As many in the sector know, from this year all new medical devices sold in the EU must comply with new Medical Device Regulation (MDR) requirements. But how well prepared are manufacturers as the deadline approaches, and what challenges remain that you maybe haven’t reckoned with?
A Shock to The System?
Let’s be honest: many medical device manufacturers have been caught off-guard by just how demanding a process change this fundamental is proving to be. Preparing for MDR has been a colossal catch-up exercise for many, as until now, certainly as compared to the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, the medical device industry has been operating under a more relaxed device identification, traceability, and product lifecycle monitoring and reporting regime.
This, added to the relative size of many of the firms involved, has meant processes such as global labeling management have not been a board-level priority — but that must now change, as disjointed approaches to preparing different types of labeling output does not lend itself well to the kinds of controls the EU is now asking for.
Labeling Moves to Center Stage
Incidents like the PIP breast implant scandal of 2009/2010 triggered all the new safety measures coming through, and this is what MDR is designed to avoid. But in the event of a safety scare and potential product recall, it will no longer be sufficient for patients and their medical consultants or pharmacy outlets to know which type of device has been affected — it must be possible to swiftly pinpoint and track down faulty batches of product in the market, for targeted remedial action. This is only realistic as a response if you have consistently reliable labeling.
To learn more about how companies are taking advantage of EU MDR to enhance their labeling processes download our white paper here.
Control & Visibility Are Your New Watchwords
Manufacturers cannot hope to keep on top of product identification and traceability, or manage this business process with enough efficiency, if they do not have clear visibility, control and systematic coordination across everything included on or with their products. And sorry, that’s through every channel, in every market.
The only way to ensure consistency and reliability is to have a single global source of labeling ‘truth’ that all market-facing materials flow from; one definitive place to update and check everything which any authorised team can access, anywhere in the world, supported by appropriate controls governing who can do what to, and with, the content assets.
… But Integrating and Harmonising Processes Takes Time
Arguably, the most significant impact MDR will have for the sector is around the scale of work involved. Many companies have drastically underestimated this, but the danger for companies who have left MDR preparations until the eleventh hour is that you will be forced by time pressures to do the minimum required for compliance, potentially compromising the internal business benefits.
Change Is Now Here for Good
Another sobering realisation: regulatory disruptions are not a one-time event. Any companies that haven’t taken the time to do things properly this time around face having to go through new upheaval next time new international requirements are introduced. And don’t forget that from May 2021 unique device identifier (UDI) codes/detailed product serialisation information will have to appear on all product labeling, a move which could well present further challenges for device manufacturers lacking a structured way of managing this.
So we have some challenges, yes. But it’s important to keep in mind the bigger picture here which is the job we all have around ensuring patient safety and trust. The requirements of MDR are just one part of this wider vision, so manufacturers should not limit their efforts to overhauling their approach to global labeling management by just looking at these specific requirements alone.