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Case Study Part 1: Packaging Complaint Investigation

This article explains how to perform a packaging complaint investigation using a case study example of flexible packaging that was found open by a customer. This is part one of a two part article. The second part will focus on the CAPA Process. Specifically, containment measures, corrections, corrective actions and preventive actions.

Screenshot 2015 11 08 at 11.58.18 AM Case Study Part 1: Packaging Complaint Investigation

This case study example involves a flexible, peelable pouch made of Tyvek and a clear plastic film. This is one of the most common types of packaging used for sterile medical devices. In parallel with the complaint investigation, containment measures and corrections are implemented immediately in order to prevent the complaint from becoming a more widespread problem. The investigation process utilizes a “Fishbone Diagram” to identify the root cause of the packaging failure. This is just one of several root cause analysis tools that you can use for complaint investigations, but it works particularly well for examples where something has gone wrong in production process controls, but we are not sure which process control has failed.

Once the root cause is identified, for the packaging complaint, then you need to implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence. In addition, FDA Clause 21 CFR 820.100 and ISO 13485, Clause 8.5.3 require that you implement preventive actions to detect situations that might result in a potential packaging failure in the future and implement preventive measures so that similar packaging failures are not able to occur.

Packaging Incident

The incident that was reported was reported by a distributor. The distributor told customer service that two pouches in a box containing 24 sterile devices were found to have a seal that appeared to be delaminating. Unfortunately the distributor was unable provide a sample of the delaminated pouches or the lot number of the units. Packaging issues and labeling issues are typically two of the most common complaint categories for medical devices. Often the labeling issues are operators errors or a result of labeling mixups, while the packaging errors have may be due to customers that accidentally ordered or opened the wrong size of product and therefore they may complain about packaging when there was actually nothing wrong. It is important to be diligent in the investigation of each packaging complaint, because if there is a legitimate packaging quality issue then there may be a need or a product recall as part of your corrective action plan.

Reporting of Packaging Complaint Investigation

A lot of clients do not want to report packaging issues as a Medical Device Report or MDR, because they are concerned about potential action by the agency or the negative publicity of the reported adverse event. Even if an injury or death did not occur with a sterile medical device, the quality issue should still be reported as an MDR in accordance with 21 CFR 803 because it could cause an adverse event such as a serious infection that could result in sepsis and death. If you think that this is an extremely conservative approach, you might be surprised to learn that 225 MDRs were reported in just October of 2015 for packaging issues. One random example is this report of a leaking contact lens vial in the following report:

Event Description

“It was reported that the lens vial was found to have little or no saline storage solution. This was discovered upon receipt and the product was not used.”

Manufacturers Narrative

“The lens and lens vial were not returned for evaluation. The lot history record was reviewed and there were no non-conformities or anomalies related to this complaint. Based on the information currently available the most likely root cause of the event is related to a leaking lens vial. The type of lens vial associated with this report has been discontinued and a new (redesigned) vial was implemented.”

Packaging Complaint Investigation when product IS NOT returned

What the narrative above does not elaborate on is what was the specific investigation details for “lot history reviewed.” One of the most useful tools for performing this type of investigation is the “Fishbone Diagram”. There are six parts “6Ms” to this method:

  1. materials,
  2. method,
  3. machine,
  4. “mother nature” or environment,
  5. “manpower” or people, and
  6. measurement.

Here are a couple of things that could have been done:

  1. review the complaint log for other complaints with the same lot number and/or from a similar time period, lot of raw materials or packaging machine
  2. review the device history record for the lot to make sure that the number of units rejected as part of normal in-process and final inspection did not exceed pre-established thresholds for monitoring of the sealing process
  3. if retains of the lot are available, these might be retested to verify that the testing results after real-time aging remain acceptable
  4. the maintenance and calibration records of the equipment for manufacture and for testing may be reviewed to verify that no repairs were required and no equipment was identified as out-of-calibration

If all of the above fail to identify a potential cause for a packaging failure, then you might have a problem related to people or the environment. People includes the people sealing the product package and the users. The environment includes the temperature and humidity for storage of packaging raw materials, packaged product, sterilization conditions, storage conditions after sterilization and shipping conditions–including any temporary extremes that might occur during transit.

In our case study the product was not returned and we did not have the lot number. Therefore, we may need to review distribution records to that distributor and/or the customer to narrow down the possible lots to one or more lots. Then we would need to perform the same type of review of lot history records for each potential lot. In the future, the UDI bar codes that are on products and product labeling will facilitate the identification of lots, because the UDI bar codes will be scanned into each patient’s electronic medical record and the production identifier (PI) portion of the code will tell manufacturers exactly which production lot was involved.

Packaging Complaint Investigation when product IS returned

Sometimes you are fortunate enough to received returned product. The product should be immediately segregated from your other products to prevent mix-ups and/or contamination. After it has been determined that the product is safe to handle, the assigned investigator may inspect the product packaging to confirm packaging issues and to possibly destructively test the packaging to verify that the packaging returned meets the specifications.

Additional Resources

There are an enormous number of articles and studies on the topic of package testing and package design for sterile medical devices. If you have a question, you can probably find a dissertation or two on any obscure aspect of packaging you are interested. For example, Jordan Montgomery is a packaging engineer/technical fellow with Medtronic. He performed a thorough investigation comparing testing methods for the EN ISO 898-5 with the ASTM F88 method. A dissertation I read also attempted to correlate between burst test results and peel testing results for the same packaging.

Related Blogs

If you are interested in learning more about root cause analysis, then you should visit the following articles specifically written about this topic:

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Complaint Investigation Case Study (21 CFR 820.198): Part 2

This article is part 2 of a two-part series specific to complaint investigation requirements as specified in 21 CFR 820.198 (http://bit.ly/21CFR820198) of FDA QSR. This second part explains how to perform a complaint investigation and provides a complaint investigation case study.

complaint part 2 Complaint Investigation Case Study (21 CFR 820.198): Part 2

 

Last week’s blog  reviewed the requirements for a complaint investigation, while this blog includes the following information on how to conduct an investigation:h

  1. How thorough should your investigation be?
  2. Investigation Methods
  3. Verification of the Cause
  4. Documenting Your Investigation
  5. Complaint Investigation Case Study

How thorough should your investigation be?

The depth of investigation should be appropriate to importance of the complaint. If a previous complaint of similar nature has already been investigated, the investigation may only gather enough information to verify that complaint has the same root cause. However, if a complaint involves an adverse event (i.e., is reportable under 21 CFR 803), then additional information needs to be recorded in the complaint record as per 21 CFR 820.198d:

  1. Does the device fail to meet specifications?
  2. Was the device used for treatment or diagnosis?
  3. What was the relationship, if any, between the device and the reported event?

If the person gathering information from the complainant cannot immediately identify a cause code, or the incident involves a serious injury or death, then it is important to gather as much information as possible. Typically, the complainant will be asked to return the device to determine if the device malfunctioned.

Investigation Methods

A complaint investigation is not any different from any investigation you perform for a CAPA. The most critical first step is to determine the cause of the complaint. In order to determine the cause, you need to sample additional records and inspect the device if it is available. If the device is not available, you might also look at other product from the same lot that remains in inventory. The following article I wrote suggests seven ways to investigate a complaint when a device is not returned: http://bit.ly/DeviceNotReturned.

One of the methods described in the article above is a Ishikawa Diagram or “Fishbone Diagram.” This is one of the five root cause analysis tools that I teach in my CAPA webinar (http://bit.ly/enKapCAPAwebinar). Ishikawa Diagrams are an ideal tool for root cause analysis if you have no idea what the cause of the complaint is, because this tool provides a systematic process for narrowing down the potential causes, to the narrow few that are most likely. You are not required to use this tool, but you should describe in your complaint record what type of root cause analysis was performed.

Verification of Cause

Once you have identified the root cause, or at least narrowed your list to the most likely causes, you should then verify that the cause will actually result in the observed malfunction by recreating the scenario if possible. Ideally, you should be able to simulate the event that resulted in the complaint and demonstrate that you can reproduce the problem. This is important, because if you cannot verify the cause of a device malfunction, then you will have difficulty verifying effectiveness of corrective actions for an infrequent complaint.

Documenting Your Investigation

There is no specific format for the way a complaint investigation is documented, but most complaint records have a small section on the complaint form that allows them to write a short paragraph summarizing the investigation and the results. Unfortunately, most of the spaces provided on forms are completely inadequate for the amount of information that should be recorded. Therefore, the best approach is often to write, “See attached complaint investigation.” This is especially true if the complaint is reportable (i.e., requires MDR under 21 CFR 803). Good documentation is quantitative and specific. You need to identify which records were sampled as part of the investigation, and you should demonstrate that you have expanded your initial search to determine if the problem exists in multiple production lots of the same product code, multiple product codes within the same product family and any other product families that may use similar raw materials, design features, equipment, testing methods or procedures.

Complaint Investigation Case Study

If your company manufactures cast orthopedic implants for the knee and you receive a complaint for an implant that has a small imperfection in the bearing surface of the femoral implant, you may need to perform an investigation–especially if this has not occurred previously. You should request a return of the implant for inspection to verify that the imperfection is nonconforming and not just a cosmetic defect.

Your investigation should include review of the lot history record for the entire lot of implants–as well as any other parts that they may have been cast at the same time. All the process conditions identified throughout the manufacturing process should be compared to the validated process parameters. Special attention should be given to the inspection results that were recorded for the castings (i.e., radiographic inspection, fluorescent penetrant inspection and metallurgical inspection). Ideally, these inspection methods should be repeated for 100% of the production lot to ensure that the inspection results meet the acceptance criteria. Documentation of the investigation should include copies of all records that were reviewed and photos if visual inspections were repeated.

If you are interested in learning more about complaint handling, you might be interested in downloading the webinar that Medical Device Academy recorded last year for complaint handling and vigilance reporting (http://bit.ly/Complaint-Webinar-Landing). Leo Lagrotte, a former FDA investigator that works on our team as a consultant, also recorded a webinar related to CAPA and complaint investigations (http://bit.ly/FDACAPA). We can also help you one-on-one with a current complaint investigation you are conducting. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. Mobile: 802.281.4381 or rob@13485cert.com.

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FDA Inspections-Complaint Investigation Requirements-Part I

“FDA Inspections-Complaint Investigation Requirements-Part I” is a two-part series which provides an overview of 21 CFR 820.198 requirements. 

complaint part 1 FDA Inspections Complaint Investigation Requirements Part I

Last week, I received a message from someone asking for advice on how to perform a complaint investigation. She has a complaint handling procedure that explains how to determine if complaints are reportable (http://bit.ly/Medical-Device-Reporting), and she is the complaint coordinator. Her procedure includes a list of pre-determined cause codes for the most common complaints the company has received in previous years. Her system does not require a complaint investigation if an existing cause code is identified. She would like to know how to perform an investigation if she receives a complaint that does not fit one of the existing cause codes.

Is It a Complaint?

Most discussions about complaint handling begin with the definition of a complaint [i.e., 21 CFR 820.3(b); http://bit.ly/21CFR820-3]. However, if a complaint is received during investigation of a device rather than use of the device, the FDA will still consider this as being “after release for distribution.” The reason is that release for distribution occurs at final inspection. If the device breaks during installation, the device was still distributed.

One last question. Is it correct to consider a complaint only when the device is live and not during the settings and installation process of the device? (The definition states “after it is released for distribution”, what do they mean by this?).

What is Required?

The FDA QSR section specific to complaint handling is 21 CFR 820.198 (http://bit.ly/820-198). There are seven subsections (i.e., “A” through “H”) that comprise the regulation.

  1. Manufacturers shall maintain complaint files and establish procedures for complaint handling.
  2. Manufacturers must review and evaluate if an investigation is needed.
  3. Manufacturers must perform an investigation automatically for any complaint involving a device malfunction–unless an investigation has already been performed for a similar complaint.
  4. Separate files shall be maintained for complaints that involve adverse events that are reportable under 21 CFR 803 (http://bit.ly/21-CFR-803).
  5. The content of a complaint investigation record is specified in this subsection.
  6. When the complaint handling unit is located at another facility, the records of investigations shall be reasonably accessible to the manufacturing establishment.
  7. When the complaint handling unit is located outside the USA, then the records must be reasonably accessible at a U.S. manufacturer or the location of an initial distributor.

What Does the FDA Expect to See?

FDA inspectors are guaranteed to sample complaint records and CAPA records during every routine inspection. The complaint records sampled will typically be limited to a specific product family that has been selected as the focus of the investigation. Most companies have an electronic log of the complaints, and the investigator may request a sorted list that only includes complaints specific to that one product family. The investigator will already be aware of all of your reported adverse events associated with the product family, and there may be one or two records they specifically want to investigate. The investigator will also review the complaint log to see if there are any complaints with a description that sounds like it might be reportable–even though the complaint was not reported.

