On December 8, FDA addressed the agency’s evolving approach to digital health by issuing two new draft guidance documents: “Clinical and Patient Decision Support Software” (the “CDS Draft Guidance”) and “Changes to Existing Medical Software Policies Resulting From Section 3060 of the 21st Century Cures Act” (the “Software Policies Draft Guidance”). These draft guidances announce the agency’s initial interpretation of the health software provisions enacted as part of last year’s 21st Century Cures Act (the “Cures Act”).
Given the rapid pace of digital health innovation across the life sciences, technology and health care sectors, FDA guidance on these topics is critical. Here are a few key takeaways from the draft guidances:
- FDA’s initial interpretation of the Cures Act provision related to clinical decision support (CDS) software may lead to a fairly narrow carve-out—in other words, many cutting-edge CDS software functions could remain subject to FDA regulation.
- FDA’s draft guidances do not directly address dynamic digital health solutions, such as those that incorporate machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), or blockchain.
- FDA has proposed an enforcement discretion approach for decision support software aimed at patients that generally parallels the regulatory approach for CDS software aimed at clinicians, even though patient decision software was not addressed directly in the Cures Act.
- Consistent with the Cures Act, FDA’s draft guidances reflect that many of the software functions that were previously subject to FDA enforcement discretion (i.e., not actively regulated as devices) no longer meet the definition of “device.”
- Significant for pharmaceutical companies, CDER joined one of the draft guidances, and that draft guidance makes clear that other FDA requirements may apply to digital health products disseminated by or on behalf of a drug sponsor beyond those outlined in the draft guidance.
FDA’s regulatory approach has a significant impact on the investment in and development of digital health solutions across the digital health ecosystem. Stakeholders should consider submitting comments to the agency to help shape the direction of FDA’s final guidances on these topics.