistance from the industry, according to outside groups that have received FDA briefings on the talks. At an April 7 negotiation meeting, the industry expressed the view that fees “should be solely for the premarket review process,” according to a summary posted by FDA. Medical-device trade group AdvaMed didn’t respond to requests for comment.

At the start of the prescription-drug user-fee negotiations, the FDA also emphasized its hope of improving the Sentinel Initiative, a system for assessing the safety of approved medical products. But a related proposal advanced by the FDA during the negotiations was shot down by the industry, a December meeting summary notes.  

[….]

Revolving doors

“There’s not a lot of friction between the industry and the agency” in prescription-drug user-fee negotiations, says a former FDA official. “The industry knows it’s getting good value.”

A sign of the amicable relations: One FDA official leading the current round of prescription-drug user-fee negotiations left the agency in April of this year, according to her LinkedIn profile, to become vice president of science and regulatory affairs at BIO — one of the industry groups she’d just been negotiating with. The former FDA official, Khushboo Sharma, participated in a user-fee negotiation meeting with BIO and other industry representatives as recently as Feb. 12, according to meeting summaries posted by the agency. “That is obviously an outrageous situation and clearly undermines the integrity” of the process, says Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit think tank.

Asked for comment, the FDA sent a link to its post-employment restrictions, which say in part that current employees who have begun seeking employment outside the federal government must immediately recuse from certain matters that affect “the discrete industry, economic sector, or other defined class of organizations in which the prospective employer operates.” BIO didn’t respond to a request for comment. Sharma says that she worked with FDA ethics officials “to ensure I was recusing myself from all appropriate activities. I started seeking post-employment opportunities after negotiations had concluded.”

When the agency’s position does conflict with an industry’s, the FDA “is not going to come out on top,” says Lisa McGiffert, a patient-safety advocate at the nonprofit Patient Safety Action Network. Given the industry’s track record of snagging many items on its wish list, some observers are concerned that the current round of negotiations could chip away at FDA standards for approving new drugs. One issue: the use of “real-world data,” which can come from insurance claims, medical records, disease registries and other sources beyond the bounds of clinical trials. In an August 2020 letter to the FDA about user-fee reauthorization, PhRMA said that real-world data and evidence “may, in some circumstances, be adequate on their own to satisfy the substantial evidence criteria for demonstrating effectiveness” of drugs.

[….]

To read the entire article, click here.

My breast implants are making me sick — and I’m not alone

Pamela Appea, Salon: June 20, 2021


In November 2016, a few weeks after I had breast implant surgery, I came down with an unexpected case of thrush (an unappealing fungal infection characterized by a thick white coating on my tongue). As a Black married mother of two, even though I was still sick, I tried — but failed — to power through and take care of my kids. With intense flu-like aches, pain, and fever, it hurt to eat, drink, swallow, or even open my mouth. I couldn’t properly brush my teeth for several days.

Unfortunately, my primary care physician was on vacation. Panicked, I called the Manhattan oncologist whom I had seen a few weeks earlier. He’d been very kind to me following my DCIS breast cancer diagnosis, unilateral mastectomy and post-surgical treatment. The officer’s medical team could barely understand me when I tried to make the appointment on the phone.

“I don’t think you have thrush — didn’t I just see you a few weeks ago?” he said, trying to put me at ease as I stared at his cheerful neon tie. (I think he prided himself on his fun ties.)

It was torture opening my mouth so the doctor could diagnose me.

“Okay, that’s the worst case of thrush I’ve seen in some time,” the seasoned specialist said. He said he was putting me on antibiotics stat. I asked — or rather, wrote on a notepad, since I couldn’t speak clearly — if there could be any connection between the my immune system and the very new breast implant that was now in my body. The oncologist emphatically dismissed the notion as impossible.

Once he got the results of my lab work back, my physician said there was no evidence of anything wrong; I should bounce back in a few days. “These things sometimes happen,” he told me, smiling as he ushered me out.

