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FDA Releases its Final Guidance on Premarket Submissions for Device Software Functions

The FDA has released its final guidance on Premarket Submissions for Device Software Functions. Find out how this guidance differs from the previous version and what it means for the development and approval of your SaMD or medical device.

On June 14th, 2023, the FDA released its finalized guidance on premarket submissions for functions of software as a medical device (SaMD), officially titled, Content of Premarket Submissions for Device Software Functions: Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff. This 2023 guidance serves as an update to the previous document, Guidance for the Content of Premarket Submissions for Software Contained in Medical Devices, which was released in 2005.

This 2023 version comes with a number of changes that medical technology and software development companies need to be aware of before submitting software products to the FDA for approval. Below, we look at these important changes and what your company can do to prepare for the submission process.

Differences Between 2023 Release and 2005 Guidance

Given how much technology has evolved in the 18 years since the first device software guidance was published, it’s not surprising that this newest version comes with a host of changes. Most notably, this guidance takes a risk-based approach to what documentation is needed. The new guidance also takes into account new legislation passed concerning SaMD and offers additional recommendations for guidance based on the software or device in question.

Risk-Based Approach

In the original 2005 guidance, documentation requirements were based on which Level of Concern category the software fell into. Based on the potential risk to the user, the software was categorized as Major, Moderate, or Minor. 

These categories are eliminated in the newest version of the guidance. Instead, software falls into one of two submission categories: Basic or Enhanced. 

Enhanced documentation is required for device software that poses a greater risk to the user. This risk definition aligns with the previous definition of Major Level of Concern. That is, any software with the potential to result in death or serious injury. However, the definition of this new category emphasizes that the determination of risk should be applied before risk controls are considered. 

Any software that does not meet the definition of high risk, requires only Basic documentation. This category includes software that fell into the previous definitions of Moderate and Minor Levels of Concern. This change effectively simplifies the documentation process for device software not likely to cause death or injury.

Considerations of New Legislation

Many legislative changes have occurred since 2005 concerning medical devices and software. These changes are reflected in this newest guidance. 

Most notably, certain software functions have been removed from the guidance based on the 21st Century Cures Act, which redefined medical devices and removed certain functions from this designation. 

The 2023 guidance also takes into account Predetermined Change Control Plans. This change comes from the FDA’s draft guidance that was released back in March concerning authorization pathways for software containing AI and machine learning. Because this software is continuously learning and improving, a process of preauthorization for expected software evolution is necessary.

Additional Guidance Recommendations

The 2023 Guidance on Premarket Submissions for Device Software Functions includes a list of guidance documents considered a “subset of FDA guidances with digital health content relevant to premarket software documentation activities.”

These include:

Additionally, the 2023 guidance includes a short list of international software and medical technology standards that influenced its content. These include:

Understanding Premarket Submissions for Device Software Functions

Understanding FDA premarket submission requirements, such as those outlined in the FDA’s guidance on Premarket Submissions for Device Software Functions, is crucial for medical device companies.

Adhering to FDA regulations is required for MedTech companies to bring products to the market legally. Failure to comply with requirements can result in significant financial penalties, recalls, and reputational damage. Rigorous premarket submissions help the FDA evaluate the safety and effectiveness of device software before it’s available to patients and healthcare providers. Understanding and fulfilling these requirements ensures that only safe and effective devices reach the market, reducing the potential for patient harm.

Familiarity with the FDA’s premarket submission requirements allows companies to navigate the regulatory process more efficiently. A clear understanding of submissions, required documentation, and review timelines helps streamline the approval process, enabling faster market rollout while saving time and money.

If your medical device or software company is struggling to navigate this complex landscape or understand what premarket submission requirements are needed for your software products, Sequenex is here to help. Connect with us today to find out how we can help you with the approval process of your SaMD or medical device.

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