WASHINGTON — Makers of cardiac defibrillators, insulin pumps, breast implants and other medical devices might be able to delay reporting dangerous malfunctions to the Food and Drug Administration under an agreement heading for a vote in Congress.
Device makers will still have to quickly report any injuries or deaths related to their products. They would have more time, though, to file reports on devices that may not be working properly, and have the potential for injury.
The deal is part of a pact between the F.D.A. and the $148 billion device industry. Renegotiated every five years, the agreement includes the fees that device makers must pay for the agency to review their products. It is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. […]
But consumer advocates point to recent problems where initial reports of device malfunctions did not involve any injuries, but later evidence — sometimes additional devices showing flaws or reports indicating patients were harmed — began to surface. They pointed to cardiac defibrillators that ran out of batteries; the power morcellator, designed for laparoscopic surgery to remove uterine fibroids, which spread cancer through patients’ bodies; a type of breast implant that is linked to a rare cancer; and the superbug-bearing duodenoscope, whose design flaws made it virtually impossible to disinfect. […]
Critics of relaxing the rules say this is not the right time to ease oversight when so much already goes undetected.
“It often takes months or even years for the F.D.A. to detect patterns of failure,” said Jack Mitchell, director of health policy for the National Center for Health Research in Washington. “Post-market surveillance of medical devices continues to be dangerously slow and clearly inadequate to protect patients from risky devices.” […]
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