While the antibiotics eventually cleared up the thrush, unfortunately I have never fully bounced back. In subsequent years since my breast implants were put in, it became even more clear that something was going on with my immune system. But none of my doctors really listened.

Although it was not formerly recognized by the medical community until recently, Breast Implant Illness (BII) has, in the past few years, finally received attention from both media and researchers. Nicole Daruda founded a Facebook’s support group, called Breast Implant Illness Healing by Nicole, in 2013; now, it boasts over 145,000 members. Daruda tentatively estimates that 50,000 women in the US have BII, although precise research-backed numbers are not readily available

“We are overwhelmed by women trying to join the Facebook group to be educated about Breast Implant Illness,” Daruda said. She estimates that 3,000 to 5,000 women message the group’s moderators every month. To try to meet the demand, Daruda later founded a nonprofit, Healing Breast Implant Illness Society of North America.

Research is just barely starting to emerge on BII. One study, published in Annals of Plastic Surgery in 2020, followed 750 women suffering from Breast Implant Illness over a multi-year time period. Once these women surgically removed their breast implants, the vast majority reported the majority of their symptoms had significantly improved or disappeared entirely.

Awareness appears to be growing, too. A wave of celebrities are talking more openly about breast implants and their health and wellness — including Victoria Beckham, Ayesha Curry, Ashley Tisdale, Chrissy Teigen and others.

A documentary that touches on the subject of BII, “Explant,” is screening right now at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows Michelle Visage, one of the celebrity judges on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Visage, a media personality, singer, DJ and actor who was well known for her signature Double-D breasts, found that doctors didn’t take her seriously when she told the specialists her immune system was out of whack. Visage experienced chronic health issues, including Hashimoto’s disease, that she now attributes to her breast implants.

Awareness of BII is crucial given the popularity of breast implants. Since 1998, the number of breast augmentation procedures in the US has increased threefold; now, they are one of the most sought-out cosmetic procedures.

The desire for breast augmentation seems so powerful regardless of what else is going on in the world,” said Dr. Diana Zuckerman, founder of the National Center for Health Research. “What most concerns me is how reluctant most plastic surgeons have been to make sure their patients know the risks before making a decision.”

Because breast implant technology has existed for decades, many women erroneously believe they are safe.

[….]

In the years after my implant, some of my symptoms mirrored women on support groups I found online, which is how I figured out I had Breast Implant Illness. While symptoms sometimes waxed and waned, I got used to experiencing a host of autoimmune and other symptoms like insomnia, brain fog, extreme breathlessness, cuts that took weeks to heal, rashes, frequent colds and much more.

But BII is no longer regarded as a myth. Many or even most doctors, including plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn, believe Breast Implant Illness is real. Dr. Youn acknowledges it is a controversial topic among many of his fellow American plastic surgeons.

“If you’re happy with your breast implants and you don’t believe they are adversely affecting your health, then there is no need for treatment. If you are sick and believe your implants may be the cause, speak with your primary care physician and a board-certified plastic surgeon about whether explantation may be a possible solution for you,” Dr Youn said. “There are many causes of the symptoms of Breast Implant Illness (BII) that don’t involve breast implants, so it’s often best to rule those out first,” he continued.

In his 17 years of practice in the metro Detroit region, Dr. Youn, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The Aesthetic Society, has performed surgery on thousands of women who elected to get breast implants. Anecdotally, he estimates the number patients who later returned to his practice stating they had Breast Implant Illness symptoms is an extremely small percentage.

[….]

Though not all women with breast implants go on to develop Breast Implant Illness, all women deserve education, informed consent, insurance coverage and most important information about potential risks. If, in 2015, there had been an FDA Breast Implant Black Box Warning (which was officially unveiled in late 2020), I honestly never would have gotten breast implants in the first place.

To read the entire article, click here.

What Genentech is doing to fix biotech’s diversity problem

Fortune Editors, Fortune: April 7, 2021


There’s a big problem with clinical trials: a lack of diversity. And that issue is ultimately detrimental to countless people’s lives and health.

Take, for example, breast cancer research. For a long time, the thinking in the health care world was that Black women didn’t develop breast cancer as often as white women, but when they did, they were more likely to die because of it.

“There was this assumption that it was an issue of access to care, the quality of care,” says Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit think tank that analyzes the latest research and helps consumers and organizations put that information to work. But “if you looked at the research, you saw that the original major studies of breast cancer treatment were done on white women.”

That meant the research featured fewer women with triple-negative breast cancer, which Black women develop more often than white women. “Because [women with triple-negative breast cancer] weren’t studied,” Zuckerman continues, “[the researchers] didn’t realize that the treatments that they were studying would not work on those types of cancer.”

Zuckerman talks with Fortune’s Ellen McGirt on this week’s episode of Leadership Next, a podcast about the changing rules of business leadership. Also on the episode with McGirt and cohost Alan Murray is Alexander Hardy, who became CEO of biotech company Genentech two years ago.

Hardy has made it clear that he’s committed to boosting diversity within the biotech world and in clinical trials, and he was already doing so before the pandemic. But COVID-19 crystallized some of the issues in the U.S.

[….]

During the show, Hardy also discusses the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the biotech industry, and how those changes could spill over into research on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and cancer.

To read the entire article and listen to the podcast, click here.

Patients Continue to Be Inadequately Informed of Risk for Breast Implant-Associated ALCL

Christina Bennet, MS, Cancer Therapy Advisor: February 8, 2021


Although the risk for breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) has been well-documented, patients considering breast implants continue to be inadequately informed of the propensity for disease development. Awareness of BIA-ALCL has risen since 2020, but adequate safeguards have not yet been put in place, according to experts in the field.

“There have been efforts made [to ensure patients are informed], but they have not been successful,” Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Center for Health Research (NCHR), said in an interview with Cancer Therapy Advisor.

The most recent effort to more frontally disclose the risk for BIA-ALCL is a final guidance document released by the FDA on September 28, 2020.1 The guidance, which applies to all breast implants, advised breast implant manufacturers to add a black box warning that mentions the risks associated with breast implants such as BIA-ALCL. In the guidance, the FDA also encouraged manufacturers to incorporate a patient decision checklist in the labeling to “better ensure certain information is received and understood by patients.”1,2 Manufacturers, however, are not required to follow these recommendations.

Zuckerman, who is a member of the Breast Implant Working Group, said she was surprised by the FDA’s decision to recommend rather than require these facets of the guidance. “We don’t have the answer to that question other than we have talked to FDA officials who said that at least some of this will at some point be a requirement, but we don’t know when that is,” she said.

With no mandates in place to ensure that patients receive information about the risks for BIA-ALCL—among other breast implant-associated complications—upfront, the industry is left to educate—and this does not seem to be working.

Patient advocates Terri McGregor and Jennifer Cook, both of whom have received a BIA-ALCL diagnosis, discussed a misleading patient brochure that has further contributed to the misinformation about breast implant-associated cancer risk. Sold online by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the brochure featured the symbol for breast reconstruction awareness—a modified pink ribbon—and the slogan “Closing the loop on breast cancer.”3

The brochure was sponsored by several companies, including 2 prominent breast implant manufacturers, Allergan and Mentor. Though the document was promoted on Twitter by the ASPS and users were encouraged users to “stock up now” ahead of Breast Reconstruction Day,3,4  it notably made no mention of BIA-ALCL—not even on the page that describes the risks and safety issues associated with breast implants.

Conflicts of Interest Cloud Risk Disclosure

[…]

Eric Swanson, MD, a plastic surgeon at the Swanson Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Leawood, Kansas, told Cancer Therapy Advisor that plastic surgeons’ financial ties to breast implant manufacturers are part of the reason why they have been slow to respond to the issue of BIA-ALCL. “There’s a big problem with conflict of interest in plastic surgery. Once [a person has] taken funds from a company, it is very rare for the taker to be critical of that company,” Swanson said.

[….]

Zuckerman described the ASPS brochure as “terribly” out of date. “The Institute of Medicine report is more than 20 years old, and there has been a great deal of research since then,” she said.

[….]

The ASPS Brochure: Current Status

When Cancer Therapy Advisor inquired about the content of the brochure, an ASPS representative agreed that the information was “outdated” and removed the brochure from sale on its website.

Enclosed in the ASPS brochure was a list of websites that included breastimplantsafety.org, which—despites its domain name—did not include any safety information about breast implants. Instead, the domain redirected users to a different domain, smartbeautyguide.com, the patient site for The Aesthetic Society, a professional organization for plastic surgeons. A representative for The Aesthetic Society told Cancer Therapy Advisor that breastimplantsafety.org was active until 2015, when it migrated to their patient site, Smart Beauty Guide.

“We have been developing and will launch our new Aesthetic Society website that will include a dedicated section for patient education,” the representative wrote in an email. Within days of being contacted by Cancer Therapy Advisor, The Aesthetic Society updated the breastimplantsafety.org domain name to direct users to an existing page that provides resources about breast implants, including information about BIA-ALCL and breast implant illness, a systemic condition characterized by a wide range of symptoms that is currently under FDA investigation.18

Read the full article here

Alternatives to Breast Implants: Lifts and Fat Transfers


When considering cosmetic breast augmentation, women typically consider implants as their main option. However, there are several other procedures to change how your breasts look that may have fewer risks and complications compared to breast implants. These alternatives include breast lifts and fat transfers.

Breast Lifts

Breast lifts, clinically called a “mastopexy,” raise and reshape the breasts. Surgeons remove extra skin and tighten surrounding tissue. In addition to reshaping the breasts, a lift can reposition the nipple and reduce the size of the areola if it has become enlarged over time. Many women choose to get breast lifts to improve the stretching or sagging of their breasts that could have been caused by pregnancy, weight fluctuations, and simple gravity. A breast lift alone cannot make breasts larger, but breasts will look fuller and more perky after the procedure. 1

There are four types of breast lift techniques, which depend on breast and areola size and shape, degree of sagging, amount of skin that must be removed, and the elasticity of skin. For women who have smaller breasts or minor sagging, a crescent or donut technique can be used to create small incisions around the areola. For women who have larger breasts and more severe sagging, surgeons will need to create multiple incisions, either around the areola and vertically down the middle of the breast (a lollipop technique) or including a horizontal incision along the breast crease (an anchor technique). 2

Swelling and bruising will last for about two weeks, and numbness may last up to six weeks. Final results of breast lifts will appear over the months following the procedure as the breasts settle into their new shape and position. Results of a breast lift procedure are long-lasting, especially with a healthy lifestyle. Women with smaller breasts will likely have results that last longer than women with larger breasts. It is also important to note that the cosmetic appearance of the breasts can change due to pregnancy, breast feeding, and significant weight changes that occur after surgery. Therefore, women should consider whether they are planning a pregnancy in the near future before having a breast lift. 3

Risks of Breast Lifts 

When considering a breast lift, it is important to consider the risks of the procedures in addition to the benefits. For breast lift procedures, the most common risks include changes in nipple or breast sensation, asymmetrical breast shape, and partial or total loss of the areola.1 Less common risks that some patients experience are bleeding or hematoma formation, infection, poor incision healing, fat necrosis (fatty tissue around skin may die), and fluid accumulation. Although patients will have scars from a breast lift procedure, many notice that some scarring is hidden in natural contours of the breasts and that scars improve over time, typically within one year.3 As with any cosmetic procedure, some patients may be unhappy with the final result. Your chances of getting the results you want will be better if you choose a board certified plastic surgeon with a lot of experience doing breast lifts without breast implants.