The investigator will verify that each complaint record includes the content specified in subsection “E”:

  1. name of the device;
  2. date the complaint was received;
  3. any device identification(s) and control number(s) used;
  4. the name, address and phone number of the complainant;
  5. the nature and details of the complaint;
  6. the dates and results of the investigation;
  7. any corrective action taken; and
  8. any reply to the complainant.

In my response to the question that I received, I also included advice for how to conduct an investigation. In general, the investigation is no different than an investigation for any CAPA. The first step is to perform a root cause analysis. The second part of this article will explain the investigation process in more detail.

Register to receive email notification of new blog postings (http://bit.ly/MDA-Blog), so you can read the second part of this article next week. If you are interested in learning more about complaint handling, you might be interested in downloading the webinar that Medical Device Academy recorded last year for complaint handling and vigilance reporting (http://bit.ly/Complaint-Webinar-Landing). Leo Lagrotte, a former FDA investigator that works on our team as a consultant, also recorded a webinar related to CAPA and complaint investigations (http://bit.ly/FDACAPA). We can also help you one-on-one with a current complaint investigation you are conducting. Please don’t hesitate to contact me and ask for help: Mobile: 802.281.4381 or rob@13485cert.com.

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A Medical Device Complaint Management Auditing Approach

In this blog, “A Medical Device Complaint Management Auditing Approach,” the author focuses on the benefits of utilizing the 7-step process approach.

inbound link building A Medical Device Complaint Management Auditing Approach

Auditors typically focus on the requirements of how to handle complaints, but what do you do with complaints after the investigation? If the only reason why you “handle” complaints is because it is a requirement, you are extremely unlikely to gain product benefits from reviewing complaints.

Audit Checklists

Are you using an audit checklist to verify that your complaint handling process is compliant with the regulations and that your records include all eight requirements of 21 CFR 820.198(e)?

Audit checklists encourage auditors to ask close ended (i.e., yes/no) questions. For example:

  1. Did you document your investigation?
  2. Did you document corrective actions taken?

The Process Approach

The process approach to auditing is a seven-step process where the auditor interviews the process owner and individuals performing the process being audited (http://bit.ly/Process-Approach-Blog):

  1. What is the process?
  2. What are the inputs to the process?
  3. What are the outputs of the process?
  4. With what resources is the process performed?
  5. With whom is process performed?
  6. How is the process done?
  7. Which process metrics are important?

Each step of the process systematically gathers information about the process. More importantly, however, the process approach identifies how the process being audited interacts with other processes. Evaluating the effectiveness of linkages is one of the primary benefits of the process approach. For example:

  1. Which records are used as inputs to the complaint handling process?
  2. How many corrective action(s) were initiated in response to complaints?

Sometimes, an auditor using the process approach will find a “broken link.” If there is no connection between servicing of devices and the complaint handling process, this is a link that needs to be “repaired.”

The Most Valuable Step

Of the seven steps to the process approach, the last step frequently provides the most proactive suggestions for process improvements. The last step is when the auditor asks the process owner, “Which metrics do you gather for this process?” Often, this question is met with a blank stare. If the process is not being measured, then the process owner cannot proactively make adjustments before mistakes are made. Instead, the process becomes reactionary.

A reactionary process for post-market surveillance and monitoring of complaints allows the number of complaints to increase and cause additional problems. Therefore, each complaint should be categorized, and data analysis should be performed. Ideally, each complaint category should have a maximum threshold established for the frequency of complaints and the severity of complaints. The frequency and severity would be documented in your risk management file. You may even establish quality objectives for the length of time it takes to process complaints, and number of actual complaints.

Adjacent Link Auditing

Adjacent Link Auditing is an extension of the process approach to auditing. The principle behind Adjacent Link Auditing is that each process has adjacent processes in the process workflow. The process owners managing the previous process step (i.e., “upstream”) are internal suppliers, because they provide the records and physical product that is used in the process being audited. Process owners managing the subsequent process step (i.e., “downstream”) are internal customers, because they receive records and physical product from the process being audited. Internal “Suppliers” and “Customers” have a stronger connection to the process than other departments, because they are directly connected to the process. Adjacent processes are intimately involved in creating process inputs or using the process outputs for the next adjacent step in the process. If you are interested in learning more about Adjacent Link Auditing Theory, please click here to read an article in OrthoWorld’s BoneZone magazine.

