Studies of how the devices work once they are on the market are also few and far between, according to a new study that looked at all 28 high-risk devices approved in 2010 and 2011 by the FDA Premarket Approval pathway.
“Medical device regulation in the U.S. is well known to be more rigorous than in other parts of the world,” but there had not been a comprehensive review of the evidence behind high-risk devices, said senior author Dr. Joseph S. Ross of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
“The difference is, in many European countries they have much better capacity to follow devices once they are in practice,” Ross told Reuters Health. “They allow devices on the market quicker in the U.K., but follow the devices so they can observe them in practice.”
The U.S. does not have the same kind of robust electronic health records (EHR) system in place to track devices in use and record when there are problems, he said.
“High risk” devices are those that sustain human life or pose a potential risk to it. Of the 28 such devices granted initial marketing approval by FDA during the study period, 15 were new stents for the heart or elsewhere in the body. Ten were later recalled from the market.
Using ClinicalTrials.gov, which is publicly accessible, researchers found that there had been 286 clinical studies of the 28 devices, including 82 before the devices were approved and 204 after they were on the market.
The FDA relied on roughly one study per device to determine market approval, and there were 33 FDA-required postmarket studies for the 28 devices. Only six of those required studies had been completed by October 2014, Ross and colleagues report in JAMA Aug. 11.
Five devices had no postmarket studies, and 13 others had three or fewer postmarket studies.
Half of the studies did not compare the new device to an existing one.
“I don’t want to scare the public,” but these results should inform ongoing regulation and legislation for policymakers, Ross said.
“We certainly have evidence of where devices have had safety problems and it’s taken us too long as a country to identify those problems,” said Dr. Josh Rising, director of health care programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, who was not part of the new study.