Some plastic surgeons recommend getting both a breast lift and implants to get the best cosmetic result. However, that means patients will face the risks of the lift and the additional risks of the implants. While the breast lift procedure alone is safer than getting implants, there is still a lack of safety data and research on breast lifts to know how often complications occur in the solo procedure. The skill and experience of the plastic surgeon makes a big difference.

Fat Transfer

Fat transfers may be a good option for women who want to have more natural looking, fuller breasts without implants. Fat transfers use liposuction to remove fat from other parts of the body and insert it into the breasts. Fat for liposuction is typically taken from areas such as the back, thighs, abdomen, and buttocks. 4 Next, the fat cells are processed into a liquid so they can be injected into the breast area. 5 The surgeon will slowly inject the fat liquid to multiple areas of the breast until the desired breast size is achieved. Since the procedure uses body fat from the patient, thin women may not be good candidates for this procedure. Because the injected fat does not contain its own blood supply, only a small amount of fat can be injected at a time. Patients should not expect to gain more than one cup size. 

Patients typically notice improvement right after the procedure, but the final results will appear one year after surgery when swelling has gone down. Multiple follow-up fat transfer procedures may be necessary to maintain the shape of the breasts. In many cases, fat that has been injected into the breasts may be reabsorbed by the body over time, move to other parts of the body, or die, causing breasts to lose volume.5 Therefore, surgeons may recommend follow-up sessions to repeat the procedure, which may be expensive and is an important factor to consider.

Risks of Fat Transfers

High patient and surgeon satisfaction as well as low complication rates have been reported for fat transfer procedures, but outcomes vary greatly based on the surgeon as the procedure is not yet standardized. 6, 7 The most common complications from fat transfers include development of cysts (lumps) or fat necrosis, which is when the transferred fat dies and is reabsorbed by the body. 8 Fat necrosis is more common when a large amount of fat is injected. This usually does not need to be treated, as the body takes care of the dead cells on its own. 

Other less common complications can include infection and calcification of the fat.8 Like fat necrosis, these complications are more common when a large amount of fat is injected. Because the injected fat does not have its own blood supply, too much injected fat may lead to microcalcifications, which is when the fat hardens. These calcifications are usually harmless, but they may look like breast cancer on a mammogram, resulting in stressful and expensive breast biopsies.

Bottom Line

Despite risks, lifts and fat transfers appear to be safer than breast implants. Breast implants are not lifetime devices, and women should expect additional surgery to replace them every 10-15 years if not more often. Health insurance often does not pay for removal or complications for augmentation patients and never pays for replacement of cosmetic implants. The high cost of these additional surgeries, as well as the common complications from implants, make lifts and transfers a safer option for many patients.

While breast lifts and fat transfers provide alternatives to breast implants for cosmetic breast enhancement, patients must consider the risks of both procedures before choosing to undergo surgery. More long-term research is needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of both procedures.

When deciding whether or not to undergo cosmetic breast augmentation, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of each procedure with a highly skilled, experienced surgeon who is board certified in plastic surgery, so you can make a decision that is right for you. 

NCHR Comment on FDA’s 510(k) Third Party Review Program Draft Guidance

National Center for Health Research: December 13, 2018


Comment of the National Center for Health Research Regarding the
510(k) Third Party Review Program:
Draft Guidance for Industry, FDA Staff, and Third Party Review Organizations.
OMB Control Number 0910-0375

The National Center for Health Research (NCHR) is a non-profit organization which conducts original research to better inform policy makers, health professionals, and patients.   NCHR accepts no funding from any entity which manufactures or distributes medical products.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this draft guidance.  We note that this draft guidance applies to low-to-medium risk medical devices, which concerns us because many Class II devices are permanent implants that have the potential to cause permanent harm to patients.  In fact, our research indicates that even Class I devices have been subjected to high-risk recalls by the FDA due to the potential for causing death or permanent harm.1 2 3

We have several serious concerns about the draft guidance.  First, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) are accountable for the efficacy and safety of their medical devices.  FDA standards require that devices manufactured by OEM’s comply with relevant regulatory standards.  OEMs are required to track, monitor, and report product issues to FDA.  Overseeing the OEMs and their reporting are FDA’s responsibility to ensure patient safety.

