FDA meeting could compromise Medical Device Safety Act

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has planned an internal meeting today to discuss the strategic direction of the agency’s medical device center, adding fuel to concerns that the government agency carelessly approved medical devices and as a result put patients’ health and safety at risk, according to the American Association for Justice (AAJ).

The meeting, which includes all scientists within the medical device evaluation office, is a rare gathering and likely to establish a plan for how the agency will handle a slurry of controversial issues including a Congress-initiated investigation of the device division by the Institute of Medicine, according to the New York Times.

The investigation is spurred by allegations from nine scientists who have separated themselves from the FDA, who have signed letters to President Obama charging that agency officials approved medical devices for sale despite often unanimous objections from scientific reviewers.

AAJ has been working with a large coalition of consumer and patient safety groups to push the Medical Device Safety Act (MDSA), legislation that would restore the rights of patients who have been harmed by unsafe medical devices to seek justice in state courts.

Last year a Supreme Court ruling gave manufacturers of medical devices immunity from state tort suits if the device has been approved by the FDA’s pre-market approval process. MDSA would restore the right to patients with medical devices, “as Congress has intended in 1976 they passed legislation on medical device safety,” according to AAJ.

Early this month, people with Medtronic cardiac defibrillators implanted in their chests converged on Washington, D.C., to lobby for passage of MDSA. In 1997, Medtronic suspended the sale of its Sprint Fidelis Defibrillator leads after receiving reports of fatalities connected to the devices. The leads were found to have fractured, which caused them to unnecessarily shock patients or fail to work altogether. According to last year’s Supreme Court ruling, patients harmed by the defibrillators cannot sue because the medical devices were previously approved by the FDA.