Is Europe A Better Place To Build A Medical Technology Company?

September 11, 2017
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Growth in the life sciences industries will greatly depend on how the FDA responds to growing complaints that they are stifling medical technologies. Companies have seen a vast difference in the approval processes in Europe vs. the U.S.  A study released by Stanford indicated that the cost of bringing a technology to market is dramatically lower in Europe.

Workshops and Panel discussions at OneMedForum NY 2011 are on track to discuss the increasing difficulty in approving both devices and drugs in the U.S. Getting approval on a timely basis can be the difference between success and failure. The discussions will look at winning strategies.

A previous panel discussion at OneMedForum San Francisco discussed the controversy surrounding FDA approval in the U.S.  A study funded by InHealth allowed both industry players and government regulators an in depth look at the challenges and facts about the 510k process.

Additionally, Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) recently released a report, “FDA Impact on U.S. Medical Technology Innovation,” which garnered responses from more than 200 companies concerning their experiences in working with the FDA. Participants were also asked about their experiences working with European regulatory authorities in order to offer a comparison between aspects of the two dominant regulatory systems.

“In general, survey respondents viewed current U.S. regulatory processes for making products available to patients as unpredictable and characterized by disruptions and delays,” the results summary states. “Forty-four percent indicated that part way through the premarket regulatory process they experienced untimely changes in key personnel, including the lead reviewer and/or branch chief responsible for the product’s evaluation. Thirty-four percent of respondents also reported that appropriate FDA staff and/or physician advisors to the FDA were not present at key meetings between the FDA and the company.”

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The report goes on to highlight that those factors contribute to significant delays in navigating FDA regulatory processes, with premarket process for 510(k) pathway devices (of low-to moderate risk) taking an average of 10 months from first filing to clearance. Devices requiring a clinical study for low- to moderate-risk devices before making a regulatory submission, the premarket process took an average of 31 months from first communication to being cleared to market while, in comparison, it took an average of seven months in Europe.

For higher risk devices seeking premarket approvals, responding companies indicated that it took an average of 54 months to work with the FDA from first communication to being approved to market the device. In Europe, it took an average of 11 months.”

Beyond the time gap comparing FDA and Europe approval processes, the survey also showed that the average total cost for a low- to moderate-risk 510(k) product from concept to clearance was approximately $31 million, with $24 million spent on FDA dependent and/or related activities. For a higher-risk PMA product, the average total cost from concept to approval was approximately $94 million, with $75 million spent on stages linked to the FDA.

According to the report, these statistics result in a “significant, measurable cost to U.S. patients in the form of a device lag. Respondents reported that their devices were available to U.S. citizens, on average, nearly two full years later than patients in other countries, due to delays with the FDA and/or company decisions to pursue markets outside the U.S. before initiating time-consuming, expensive regulatory processes in their own country.”

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Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of AdvaMed, says, “This report is a wake-up call for those who want to promote medical innovation and preserve American jobs. A regulatory environment that is marked by needless delays and inefficiencies makes it harder for medical innovation to thrive and companies to survive. These delays particularly hurt small companies and their ability to produce next generation technologies.

Ultimately, growth within the life sciences will continue at a quick pace during the next few years, with development of R&D pipelines, alliances, and partnerships being a key factor for success.

The audience is ripe – as more than 100 million people in the U.S. alone are living with chronic diseases, more than 133 million American adults are either overweight or obese, and life expectancy is climbing to all-time highs – and the medical device companies are addressing these needs.

As the economy continues to chug back to full force, the only obstacle appears to be the differing of opinions between the medical device manufacturers and the FDA. Perhaps if they come to a meeting of the minds, these growth projections will not just be projections but will be the reality of a growing field that is quickly, and effectively, delivering what the U.S. healthcare system requires.