If you are interested in downloading an example of a complaint handling procedure, please click here. For learning more about the process approach to auditing, you can purchase a webinar on the topic (Recording May 2, 2014. Please email glenn@robertpackard.wpengine.com to order. Cost is $129).

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Complaint Handling and Medical Device Reporting Common Mistakes

complaints Complaint Handling and Medical Device Reporting Common Mistakes This blog, “Complaint Handling and Medical Device Reporting Common Mistakes” reviews complaint investigations, MDR procedures and adverse event reporting.  

You should already be well aware that deficiencies in complaint handling and Medical Device Reporting are two of the most common reasons why the FDA issues 483 inspection observations and Warning Letters (http://bit.ly/FY2013-483-Data-Analysis). Recently, I posted a blog about “Where to Focus your Medical Device Complaint Handling Training” (http://bit.ly/Complaint-Training). The following is a summary of my responses to reader questions.

Complaint Investigations

What criteria do you think should be used to determine whether a complaint should be investigated or not?

There is only one acceptable rationale for not conducting an investigation of a complaint. If you don’t investigate complaints when required, then you might receive an FDA Form 483 observation worded like this…

21 CFR 820.198(c) – Complaints involving possible failure of labeling to meet any of its specifications were not investigated where necessary. Specifically, a missing IFU was reported in customer complaints, but no investigation was conducted. The rationale documented in the complaint record was “the missing IFU presented no patient risk.”

A missing IFU is “failure of labeling to meet any of its specifications.” Therefore, 21 CFR 820.198(c) requires you to conduct an investigation “unless such investigation has already been performed for a similar complaint and another investigation is not necessary.” This is the only rationale that is acceptable for skipping your investigation. To ensure that no one forgets to investigate a complaint, make sure you include a space in your complaint handling form that is specifically labeled as “Summary of Complaint Investigation.” This space should also include an option to cross-reference to a previous complaint record where a similar investigation is already documented.

A missing IFU is also considered misbranded product that requires correction (e.g., sending the customer a replacement IFU) or removal (i.e., recall). The FDA expects a Health and Hazard Evaluation (HHE) form to be included in your recall records (http://bit.ly/HHE-Form), and the HHE should indicate the potential risk of a “delay in treatment.” This is the FDA’s conclusion in their evaluation of risk and therefore your HHE must identify a delay in treatment is a patient risk too. The FDA also expects a CAPA to be initiated to prevent recurrence of this type of labeling error. You can make a “risk-based” determination that reporting a specific recall to the FDA is not required as per 21 CFR 806.20. However, you need to maintain records of your determination not to report a recall. If you already received a Warning Letter, you should err on the side of reporting anyway.

Note: References to “recall” in the above paragraph are meant to include field corrections.

Intended Use

If a complaint consists of a medical device being used for something other than its intended use, is an MDR required for this user error?

The answer is yes. If you don’t report adverse events involving “user error,” then you might receive an FDA Form 483 observation worded like this…

21 CFR 803.17(a)(1) – The written MDR procedure does not include an internal system which provides for the timely and effective evaluation of events that may be subject to medical device reporting requirements.  Specifically, several incidents where a death or serious injury occurred were “caused by a user error,” and the procedure did not identify this as an event requiring Medical Device Reporting.

In 21 CFR 803.3 (http://bit.ly/21CFR803-3), the FDA defines “caused or contributed” to include events occurring as a result of:

  1. Failure
  2. Malfunction
  3. Improper or inadequate design
  4. Manufacture
  5. Labeling, or
  6. User error

It is important to understand that the definition of complaints and the requirement to report adverse events should not be “risk-based.” The need for remediation and the need to report corrections and removals can be “risk-based,” but whether something is a complaint, and whether it is reportable should be “black-and-white.” For example, “Did the death or serious injury occur due to a ‘user error’–including use other than the intended use?” If the answer is yes, then it is a complaint and reportable.

Adverse Events

Do incidents that occurred outside the United States need to be reported to FDA?

The answer is yes. If you don’t report adverse events that occur outside the United States, then you might receive an FDA Form 483 observation worded like this…

21 CFR 820.50(a)(1) – An MDR report was not submitted within 30 days of receiving or otherwise becoming aware of information that reasonably suggests that a marketed device may have caused, or contributed to, a death or serious injury. Specifically, several instances were identified where the device caused, or contributed to, a death or serious injury, and the event was not reported to the Agency. The rationale documented in the complaint record was that the “event occurred outside the United States.”

