FDA to allow alternative respiratory devices to treat COVID-19


The Food and Drug Administration identified a number of medical devices that can be used to help treat patients suffering from COVID-19 if ventilators are not available. “Whenever possible, health care facilities should use FDA-cleared conventional/standard full-featured ventilators when necessary to support patients with respiratory failure, or a device subject to an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), if any,” FDA stated in a guidance document issued March 22.

FDA icon

“However, to help ensure the availability of the greatest possible number of devices for this purpose, ... FDA does not intend to object to limited modifications to indications, claims, functionality, or to the hardware, software, or materials of FDA-cleared devices used to support patients with respiratory failure or respiratory insufficiency, without prior submission of a premarket notification” for the duration of the declared national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in a statement that the agency is doing everything it can to support patients, health care professionals, and others during this pandemic.

“One of the most impactful steps we can take is to help with access and availability to life-saving medical treatments,” he said. “Our policy issued today demonstrates our ability to react and adapt quickly during this pandemic and help very ill patients access the lifesaving ventilator support they need. To do that, we are providing maximum regulatory flexibility to facilitate an increase in ventilator inventory, while still providing crucial FDA oversight. We believe this action will immediately increase ventilator availability.”

The document identified examples of where modifications would not create undue risk, including the use of powered emergency ventilators and anesthesia gas machines for patients needing mechanical ventilation; the use of ventilators outside of their cleared environment; the use of devices used to treat patients with sleep apnea, such as CPAPs and BiPAPs, to treat respiratory insufficiency when appropriate design mitigations are in place to minimize aerosolization; and the use of oxygen concentrators for primary supply when medically necessary and clinically appropriate.

The agency also is allowing for changes to the hardware, software, and materials to FDA-cleared ventilators and anesthesia gas machines, such as modifications to motors, batteries, or other electrical components; material changes to components in the gas pathways or with other patient tissue contact; the introduction of filtration to minimize aerosolization; and other hardware and software modifications.

FDA is also allowing for products to be used past their indicated shelf life.

Next Article: