FDA Finalized Two Guidance Documents for the Abbreviated 510(k) Safety and Performance Based Pathway: Use of Performance Measurements Instead of Direct Comparison Testing for Medical Devices

Author: Suzanne Broussard, PhD 

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The Premarket Notification 510(k) Program is the pathway used by manufactures of low- to moderate-risk devices that are substantially equivalent to a device already on the market. Device manufacturers can submit 510(k)s as Traditional, Special, or Abbreviated. See our previous post for an overview of the 4 guidance documents released by FDA in September of 2019.  

The Safety and Performance Based Pathway Guidance for Conventional Foley Catheters and Cutaneous Electrodes for Recording Purposes are the first device type guidance documents release by FDA for the expanded Abbreviated Premarket Notification 510(k) Program.  This pathway sets the stage for device manufacturers to use performance measures in place of direct comparisons against predicate devices. The direct use of performance measures for devices that qualify for the abbreviated 510(k) Safety and Performance Based Pathway is expected provide manufacturers with substantial savings of both time and resources.  

Background 

The Safety and Performance Based Pathway, as an expansion of the Abbreviated 510(k) pathway announced by FDA in February of 2019, is designed to be used for well understood device types. Follow the link below for specific information on the program. 

Safety and Performance Based Pathway 

Certain class II moderate risk devices are able to use the Safety and Performance Based Pathway to gain clearance for marketing if they can demonstrate that they meet FDA’s modern performance criteria. Under these criteria, the device must be demonstrated to be as safe and effective as other devices of the same type that are already on the market that conform to the FDA-identified performance criteria. The Safety and Performance Pathway is appropriate when FDA has determined: 

  • The new device has the same indications for use as, and technological characteristics that do not raise different questions of safety and effectiveness than, the identified predicate; and 
  • The new device meets all the FDA-identified performance criteria. 

A guidance document was released in September 2019 that describes the optional pathway and provides “FDA’s current thinking on expanding the concept of the Abbreviated 510(k) program for demonstrating substantial equivalence for premarket notification (510(k)) submissions.”  

Safety and Safety and Performance Based Pathway 

Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff 

This newest expansion of the Abbreviated 510(k) Program provides device manufacturers the option to use the performance criteria proposed in the guidance to support substantial equivalence in place of direct comparison of performance of the device to that of a predicated device.  

First Device Type Guidance Documents 

On August 13, 2020, the FDA issued the first final guidance documents for Conventional Foley Catheters and Cutaneous Electrodes for Recording Purposes as part of the FDAs commitment to “strengthen and modernize the 510(k) program.”  

Safety and Performance Based Pathway guidance documents are expected to be released by FDA for each device type that qualifies. The first 2 guidance documents for conventional Foley catheters and cutaneous electrodes have similar overall outlines: 

  1. Introduction 
  1. Scope/Device Description 
  • Intended Use / Indications for Use 
  • Device Design Characteristics 
  1. Testing Performance Criteria 
  • Device Testing / Device Characterization 
  • Sterilization and Reprocessing Validations (if applicable) 

The Testing Performance Criteria section clarifies that FDA is asking for a summary of all tests evaluated in addition to the Declaration of Conformity (DoC) for the test specified to “ensure the performance criteria outline in this guidance document remains contemporary and takes into account relevant data from recent clearances.” Furthermore, test information such as results summary, test protocols, or complete test reports need to be submitted as part of the 510(k) as described in the Safety and Performance Based Pathway. 

Future Guidance Documents 

FDA lists 4 additional Safety and Performance Based Pathway guidance document for device types that are currently in draft guidance form and the final guidance’s are expected to roll out in the near future. 

The FDA is encouraging industry to become involved in the process. Industry can and should suggest additional device types in which there are comprehensive FDA-recognized consensus standards that correspond with the FDA-identified performance criteria in order to reap the benefits of this Abbreviated 510(k) pathway. In addition, FDA is encouraging industry and other stakeholders to submit evidence-based suggestions on what performance criteria should be for eligible device types. FDA plans to continue to issue draft and subsequent final guidance’s for the Safety and Performance Based Pathway. 


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FDA’s tips on how to improve Premarket submissions applications and the pending release of the electronic submission program, eSTAR, can be found in our previous post.   

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