FDA Finalizes Guidance on Evaluation and Reporting of Age-, Race-, and Ethnicity-Specific Data in Medical Device Clinical Studies

October 8, 2017By McKenzie E. Cato & Allyson B. Mullen

In July of last year, FDA released a draft guidance on evaluation and reporting of age-, race-, and ethnicity-specific data in medical device clinical studies (see our post on the draft guidance here). On September 12, 2017, FDA released the final version of this guidance.

The stated objectives of the guidance are to:

  1. Encourage the collection and consideration during the study design stage of relevant age, race, ethnicity, and associated covariates for devices for which safety, effectiveness, or benefit-risk profile is expected to vary across these groups;
  2. Outline recommended analyses of study subgroup data, with a framework for considering demographic data when interpreting overall study outcomes; and
  3. Specify FDA’s expectations for reporting age-, race-, and ethnicity-specific information in summaries and labeling for approved or cleared medical devices.

This guidance is intended to extend and complement two earlier guidance documents on sex, race, and ethnicity data: Evaluation of Sex-Specific Data in Medical Device Clinical Studies (Dec. 2011) and Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data in Clinical Trials (Sept. 2005).

The guidance emphasizes that when “clinically relevant differences in treatment effect are anticipated across age, racial, or ethnic groups,” sponsors should consider proper clinical study design, proper enrollment of subgroups, and control of study-wise Type 1 error for overall and subgroup-specific hypothesis testing.” To that end, the guidance outlines specific recommendations for achieving appropriate enrollment; considering age, race, and ethnicity in study design, analysis, and interpretation of study results; and submitting age-, race-, and ethnicity-specific data in submissions to FDA and reporting in public documents.

The content of the final guidance document is largely unchanged compared to the draft guidance (outlined in detail in our previous post here). However, FDA was very responsive to suggested revisions from industry and other non-profit groups submitted to the Agency in comments on the proposed draft guidance.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) suggested additions to the guidance’s section on study design and the early enrollment stage. In particular, they suggested additional recommendations to enhance enrollment of relevant age, racial, and ethnic subgroups, such as creating materials appropriate for low-literacy populations, utilizing communication through electronic means and social media, and working with minority health professional organizations and patient advocacy groups. FDA incorporated all of these suggestions for enhanced enrollment strategies.

The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) made several specific suggestions, which FDA incorporated in the final guidance. For example, AdvaMed suggested that FDA delete a subsection titled “Special Study Design Considerations for Diagnostic Devices” because “[i]t is unclear why special study design considerations would only apply to diagnostic devices.” FDA took AdvaMed’s advice, and this subsection does not appear in the final guidance. Additionally, AdvaMed suggested that FDA state that hypotheses for exploratory (i.e., post-hoc) analyses should be consistent with the literature of the natural history of the disease and its prevalence in subgroups or be consistent with the known pathophysiology. The final guidance includes this statement in a section on interpretation of age-, race-, and ethnicity-specific data.

The 510(k) Coalition, which is a coalition of medical device companies, stated in its comment on the draft guidance that it would like clarification on whether a company should submit modified labeling if it determines post-clearance or approval that there are clinically meaningful age-, race-, and/or ethnicity-specific differences in disease course, outcomes, or benefit-risk profile. FDA added a statement to the guidance encouraging the use of postmarket data to “modify labeling to support additional information regarding device safety or effectiveness and/or to clarify how the device should be used.”

MED-EL, a manufacturer of implantable hearing systems, pointed out that FDA used an outdated example in its discussion of why it is important to consider age-specific differences. In the draft guidance, FDA stated that the use of cochlear implants in certain pediatric subgroups may not be advisable due to the size of the implant or may be inappropriate due to the stage of neurological development of the child. MED-EL explained in its comment that the cochlear implants it manufactures are indicated for patients one year of age or older. As a result, FDA did not include this example in the final guidance.

At least two groups (AAMC and Bridge Clinical Research) stated in their comments on the draft guidance that FDA should use stronger language in the guidance or promulgate regulations regarding increased diversity in clinical trials. For example, AAMC recommended that FDA suggest all studies consider collection of age, race, and ethnicity data, not solely those for which subgroup differences are anticipated. FDA did not appear to revise the guidance to include stronger language or suggest the possibility of future rulemaking on this topic. The requested expansion by AAMC could have presented a significant burden for devices in which there is no potential for differences in age, race, and ethnicity.

Two groups, the Patient, Consumer, and Public Health Coalition and the National Women’s Health Network recommended that FDA create an equivalent program to FDA’s “Drug Trials Snapshots” program for devices. FDA’s Drug Trials Snapshots summarize information about the demographics of people who participate in drug clinical trials and highlight whether there were any differences in benefits and side effects among sex, race, and age groups. FDA did not mention the possibility of creating a similar program for devices in the final guidance, but it will be interesting to see whether FDA makes device clinical trial demographic information available to the public in the future as a way to encourage compliance with the guidance. Certainly on the diagnostic side, we may see FDA expressly include this type of information in its decision summaries posted on FDA’s website.

* McKenzie E. Cato is a Law Clerk

Categories: Medical Devices