This type of mistake is most likely due to a lack of training on 21 CFR 803–Medical Device Reporting. Some manufacturers that distribute product internationally are more familiar with the European Vigilance requirements (http://bit.ly/MEDDEV2-12-1rev8). The European Medical Device guidelines clearly indicate in the scope section that “the guidelines are relevant to incidents occurring within the Member States of the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, and Turkey…”.  Therefore, standard industry practice is to not report these events, unless the events occurred in Europe.

The FDA Part 803 requirements are worded differently. Part 803 does not indicate that the event had to occur in the United States. By not stating that MDR’s are to be filed for events in the United States only, it is the FDA’s expectation that manufacturers shall report events occurring outside the U.S. if the devices are “similar” to devices marketed in the U.S. Unfortunately, the FDA’s expectations have not become “Standard Practice” for all manufacturers. Therefore, the FDA is currently circulating a new guidance in draft form to clarify this requirement (http://bit.ly/2013-MDR-Draft-Guidance).

If you need help with training on complaint handling or Medical Device Reporting, please download our free webinar: (http://bit.ly/chvg_mda).

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Where to Focus Your Medical Device Complaint Handling Training

%name Where to Focus Your Medical Device Complaint Handling Training

Medical Device Academy performed a data analysis of FDA 483s for 2013, and identified 4 areas of focus for your medical device complaint handling training. 

One of the challenges of creating a strong training curriculum is the need for practical examples. This is why there are lots of stories about real-life companies and products in every Medical Device Academy training event. We learn more from our painful mistakes than we do from our success stories. When you recall product, report deaths involving a product your company made, or if you receive a Warning Letter—these are events that we will never forget.

Medical Device Academy recently posted a blog (http://bit.ly/outsourcing-complaints) about complaint handling, because this is one of the most common areas identified in FDA Form 483s and Warning Letters. Therefore, if you are trying to develop training on the topic of complaint handling (i.e., 21 CFR 820.198), then you should look for examples from your competitor’s mistakes. The following is a list of places you should look:

  1. Past inspection reports issued to your company by the FDA
  2. Any inspection reports or Warning Letters about your competitors that become public
  3. Other Warning Letters that mention complaint handling as an issue

Here’s an example of the type of 483 observation you might find: “Failure to adequately establish and maintain procedures for receiving, reviewing, and evaluating complaints by a formally designated unit, as required by 21 CFR 820.198(a).”

The example above identifies five different problems with a complaint process:

  1. You need a procedure 
  2. You need to designate a complaint handling unit
  3. You need to define the process for receiving complaints
  4. You need to define the process for reviewing complaints
  5. You need to define the process for evaluating complaints

21 CFR 820.198 is a prescriptive requirement in the regulations. Therefore, you not only need to create a procedure specifically for complaint handling, but you also need to ensure each element of the requirement is satisfied. This is important, because FDA inspectors will verify that your procedure includes each element.

Medical Device Academy performed a data analysis of FDA inspection reports for FY2013 (http://bit.ly/Form483-FY2013) in order to identify other common mistakes related to complaint handling. The data analysis of FDA inspection reports for FY2013 identified that there are actually 15 individual citations related to complaint handling that the FDA identified using the TURBO EIR System (http://bit.ly/FDA483s). The table below summarizes the frequencies of these 15 sub-sections that were referenced in citations during FY2013 under the complaint handling category: 

483 Where to Focus Your Medical Device Complaint Handling Training

Medical Device Complaint Handling Training: 4 Critical Areas of Focus

The above table identifies several other sub-sections that present problems for companies. Based upon the data analysis, your company should also be training your complaint handling unit in the following four critical areas:

  1. Maintaining complaint files
  2. Reviewing and evaluating complaints for the need to perform an investigation
  3. Documenting complaint investigations in your complaint files
  4. Determining whether a complaint is reportable under 21 CFR 803

The fourth area is one of the most important, because these complaints involve injury, death and product malfunction. Therefore, you might consider reviewing the TPLC database (http://bit.ly/FDATPLC) for MDRs. The best data to review is data for the same product codes that your company distributes, but reviewing any MDRs can teach your employees which types of incidents need to be reported. This area will also receive increased scrutiny with the recent changes to 21 CFR Part 803 (http://bit.ly/udpated-21CFR803).

