4.2 Regulatory Basics

Chapter 4.2
Additional Resources

As noted throughout Chapter 4.2, regulatory issues require expert assistance fairly early in the biodesign innovation process.   However, it is extremely useful for the innovator to develop a first-hand sense of which regulatory pathway is likely to be required for a particular device concept.  The steps below have been excerpted from the chapter and are presented with active web links to assist innovators in getting started.

Confirm the Appropriate Regulatory Branch

  1. What to Cover – Determine which branch of the FDA is most likely to regulate the device under development (for most medical devices this will be CDRH).
  2. Where to Look
    • Is the Product a Medical Device? – Information on the FDA website that defines requirements for medical device categorization.
    • Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act – Chapter II of the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic act specifies the precise definition of what the FDA considers a drug or device.

Classify the Device

  1. What to Cover – Search the FDA’s device classification database and the device classification panels to ensure that the best possible classification decision can be made. Be aware that comparable products may have several different classifications. Finding as many comparable products as possible will help narrow the range of classification options and submission types for the product under development. Collect the following information for each one: device class name, seven-digit regulation number, class number, submission type, physician review panel. Even if a device is quite novel, it may be possible to classify components of the product or utilize similar products as a guide. If the above methods do not result in a classification, use the CDRH Super Search. When performing a search, use the manufacturer, brand name, or common name for one or more similar products.
  2. Where to Look -
    • FDA Classification Database – A FDA search page that enables a user to classify a device based on the device name, review panel, regulation number, product code, submission type, third-party eligibility, and device class.
    • Device Classification Panels – This FDA website lists the medical specialties used to review medical devices. Selecting the most likely specialist that would use the product under development enables the user to see the seven-digit device classifications categorized within the specialty.
    • CDRH Super Search – Allows individuals to search through multiple FDA databases, including the device listing database, 510(k) and PMA databases, Products Classification database, the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Title 21 database, and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) database. For device classification purposes, the first four databases listed above will prove most useful.

Determine the Regulatory Pathway

  1. What to Cover – Depending on the device classification, determine if it is necessary and appropriate to pursue a 510(k) or a PMA path (or if the device may be exempt). The key question is: can a reasonable argument be made that the new product combines features of products that were on the market prior to 1976, products that themselves have been cleared through the 510(k) pathway, or exempt products? If so, the 510(k) pathway is probably appropriate. In practice, it can be difficult to be certain which pathway to take and help from a regulatory expert will ultimately be necessary.
  2. Where to Look
    • Device Advice – CDRH’s self-service site for obtaining information concerning medical devices and the application/submission processes.
    • CDRH Guidance Documents – Documents prepared for CDRH staff, regulated industry, and the public that relate to the processing, content, and evaluation of regulatory submissions, design, production, manufacturing, and testing of regulated products, as well as CDRH inspection and enforcement procedures.
    • CDER and CBER Guidance Documents – Guidance documents (as defined above) for investigational new drugs.

Secure a Regulatory Consultant

  1. What to Cover – Look for regulatory advice from an expert early—at least by the time the team enters into the development strategy and planning stage of the biodesign innovation process.
  2. Where to Look
    • Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society – Ask for a contact in the local chapter nearest to the location of the company.
    • Personal Networks – Network with professionals in the field and ask for assistance in meeting and choosing a regulatory consultant. Board members and venture capitalists may have contacts in this area.


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