Current trends in the use of standards in medical device regulations

Current trends in the use of standards in medical device regulations:

Although a standard can be set and mandated by an authority, the current trend is for the adoption of voluntary standards established by consensus from all interested parties (the stakeholders). The use of voluntary standards originated from the realization that while regulations generally address the essential safety and performance principles, manufacturers and users still need to know detailed specifications pertaining to specific products. The provision of such specifications and detailed requirements for the multitude of devices presents an enormous task for regulatory authorities. Fortunately, the wealth of voluntary standards already existing or being developed provide such precise specifications. The use of voluntary/consensus standards has many advantages including the following:

1. They are normally developed by experts with access to the vast resources available in the professional and industrial communities.

2. By taking advantage of such existing resources, the government can overcome its own limited resources for providing product specific technical requirements and characteristics.

3. Conformity to standards can also be assessed by an accredited third party (such as a notified body in Europe), which is a well-established industrial practice around the world.

4. The use of international standards facilitates harmonized regulatory processes and world trade, and thus improves global access to new technology.

5. As technology advances, it is much easier to update standards than to change regulations. Timely development and periodic revision by expert groups make medical device standards effective and efficient tools for supporting health care.

6. Manufacturers have the flexibility to choose appropriate standards or other means to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements.

Regulatory authorities can recognize a standard, fully or partially, provided they clearly specify and publicize their intent. Several standards can also be recognized as a group to satisfy the requirements for a particular device. In some countries, the publication of government-recognized standards mandates product compliance.

Medical devices intended for global use should follow international standards. For example, the ISO Technical Report (ISO 16142:2000) lists a number of significant international standards that may be suitable for demonstrating compliance with certain features of the essential principles of safety and performance of medical devices.

The GHTF has issued the following recommendations regarding the recognition and use of standards:

International standards are a building block for harmonized regulatory processes to assure the safety, quality and performance of medical devices. To achieve this purpose, the following principles are recommended:

➢ Regulatory Authorities and industry should encourage and support the development of international standards for medical devices to demonstrate compliance with “the Essential Principles of Safety and Performance of Medical Devices” (GHTF document SG1 NO20R5 referred to hereafter as the Essential Principles).

➢ Regulatory Authorities developing new medical device regulations should encourage the use of international standards.

➢ Regulatory Authorities should provide a mechanism for recognizing international standards to provide manufacturers with a method of demonstrating compliance with the Essential Principles.

➢ When an international standard is not applied or not applied in full, this is acceptable if an appropriate level of compliance with the Essential Principles can be demonstrated.

➢ While it may be preferable for harmonization purposes to use international standards, it may be appropriate for Regulatory Authorities to accept the use of national/regional standards or industry standards as a means of demonstrating compliance.

➢ Standards Bodies developing or revising standards for use with medical devices should consider the suitability of such standards for demonstrating compliance with the Essential Principles and to identify which of the Essential Principles they satisfy.

➢ The use of standards should preferably reflect current, broadly applicable technology while not discouraging the use of new technologies.

➢ Standards may represent the current state of the art in a technological field. However, not all devices, or elements of device safety and/or performance may be addressed by recognized standards, especially for new types of devices and emerging technologies.

Current trends in the use of standards in medical device regulations

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