This article defines the 510k content format for an FDA 510k pre-market notification submission in accordance with the September 13, 2019, FDA guidance.
What is a 510k?
A 510k submission is a pre-market notification submission to the FDA. The “510(k)” designation refers to the applicable section and sub-section of the Food Drug & Cosmetic Act. The “pre-market” designation is a reminder that companies must submit a 510k submission before marketing their products. Finally, the “notification” part of the phrase is used instead of the word “approval” because the FDA does not consider the 510k review process to be an endorsement or approval of your product. Instead, the 510k review process is a review by the FDA to determine if your product meets the requirements of substantial equivalence with a predicate device. The FDA initially performs a prescreening of the 510k submission to verify that it meets the minimum requirements for 510 content format. Then during the 510k substantive review process, the reviewer must answer six questions in the substantial equivalence decision tree:
- Is the predicate device legally marketed?
- Do the devices have the same intended use?
- Do the devices have the same technological characteristics?
- Do the different technical characteristics of the devices raise different questions of safety and effectiveness?
- Are the methods acceptable?
- Do the data demonstrate substantial equivalence?
The 510k process was not intended to be the primary process for regulatory approval by the FDA. The 510k process was intended to be a simplified approach for clearance of devices that are of moderate-risk and similar in design and intended use to another moderate-risk device that is already on the market. However, the process was manipulated as a loophole by device companies to avoid the more rigorous pre-market approval (PMA) process that requires conducting a clinical investigation.
Recent changes to the 510k review process are much deeper than the 510k content format
In approximately 2010, the FDA gradually started making changes to the 510k process. The FDA started publishing more guidance documents specifying both collateral guidance documents that apply to all device classifications (e.g., biocompatibility and human factors ), and particular guidance documents that apply to only a small number of product classifications (e.g., CADe). In 2012, the FDA implemented a new policy called the Refusal to Accept (RTA) Policy for 510(k)s. The FDA implemented this policy to improve the general quality of 510k submissions. All submissions are now subject to a 15-day review of the 510k content format to ensure that the submission includes all 20 required sections required by the FDA, the submission includes a table of contents and page numbering, and the various sections of the 510k include basic elements that are frequently forgotten by companies. Initially, more than 60% of the 510k submissions were rejected during the RTA screening process. Still, submissions have improved, and training of the FDA personnel performing the RTA screening has resulted in a more consistent application of the RTA policy. The FDA also systematically converted each of the remaining Class 3 devices that were eligible for 510k clearance to Class 3 devices requiring a PMA. The most recent changes were the elimination of requiring the submission to include a printed hardcopy of the submission (i.e., FDA eCopy only) and no longer allowing predicates that are more than ten years old.
FDA requirements for 510k Content Format
The FDA requires that your 510k submission is organized into 20 sections as described in section V of the table of contents of the September 13, 2019, FDA 510k guidance document. The FDA no longer requires a hardcopy of the submission. Now the FDA only requires an electronic copy (i.e., FDA eCopy) with a hardcopy of the 510k cover letter. The cover letter may be included in the eCopy, but it is not required. The FDA eCopy guidance document was updated on December 16, 2019.
The FDA eCopy guidance gives you the option of organizing the 20 sections of a 510k into 20 volumes with multiple documents in each volume or to submit sequentially numbered documents. The word “volume” refers to electronic folders in the FDA eCopy rather than physical binders. There is no right or wrong choice regarding volumes—if your eCopy uploads. The answer to this question is personal preference. The FDA recommends that multiple volumes be used for more extensive submissions, but using the same process for every 510(k) submission makes submission teams more efficient. It also is more comfortable for the FDA to navigate between documents when they are not in separate volumes. Therefore, the document structure is generally best for the FDA, and the volume structure is usually best for the company to prevent the need for renumbering files and file names. We always use the volume structure for every submission, even pre-submissions. Submissions are organized into 20 volumes to match the 20 sections of a 510k submission. If we include an RTA Checklist, then we add a 21st volume. The FDA recommends using the 21st volume for miscellaneous appendices, but the volume structure of the submission makes it easy to insert miscellaneous content directly into the applicable sections by adding documents after the initial section summary document.
Overall Numbering or Numbering within Sections?
Again, this is a personal preference. However, there are always last-minute changes to documents. Therefore, whichever numbering system you use should minimize the need for the last-minute renumbering of the entire submission. This is especially painful when you number the overall submission, and then you add a page to the middle of the submission when you are trying to ship out your submission that day. By numbering only the sections, you reduce the amount of rework required. Our firm deviates slightly from the “numbering within sections” requirement. In the table of contents, we indicate how many pages are associated with each document in a volume, and then we start each document with page 1. One FDA reviewer recently requested that we modify this to “page x of y,” where “x” is the page number of that document, and “y” is the total number of pages in the document. Therefore, we updated all of our templates to reflect the “page x of y” format for page numbering.
510k Format Content: Using Your Table of Contents for Project Management
When I was less experienced, I used project management software and action item lists to manage submission projects. Experience has taught me to simplify. Now I only use an action item list to track the progress of individual tasks. To track the overall submission, I now use the table of contents as my project management “report.” If you color-code the rows of your table of contents, you can communicate the status of each document in the submission. At the beginning of the project, all the rows indicate documents are not yet started—signified by the color red. Once I being a document, I change the color to yellow. Finally, when the document is completed, I change the color of the row to green. Three documents require the signature of the official correspondent with the FDA:
- 510k Cover Letter
- Certification Regarding Confidentiality
- Truthful and Accuracy Statement
Once these three documents are completed, they still need a signature that should only be applied just before we prepare the eCopy. Therefore, I signify the status of documents waiting for signatures with blue rows. A couple of people struggle with reformatting row colors, but every single person on your team will understand that they want the table of contents to gradually change from red, to yellow and finally to 100% green.