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A Gap Analysis Tool for Updating Your Medical Device Reporting Procedure

new 803 A Gap Analysis Tool for Updating Your Medical Device Reporting Procedure This blog shows you where to find the new FDA regulation for medical device reporting (http://bit.ly/udpated-21CFR803) and the associated guidance document (http://bit.ly/Part803-Guidance). There is also an explanation of how to perform a gap analysis to compare your procedure for medical device reporting against the new 21 CFR 803 (http://bit.ly/Old-21CFR803).

On January 22, 2014, Medical Device Academy posted a blog about how to create your own FDA medical device regulatory updates: http://bit.ly/4Ways-to-Follow-CDRH. That post identified a number of sources on the FDA website where you can locate information about new and revised FDA regulatory requirements. One suggestion was to register for receiving the RSS feeds from the following page: http://bit.ly/CDRH-news-updates. This page is where the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH – http://bit.ly/FDA-CDRH) posts news and updates.

If you registered for the RSS feed from CDRH, then you received an update on February 13, 2014 announcing the new Part 803 regulation for medical device reporting. This is NOT a cause for alarm. The fundamental change is simple:

Medical device manufacturers will no longer be allowed to submit FDA Form 3500A in paper form. It will need to be submitted electronically through the Electronic Submissions Gateway (ESG) (http://bit.ly/ESG-FDA).

ESG Sign-up

This is just another small step for the FDA to move toward digital records, and to integrate with electronic medical records from healthcare providers. The FDA even created a presentation explaining the process for electronic Medical Device Reporting (eMDR). This 8 minute and 45 second presentation is available on the CDRH Learning page: http://bit.ly/CDRH-Learn. Slide 5 of the FDA’s presentation identifies the six steps for obtaining an account for an ESG:

  1. Get a test account with the ESG
  2. Send a letter to authenticate your digital identity (http://bit.ly/Non-repudiation-Letter)
  3. Get a digital certificate
  4. Contact CDRH (eMDR@fda.hhs.gov)
  5. Test sending an MDR to CDRH
  6. CDRH approves production account with the ESG

I have been recommending that my clients switch from submission of the paper FDA Form 3500A to eMDR since 2010, when this training became available. Now, you have 18 months to switch over to eMDR before the August 14, 2015 deadline for implementation. Alternatively, you can also outsource your eMDR reporting to a  service provider that already has an ESG (http://bit.ly/outsourcing-complaints).

Comparison of Current & New Regulations

The first step in understanding the specific changes to the regulation is to compare the old and new versions. The new Part 803 regulation for MDR was released as a PDF document, and therefore it does not lend itself to a direct comparison with the previous version of the regulation. Therefore, Medical Device Academy downloaded the new regulation (http://bit.ly/udpated-21CFR803), and copied and pasted each section into a Word document. We also did this for the current version (http://bit.ly/Old-21CFR803). Then, we compared the two Word documents electronically. Finally, we wrote a gap analysis to summarize the differences between the two documents. If you would like to download this gap analysis, please visit the following webpage: http://bit.ly/21_cfr_803_gapanalysis.

Gap Analysis of Your Medical Device Reporting Procedure

After you download the gap analysis tool that Medical Device Academy created, then you need to perform your own gap analysis of your current MDR procedure against the changes in Part 803. You should create a table with one column identifying the section of the regulations, a second column identifying the section(s) of your current MDR procedure that meet the requirements, and a third column to identify changes that need to be made. You might consider adding additional columns for delegating the responsibility of revising various sections of your procedure, and implementing other tasks listed below (e.g., obtaining an account for ESG).

Next Steps

  1. Download the gap analysis of the new and old versions of 21 CFR 803
  2. Review and update your own MDR procedure to address the changes to 21 CFR 803 which are identified in the gap analysis
  3. Apply for an ESG WebTrader account for Low Volume/Single Reports
  4. Revise your training requirements for anyone responsible for MDRs:
    1. Complete all four applicable CDRH online trainings (http://bit.ly/CDRH-Learn)
    2. Pass a quiz demonstrating training effectiveness (http://bit.ly/TrainingExams)
    3. Review the draft procedure for potential errors or sections that are unclear
    4. Make any final revisions to the procedure based upon feedback from trainees
    5. Implement your revised procedure

If you need help completing the above steps, please contact Medical Device Academy by emailing Rob Packard, or by visiting the webpage for Medical Device Academy’s Complaint Handling and Vigilance group (http://bit.ly/chvg_mda).

