Dinner for Two? Federal Regulations Indicate a Newfound Love for the Pediatric Medical Device Market

Angela Fralish, MJLST Invited Blogger

In December 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act which includes Subtitle L “Priority Review for Breakthrough Devices” and Subtitle M “Medical Device Regulatory Process Improvement.” Subtitle L addresses efficiency in medical device development by allowing inventors to request an expedited review for inventions that target disease, and for which there is no alternative device is currently on the market. Subtitle M requires FDA staff to be trained in least burdensome concept reviews and allocates $500 million to speed up commercialization.

This Act presents growth opportunities for the pediatric medical device market which often lacks device development due to time and expense. Under the Cures Act, if the device targets a childhood disease and there is no alternative, this new regulation requires a priority review determination within 60 days from the FDA Secretary. Additionally, there are now $500 million supporting implementation of the priority review.

Currently, pediatric devices can take up to 10 years and $94 million to develop. Market incentives often drive device innovation and the market for children is small. Consequently, most developments are not initiated for profit, but for personal interest in children’s health.

For example, despite using an expedited review process under a humanitarian device exemption, an implantable rib to prevent thoracic collapse took 13 years just to get FDA approval to begin the commercialization process. The pediatric medical device market is viewed by some as a crisis and the 21st Century Cures Act has the potential to improve kids’ health.

For lawyers, scientists and engineers, an increase in device development leads to an increase in demand for regulatory, design, reimbursement and scientific technology experts. Lawyers can make a major difference in getting devices from bench-to-bedside. On the other side of the fence is demand for the same to protect consumers from manufacturers taking advantage of the Cures Act. In fact, some tort lawyers directly oppose the Cures Act for fear of watered-down processes for safety in devices.

However, regardless of one’s stance on the issue, it’s a good time to show some legal love to the kiddos in need of growth in the pediatric medical device market.

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