Characteristics of Clinical Studies Used for US Food and Drug Administration Approval of High-Risk Medical Device Supplements

JAMA. 2017 Aug 15;318(7):619-625. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.9414.


Importance: High-risk medical devices often undergo modifications, which are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through various kinds of premarket approval (PMA) supplements. There have been multiple high-profile recalls of devices approved as PMA supplements.

Objective: To characterize the quality of the clinical studies and data (strength of evidence) used to support FDA approval of panel-track supplements (a type of PMA supplement pathway that is used for significant changes in a device or indication for use and always requires clinical data).

Design and setting: Descriptive study of clinical studies supporting panel-track supplements approved by the FDA between April 19, 2006, and October 9, 2015.

Exposure: Panel-track supplement approval.

Main outcomes and measures: Methodological quality of studies including randomization, blinding, type of controls, clinical vs surrogate primary end points, use of post hoc analyses, and reporting of age and sex.

Results: Eighty-three clinical studies supported the approval of 78 panel-track supplements, with 71 panel-track supplements (91%) supported by a single study. Of the 83 studies, 37 (45%) were randomized clinical trials and 25 (30%) were blinded. The median number of patients per study was 185 (interquartile range, 75-305), and the median follow-up duration was 180 days (interquartile range, 84-270 days). There were a total of 150 primary end points (mean [SD], 1.8 [1.2] per study), and 57 primary end points (38%) were compared with controls. Of primary end points with controls, 6 (11%) were retrospective controls and 51 (89%) were active controls. One hundred twenty-one primary end points (81%) were surrogate end points. Thirty-three studies (40%) did not report age and 25 (30%) did not report sex for all enrolled patients. The FDA required postapproval studies for 29 of 78 (37%) panel-track supplements.

Conclusions and relevance: Among clinical studies used to support FDA approval of high-risk medical device modifications, fewer than half were randomized, blinded, or controlled, and most primary outcomes were based on surrogate end points. These findings suggest that the quality of studies and data evaluated to support approval by the FDA of modifications of high-risk devices should be improved.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic* / standards
  • Clinical Trials as Topic* / statistics & numerical data
  • Device Approval*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Research Design
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration