In its August 19 guidance for Investigation Device Exemption (IDE) Clinical Investigators, the FDA attempts to better outline its thought process for reviewing, accepting, accepting with conditions, or denying an IDE. It can literally be a matter of life and death for patients and trial subjects. Thus, the agency and industry continue to take it seriously.
FDA approval of an IDE allows the initiation of subject enrollment in a clinical investigation of a medical device that has potentially significant risks — widely defined as a device that could pose a serious health risk or death to the user, is used to support to prolong life, or is part of a diagnosis tool also being used to support or sustain life.
The guidance covers a number of important areas, some with new wrinkles, including:
FDA must inform sponsors or sponsor-investigator of its decision, or must notify the sponsor that the investigation may not begin, within 30 days from the date of receipt of the IDE application, or the IDE application will be deemed approved. If an IDE application is approved or approved with conditions, the sponsor may begin subject enrollment, up to the number of subjects and investigational sites specified in FDA’s decision letter, upon receipt of Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, which may occur prior to FDA approval.
An IDE application is approved if FDA has determined that: the sponsor has provided sufficient data to support initiation of a human clinical study; no subject protection concerns preclude initiation of the investigation; and no additional conditions must be met.
IDE Approval with Conditions
FDA has clarified matters here somewhat, and appears to have given industry a touch more leeway if used wisely and safely.
If FDA approves an IDE application with conditions, the sponsor may begin subject enrollment upon receipt of IRB approval and in accordance with the limits described in FDA’s decision letter, including the maximum numbers of U.S. subjects and investigational sites, and must submit information addressing the issues identified as conditions of approval in FDA’s letter within 45 days.
An IDE application is approved with conditions if FDA has determined that: the sponsor has provided sufficient data to support initiation of subject enrollment in a human clinical study; no subject protection concerns preclude initiation of subject enrollment; but additional conditions must be met to address certain outstanding issues.
Previously known as “conditional approval,” the phrase “approval with conditions” is now used to convey that the outstanding issues do not raise concerns that preclude FDA from granting approval for initiation of subject enrollment in the clinical investigation. FDA now says resolution of those issues isn’t required prior to initiation of subject enrollment in the study, except for certain issues related to the informed consent document.
The guidance reiterates how seriously FDA takes clear, simply informed consent forms for trial participants, noting it “closely reviews” those as part of an IDE determination.
Staged Approval, Staged Approval with Conditions
In the guidance, FDA says it may grant IDE approval or approval with conditions for a portion of the intended study cohort, enabling certain outstanding questions to be answered concurrently with enrollment in this cohort. Staged approval permits the clinical investigation to begin in a timely manner while maintaining appropriate subject protections. In some cases, the sponsor proposes a staged enrollment in the IDE application. In other cases, the sponsor requests approval for the full subject cohort but the agency may decide to grant staged approval for a limited number of subjects as an alternative to outright disapproving the IDE.
Broadly speaking, little has changed here in regards to what the FDA deems most important in an IDE request. If the agency raises patient risk issues the device company cannot adequately address, and/or if the device maker is unable to persuade the FDA that the product is important enough (e.g. life-saving) to quality for IDE designation, it will get the thumbs down.
The agency says it will send a letter discussing any rejection or question about an IDE request. The letter should include the agency’s thoughts on how the study design assessment, considerations, and other suggested improvements the device maker should consider if it plans to try again.