sub-header

FDA Issues Guidance on "Abbreviated" and "Special" 510(K) Pathways

| Tom Cowan

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two new guidance documents related respectively to an “abbreviated” and a “special” approach to the typical 510(K) process for medical devices.

The FDA describes the usual 510(K) process as “a premarket submission made to FDA to demonstrate that the device to be marketed is at least as safe and effective, that is, substantially equivalent, to a legally marketed device…that is not subject to premarket approval.”  According to the FDA, “Each person who wants to market in the U.S., a Class I, II, and III device intended for human use, for which a Premarket Approval application (PMA) is not required, must submit a 510(k) to FDA unless the device is exempt from 510(k) requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act) .”

Now, two recent guidance documents issued by the FDA allow for altered 510(K) approaches for certain medical devices.  The first guidance, issued September 13, 2019, is for a “Special 510(K) Program.”  The FDA describes this program as “an optional pathway for certain well-defined device modifications where a manufacturer modifies its own legally marketed device, and design control procedures produce reliable results that can form, in addition to other 510(k) content requirements, the basis for substantial equivalence (SE).”  The guidance is intended to clarify “the types of technological changes appropriate for review as Special 510(k)s.”  The new guidance also supersedes prior FDA guidance from 1998 regarding Special 510(k) policy in “The New 510(k) Paradigm: Alternate Approaches to Demonstrating Substantial Equivalence in Premarket Notifications.”

This MDDI article purports to offer a “handy checklist” to determine “if changes made to your medical device can be reviewed under the [Special 510(K)] program.”  Some of the questions listed on the article’s checklist include the following:

  • Is it a change to the manufacturer’s own device?
  • Are performance data needed to evaluate the change?
  • Is there a well-established method to evaluate the change?
  • Can the data be reviewed in a summary or risk analysis format?

The second FDA guidance, also issued September 13, 2019, is for the “Abbreviated 510(K) Program.”  The FDA describes the program as “an optional approach that may be used to demonstrate substantial equivalence in premarket notifications (510(k)s)” and that “uses guidance documents, special controls, and/or voluntary consensus standards to facilitate FDA’s premarket review of 510(k) submissions.”   The guidance is “intended to facilitate 510(k) submission preparation by manufacturers and review by FDA.”

A copy of the guidance for the Special 510(K) Program can be found here, and a copy of the guidance for the Abbreviated 510(K) Program can be found here.   The FDA currently states that comments on either guidance may be submitted at any time.  Public comments on the guidance for the Special 510(K) Program may be submitted here and for the Abbreviated 510(K) Program here.