This article explains the content and format of a special controls guidance document issued for Class 2 medical devices regulated by the CDRH division of the US FDA.
There are many differences between Class 1 and Class 2 medical devices regulated by the FDA, but one of the primary differences is that many (not all) Class 2 medical devices have a special controls guidance document. Class 1 devices only have “general controls.” These “special” guidance documents can be found on the FDA website by searching the guidance document database. The title of each guidance document typically begins with “Class II Special Controls Guidance Document.” The middle of each title specifies the device type, and the end of the title states, “- Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff.” However, there are many exceptions.
Status of a Special Controls Guidance Document
A guidance document may be a final guidance or a draft guidance. Only the final guidance is considered official, however, draft guidance often indicate what the FDAs current thinking is on a topic. Draft guidance documents sometimes take years before they are approved as a final guidance. Sometimes the draft is so controversial that it will even be withdrawn. The FDA also publishes a list each year of planned guidance documents for the next fiscal year. Some of the final versions of special controls guidance documents were written in the 1990’s, but these documents remain the current final guidance until a new final guidance is approved. Often there is no urgent need to update a guidance document, because there are one or more active ISO Standards specific to the product classification and the standard(s) is recognized by the FDA.
Outline of a Recent Special Controls Guidance Document
Here is the general outline that is currently being used by the FDA for a special control guidance document for Class 2 devices:
- Topic – Background
- Pre-Market Notification – Background
- Risks to Health
- Specific Device Description Requirements
- Performance Studies
- Device Specific Labeling
Each product classification has the potential for slightly different requirements due to the differences in types of devices. For example, in vitro diagnostic products do not have animal studies and typically have human clinical study requirements for the performance section of the guidance document. However, an implant is more likely to have details about the materials of construction, biocompatibility and sterilization.
Searching the Guidance Database
There are 8 fields that are searchable for the guidance database.
- Date Issued
- FDA Organization
- Document Type
- Draft or Final
- Open for Comment
- Comment Closing Date on Draft
For a De Novo application, I sometimes need to create a proposed draft special controls guidance. For this activity, I prefer to find a representative template. In order to do this, I will typically use four of these search fields. First, I narrow the product field to “medical devices” and the FDA organization to “CDRH.” Second, I select “guidance documents” for the document type. Finally, I select “premarket” for the subject and “final.” This narrows the list to 374 documents. Not all of the 374 documents are specific to a product classification, because some of these documents cover more general premarket issues such as risks of wireless telemetry.
You can further narrow your search by adding a word or words to the keyword search field. Therefore, if you are looking for a specific guidance you can find it very quickly.
Format of Special Controls Guidance Documents
If you submit a proposed draft guidance to the FDA (anyone can do this), there is no specific required format. However, I recommend copying the most recent format used by the FDA in order to minimize the amount of work required by the FDA for modifying the guidance prior to publishing your guidance as a draft. You also do not need to include all the sections of a guidance. Some of the guidance documents only update certain sections where technological characteristics have recently changed significantly. Most importantly, if you have a strong reason for deviating from what the FDA has always done–do it. The format of guidance documents has changed since the 90’s and will continue to do so.
If you are preparing a premarket notification (i.e., 510k submission), you might have more questions than just guidance document availability. You might be interested in purchasing “How to Prepare Your 510k in 100 Days” or the on-line 510k Course or one of our Live 510k Workshops.