Renewing the Call for Reforms to Medical Device Safety-The Case of Penumbra

JAMA Intern Med. 2022 Jan 1;182(1):59-65. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.6626.


Importance: Strengthening premarket and postmarket surveillance of medical devices has long been an area of focus for health policy makers. The recent class I recall (the most serious of the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] recalls) of reperfusion catheters manufactured by Penumbra, a US-based medical device company, illustrates issues of device safety and oversight that mandate attention.

Objectives: To review the regulatory history and clinical evidence of the Penumbra JET 7 Reperfusion Catheter with Xtra Flex Technology (JET 7) and use the device recall as a case study of the challenges associated with clinical evaluation, transparency, and oversight of medical devices in the US.

Evidence: Regulatory history and clinical evidence for the Penumbra medical devices were analyzed through a qualitative review of decision letters in the Access FDA database for medical devices and medical device reports in the Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience database and a review of market data (eg, earnings calls, company communications) and clinical literature.

Findings: The JET 7 device was subjected to a class I recall following more than 200 adverse event reports, 14 of which involved patient deaths. Regulatory analysis indicated that each of the Penumbra reperfusion catheters was cleared under the 510(k) pathway (which allows devices to be authorized with limited to no clinical evidence), with limited submission of either new clinical or animal data. Clinical evidence for Penumbra devices was generated from nonrandomized, single-arm trials with small sample sizes. The regulatory issues raised by JET 7 are reflective of broader challenges for medical device regulation. Opportunities for reform include strengthening premarket evidence requirements, requiring safety reporting with unique device identifiers, and mandating active methods of postmarket surveillance.

Conclusions and relevance: The case study of JET 7 highlights the long-standing gaps in medical device oversight and renews the impetus to build on the Institute of Medicine recommendations and reform FDA medical device regulation to protect public health.

MeSH terms

  • Device Approval / standards*
  • Equipment Safety / standards*
  • Equipment and Supplies / standards*
  • Humans
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing / standards*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration