March 27, 2019 – Kaiser Health News – FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced in a tweet Wednesday that the agency plans to release hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of previously unpublished injury and malfunction reports tied to about 100 medical devices. “We’re now prioritizing making ALL of this data available,” Gottlieb tweeted.
A recent Kaiser Health News investigation revealed the scope of a hidden reporting pathway for device makers, with the agency accepting more than 1.1 million such reports since the start of 2016.
Device makers for nearly 20 years were able to quietly seek an “exemption” from standard, public harm-reporting rules. Devices with such exemptions have included surgical staplers and balloon pumps used in the vessels of heart-surgery patients.
Gottlieb’s tweet also referenced the challenge in opening the database, saying it “wasn’t easily accessible electronically owing to the system’s age. But it’s imperative that all safety information be available to the public.”
The agency made changes to the “alternative summary reporting” program in mid-2017 to require a public report summarizing data filed within the FDA. But nearly two decades of data remained cordoned off from doctors, patients and device-safety researchers who say they could use it to detect problems.
Gottlieb’s announcement was welcomed by Madris Tomes, who has testified to FDA device-review panels about the importance of making summary data on patient harm open to the public.
“That’s the best news I’ve heard in years,” said Tomes, president of Device Events, which makes the FDA device-harm data more user-friendly. “I’m really happy that they’re taking notice and realizing that physicians who couldn’t see this data before were using devices that they wouldn’t have used if they had this data in front of them.”