Posted in: Complaint Handling

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7 Considerations for Outsourcing Medical Device Complaints

 

complaint handling 7 Considerations for Outsourcing Medical Device Complaints

Investigating medical device complaints can be a time consuming task. This blog reviews 7 considerations for outsourcing medical device complaints.

Two different clients of mine recently mentioned that they are overwhelmed by the amount of time required to investigate complaints, and to file MDRs with the FDA. I suggested outsourcing the complaint handling to a third-party service provider, but they were unaware of any suppliers with that capability.

I already was familiar with several suppliers offering these services, but I wanted to know if there were companies looking for these services. Therefore, I decided to post a discussion on one of the LinkedIn groups I manage: http://bit.ly/LinkedIn-ComplaintThread. In just two days, there were 21 different comments. Most of these were from consultants offering their services, but their comments were helpful. For example:

  1. “The majority of complaint handling work typically involves a high volume of less critical tasks. Routine things like ensuring all potential complaints are entered into your system, requesting additional information when its needed, documenting updates when they are received, or drafting complaint/reportability decisions based on company policy are all tasks that can easily be performed by a well-qualified service provider for significantly less than if they were done domestically.”  – Matts Bell
  2. “Direct input into ESG is much better and easier than an additional third party software package, as ESG does change often and the software companies are not keeping up. Keep in mind that each change digs deeper into the quality system and information. What is acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow as the validation keys within ESG tighten.” – Courtland Imel
  3. “I too have provided outsourced complaint, NCMR and CAPA investigations, customer contacts, and root cause analysis to final disposition, sometimes in an FDA remediation project. But it requires active involvement on the part of the client company, with periodic meetings to discuss each case/its resolution, as well as identified trends/their resolution.” – John E. Lincoln
  4. “In the case of adverse events identified through the litigation process, the company cannot contact the complainant directly because the case is in litigation…Utilizing an appropriate third party service provider to work with you on this process can make this type of adverse event reporting fast, efficient and cost effective.” – Melissa Becker

It is true that parts of complaint investigations must be performed internally—such as failure analysis. You also cannot outsource responsibility for review and approval of complaint records or MDRs. However, suppliers can provide trained personnel that are capable of initiating and completing complaint records, performing follow-up with complainants, and determining if complaints are reportable to the FDA and other countries around the world. One of the suppliers I interviewed actually has the capability to translate adverse event reports for countries that require reporting of adverse events in languages other than English, and they have a professional translator verify accuracy. Some personnel even have a medical background (e.g., nursing).

7 Considerations for Outsourcing Medical Device Complaints 

  1. Find a supplier that has many years of experience helping medical device manufacturers with complaint handling and adverse event reporting (no rookies)
  2. Ask for a demo of the software—web-based software is best (I’ll explain why shortly)
  3. Ask to see their complaint handling procedure and perform a procedure review
  4. Ask how the supplier handles complaint investigations when product is not returned (http://bit.ly/DeviceNotReturned)
  5. Verify that the rationale for MDR decisions is based upon the FDA requirements in 21 CFR 803 (http://bit.ly/Part803), and vigilance decisions are based upon MEDDEV 2.12/1 (http://bit.ly/MEDDEV2-12-1rev8)
  6. Ensure that the software system has tracking of timelines for complaint handling and reporting already built-in
  7. Ensure the electronic forms are adequately designed for capturing information—not just yes/no checkboxes everywhere

Why is web-based software better than hosted?

The US FDA is moving quickly toward Electronic Submission Gateways (ESGs) as the preferred method of submissions (http://bit.ly/Why-FDA-ESG). Unfortunately, there are frequent changes to ESGs that require software modifications and revalidation (http://bit.ly/ESG-FDA). Therefore, unless you prefer to have a full-time person responsible for revalidation of software, web-based software solutions are typically your best choice for regulatory submission software tools. It’s also convenient to be able to access records and print them out for an FDA inspector from any computer. This eliminates any possibility of a 483 being issued against 21 CFR 820.198(f) (http://bit.ly/820-198).

Posted in: Complaint Handling

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