Tighter EU Regulatory Controls Proposed following PIP Controversy

European Union member states should take immediate steps to tighten regulatory controls over medical devices and technologies in the wake of revelations that French breast implant manufacturer Poly Implant Prothèse Company (PIP) used non-medical-grade silicone in its products.

European Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli last week urged coordinated efforts at national levels to ensure full implementation and enforcement of existing medical device legislation to guarantee safety and improve patient confidence in the EU regulatory system.

Dalli’s specific recommendations include verification of notified body designations to evaluate whether these entities are truly designated only for assessment of medical devices and technologies, as well as making sure that Notified Bodies fully leverage their authority laid out in conformity assessments, including their power to conduct unannounced inspections.

Dalli also recommends reinforcing market surveillance processes by national regulators, especially regarding spot checks of some devices. Vigilance system functions must also be improved via granting Notified Bodies systemic access to adverse event reports and urging health care providers and patients to report adverse events to authorities.

In addition, Dalli suggests supporting development of tools to enhance traceability of medical devices in the EU, and tools such as the Unique Device Identification system for monitoring long-term safety and performance of devices.

Finally, results of a stress test being conducted to address any weaknesses in the EU system illustrated by the PIP incident will impact ongoing work to revise the EU’s Medical Devices legislation, according to the European Commission’s press release.

European medical device industry trade association Eucomed has officially expressed support for Dalli’s recommendations, and has added a few of its own as well: utilizing “only the best” Notified Bodies, developing a single approach to vigilance and market surveillance, and strengthening harmonized standards used in the EU. Furthermore, Eucomed recommends more consistent guideline implementation, added transparency and a more integrated regulatory approach.

Whether the PIP controversy significantly impacts how Europe’s Medical Device Directives are revised remains to be seen. Reactions among member states so far do not bode necessarily well for a more unified approach, however; French authorities, for example, have initially taken a much more aggressive approach to the problem than their British counterparts. 

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