Second, in the past FDA has had the opportunity to review the work of any third party reviewer, and reject it if deemed inadequate or shoddy.  In fact, the agency has often found problems with the third party reviews.  The proposed guidance would sharply reduce the agency’s oversight of third party reviews, which will clearly compromise safety.  Even if certified as qualified, third party review companies have an inherent conflict of interest: If their standards are too high, no device company will hire them and they will go out of business.  The system is similar to the EU regulation of medical devices, which has resulted in very harmful decisions, such as the clearance of the PIP breast implants that were found to use non-medical grade silicone.4  In addition, investigative reporters recently obtained CE clearance for a “surgical” mesh that was made out of a plastic mesh bag used for oranges.

Transparency is also a crucial factor.  Currently, third party review companies are not required to clearly label an OEM device indicating that a critical repair has been completed by someone other than the OEM.  Once that repair is made, the device is no longer the same device that was approved or cleared by FDA.  It is important that this chain of accountability is not broken or interrupted.

While we understand the desire of FDA officials to reduce medical device review times and reduce the burden on FDA staff and industry, the 510(k) program already is a quick way to get devices to market and the device industry has clearly benefitted from it.  The 510(k) pathway has been widely criticized by the Institute of Medicine, physicians, patients, and the media for its lack of clinical trials and lack of scientific evidence.5  Despite its weaknesses, the 510(k) pathway is considered superior to the EU regulatory system, however.  By reducing the “burden” for FDA staff and industry, the proposed guidance increases the burden on patients and doctors to figure out which devices are safe and which are not.  This would clearly put U.S. patients at greater risk.

FDA has not demonstrated that its proposed changes to the third party review pathway of Class I and Class II devices will benefit patients.  By definition, 510(k) devices only rarely are substantially superior to recent predicates.  Speeding up the process of clearance is not demonstrated to benefit patients.  Moreover, with registries, NEST, and other planned efforts to improve post-market surveillance still far from effectively implemented, any loosening of 510(k) regulations is very premature.

Finally, we note that Commissioner Gottlieb responded to recent media criticism of CDRH regulations by promising improvements to the 510(k) pathway to ensure patient safety.  The third party review program clearly moves in the opposite direction, reducing patient safety, rather than protecting patients from potentially harmful devices.   We strongly oppose it for that reason.

 

References

  1. Zuckerman, D.M., Brown, P, and Nissen, S.E.  (2011) Medical Device Recalls and the FDA Approval Process, Archives of Internal Medicine, 117, 1006-11.
  2. Zuckerman D.M., Brown P., Nissen S.E. (2011). In Reply, Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(11), 1045.
  3. Zuckerman D.M., Brown P., Nissen S.E. (2011). In Reply, Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(21), 1963.
  4. Zuckerman, D., Booker, N, and Nagda, S. (2012) Public Health Implications of Difference in US and European Union Regulatory Policies for Breast Implants, Reproductive Health Matters, 20 (40),102-111.
  5. Zuckerman D.M., Brown P. & Das A. (2014) Lack of Publicly Available Scientific Evidence on the Safety and Effectiveness of Implanted Medical Devices,  JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(11): 1781-1787.

 

Women’s Health Advocates Question FDA About Missing Safety Data on Silicone Breast Implants

Matthew Perrone, Associated Press: January 5, 2012.

[…] FDA concluded last summer that the silicone-gel implants are basically safe as long as women understand they come with complications. More than one in five women who get implants for breast enhancement will need to have them replaced within five years, the agency’s report concluded.

In August, an outside panel of physicians affirmed the FDA’s decision that the devices should remain available for both breast enhancement and reconstruction.

