Category: Medical Device

It’s an MDL World: Agreement is enough, or is it?

The JPML held its second hearing of 2022 at the end of March. We addressed the results of the first hearing recently here, and further observed the JPML’s trend over the course of the last several years in forming fewer MDL proceedings each year. As we move further into 2022, it is clear this trend has continued.

In April, the JPML formed two new MDLs out of four total petitions, bringing the cumulative total of new MDLs in 2022 to four (out of seven petitions considered)—well below the typical quarterly pace for new MDLs, including that of 2021. Through its orders, the JPML provided insights into the circumstances that justify MDL formation, and those that do not. We briefly discuss these orders below:

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FDA Solicits Comments Prior to Regulating 3D Printing of Medical Devices at the Point of Care

Medical device companies have for many years used 3D printing to create innovative products such as custom patient-matched devices and individualized anatomical models for surgical planning. Typically, these activities have occurred within traditional manufacturing facilities. Over the past two years, however, supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has created medical device shortages that have amplified the use of 3D printing technologies at the point of care. Indeed, healthcare providers have collaborated with 3D printing companies to produce face shields, face mask holders, nasopharyngeal swabs, and ventilator parts within healthcare facilities. As 3D printing technologies improve and healthcare facilities innovate in the face of economic opportunities and pandemic-related challenges, the industry can expect increasing use of 3D printers within the healthcare setting. In turn, FDA is taking notice and has recently issued a paper to facilitate discussion about potential approaches to regulating 3D printed devices at the point of care.

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Smart Medical Devices Open New Treatment and Litigation Doors While Confirming Age-Old Balancing Acts

Telemedicine and telehealth have significantly reshaped how consumers access health care services. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online portals were jockeying to replace visits to primary care providers and urgent care clinics for minor illnesses or simple-to-prescribe medications. The last two years shifted that race into high gear, particularly with new products and platforms being introduced that range from virtual clinic platforms that allow patients—and their programmable implanted medical devices—to connect with their providers from the comfort of their own homes, to passive smart devices that remotely monitor patient vital signs, analyze that data using proprietary algorithms, and evaluate whether a patient is having a medical emergency or needs to schedule an appointment with their provider. These technologies are now so ubiquitous that they are being showcased at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show.

To be sure, regulatory changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic made telemedicine more permissible—and reimbursable—than in the past. But that alone is not driving medical device companies forward. Instead, medical device manufacturers are rapidly developing smart or algorithm-driven medical devices that take advantage of the ever-increasing power of those technologies and leveraging telemedicine to make the remote treatment and management of medical conditions less complicated. A recent article in Nature’s npj Digital Medicine confirmed the growth in this area, counting 64 separate smart- or algorithm-driven medical devices currently on the market as of 2020. See Stan Benjamens, et al., The State of Artificial Intelligence-Based FDA-Approved Medical Devices and Algorithms: An Online Database, 3 npj Digital Medicine Article No. 118 (2020). Each of these new devices endeavor to enable physicians to practice more effectively and efficiently than they could before. The future for smart or algorithm-driven medical devices looks promising.

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FDA issues final rule clarifying its “intended use” regulations for pharmaceuticals and medical devices

The FDA issued a final rule (RIN 0910-A147) on August 2, 2021, to clarify its “intended use” regulations for pharmaceutical products and medical devices — 21 CFR §201.128 (drugs) and 21 CFR §801.4 (devices). The final rule will go into effect on September 1, 2021.

The new rule may provide an end to a years-long process on knowledge-based labeling directives in the old regulations. Proposed amendments to clarify the “intended use” regulations began in 2015, which we discussed previously.

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Pennsylvania Medical Device Strict Liability Claims: Relentless Repetition, Clamoring for Review

A Pennsylvania federal court has again asked that the state’s Supreme Court clarify whether, and to what extent, medical device manufacturers are immune from strict liability claims by virtue of the “unavoidably unsafe products” exemption recognized in Restatement (Second) of Torts Sec. 402A cmt. k (“Comment k”)—only this time with a direct certification.

On Thursday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals certified that question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, along with a question about which negligent design defect theory—or theories—a Pennsylvania plaintiff may assert against a medical device manufacturer.  Pet. for Certification of Questions of State Law, ECF No. 50, Ebert v. C.R. Bard, Inc., et al., No. 20-2139 (3d Cir. June 24, 2021) (“Ebert Pet.”).   Last spring, Judge Pappert of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed Ms. Ebert’s strict liability claim, finding her IVC filter “an ‘unavoidably unsafe product’” under Hahn v. Richter, 673 A.3d 888 (Pa. 1996), and she appealed that order granting summary judgment to the Third Circuit.

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FDA Solicits Feedback to Create Consistent Process for Labeling Devices

The Food and Drug Administration Center for Devices and Radiological Health is soliciting feedback on how materials information about medical devices should be communicated to patients and healthcare providers. On May 20, 2021, the FDA published a discussion paper titled Conveying Materials Information about Medical Devices to Patients and Healthcare Providers: Considerations for a Framework. With a goal of stimulating discussion among stakeholders, the paper outlines several factors to consider for labeling devices so that providers can make well-informed decisions about which devices may be most appropriate for their patients.

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