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Medical devices have historically been less regulated than their drug and biologic counterparts. A benefit of this less demanding regulatory regime is facilitating innovation by making new devices available to consumers in a timely fashion. Nevertheless, there is increasing concern that this approach raises serious public health and safety concerns. The Institute of Medicine in 2011 published a critique of the American pathway allowing moderate-risk devices to be brought to the market through the less-rigorous 501(k) pathway,1 flagging a need for increased postmarket review and surveillance. High-profile recalls of medical devices, such as vaginal mesh products, along with reports globally of nearly two million injuries and more than 80,000 deaths linked to faulty medical devices,2 have raised public health critiques regarding the oversight of these products. Should we follow the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine to reduce the use of the 510(k) pathway, and, if so, what should replace it? What would an ideal regulatory pathway, reflecting the twin goals of innovation and patient protection, look like in the twenty-first century? These questions are complicated by new tools and mechanisms that can be used to achieve our goals. For example, in an era of big data, where we have the capabilities to better follow postmarket incidents, what should postmarket review look like?


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