But the National Research Center for Women and Families says the FDA did not present information that showed women reported lower emotional, mental and physical well-being after implantation. Additionally, the group questions why figures presented by the FDA appear to show implant complications declining over time. The implants are known to fail over time.

“This shows problems with the data, since the complication rates are reported to be cumulative and should therefore stay the same or increase over time,” states Diana Zuckerman, the group’s president, in a letter to the head of FDA’s medical device division.

Most of the FDA’s data on the safety and effectiveness of breast implants comes from long-term studies conducted by the two U.S. manufacturers of the devices, Allergan Inc. of Irvine, Calif., and Mentor, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, N.J.

When the FDA reviewed the initial applications for the devices in 2005, women using Allergan’s implants scored lower on nine out of 12 quality-of-life measures, including mental, social and general health. Women did report higher scores on measures of sexual attractiveness-body esteem.

Women implanted with J&J’s implants also scored worse on measures of physical and mental health. In the 11-page letter, Zuckerman questions why that information was not presented at FDA’s public meeting in August.

“Breast implants are widely advertised and promoted as a way to increase women’s self-esteem and positive feelings about themselves,” said Zuckerman, in an interview with the Associated Press. “But the implant companies’ own data, which the FDA made public in 2005 but ignored last year, shows the opposite.” […]

Breast implants are known to rupture and break down over time. But Zuckerman points out in her letter that the company data seem to defy this trend, with complication rates falling over time.

For instance, Allergan’s reported rate of swelling among patients fell from 23 percent in 2005 to 9 percent reported in 2011. Rates of scarring similarly fell from 8 percent to 4 percent.

“This again raises questions about the accuracy of reporting, and whether patients with complications were excluded from the 10-year sample,” writes Zuckerman. […]

 

Read the original article here.

F.D.A. Affirms Safety of Breast Implants

Gardener Harris, The New York Times: August 31, 2011.

WASHINGTON — After two days of discussion and testimony about silicone breast implants, a top government health official said he had heard nothing to shake his faith in the safety of the widely used implants.

The official, Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices, said silicone breast implants were safe. […]

Some patients and women’s groups who testified at the meeting disagreed.

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a research and education group, told an expert panel that the two companies that manufacture silicone breast implants — Johnson & Johnson and Allergan — had done a poor job of studying patients who got the implants, as the F.D.A. required them to do.

“And without proper data, we still don’t know how safe or effective they are and whether there are certain patients at risk for extremely negative outcomes,” Ms. Zuckerman said. […]

There was some criticism of the 27-page research form that patients who participate in the study are required to complete and whether it could be shortened. Nearly all expressed hope that a registry could be created that would follow all breast implant patients, but such registries are expensive to maintain and complicated to create. […]

Read the original article here.

Women’s Health: A Red-Flag Warning

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: January 12, 2007

We’ve never had much faith in the FDA, but its approval of silicone gel-filled breast implants marks an all-time low for the agency.

Restricted since 1992, the implants were deemed unsafe because of the health risks associated with them, such as cancer. The FDA currently recommends that only women over the age of 22 get the implants. It also asks the makers of the implants (which can rupture during a mammogram), Allergan Corp. and Mentor Corp., to carry out a 10-year, 80,000-patient study in order to “fully answer important questions” regarding the products safety. […]

We spoke to two experts on the matter: Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Health Research at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, and Susan Wood, a research professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health. The two scientists want you to know a few things:

 Post-approval studies are common, but the sheer scope of this one should be a red flag. Also, neither the age of breast-implant recipients nor the collection of data by the two companies can be enforced.

 Although you can pay for the implants in installments, you can’t do so for their removal — and they will need to be removed or replaced. Health insurance seldom covers those additional surgeries.

 You’ll need to get pricey MRIs regularly. And no, your insurance probably won’t cover them.

 By no means should you take the FDA’s approval of the implants to mean that they’re safe. For example, their effect on breast milk, says Zuckerman, has “never, ever, ever been tested” by the FDA. […]

Read the original article here.