by Giuliana Miglierini
Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (IVDR), establishing the new legislative framework for in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs), will entry into force on 26 May 2022. The Medical Device Coordination Group (MDCG) has published an updated version of the Joint implementation and preparedness plan, discussing the priority actions to be implemented and monitored at the level of member states, Commission and MDCG.
The implementation of the IVDR is highly complex, as it requires a strict coordination between all the different stakeholders, including manufacturers, notified bodies, authorised representatives and laboratories. The IVD regulation has introduced a completely new device classification system for in vitro diagnostics, as well as a greater involvement of notified bodies in conformity assessment and new regulatory structures such as the EU reference laboratories and expert panels.
The Joint implementation plan is aimed to support the harmonised implementation of the new framework, a process led by the Commission and where member states are called to ensure the new provisions are effectively applied and enforced at national level.
Ongoing actions and future goals
As of January 2022, six notified bodies were already designated and the examination of other applications is undergoing. The Unique Device Identifier system that will support the punctual tracing of the devices has also been set up, while the Eudamed database is still under development. From the regulatory perspective, a number of new common specifications are being drafted; some guidance documents are already available while others are under development.
To smooth the impact of the transition and to prevent disruption in the supply of essential IVDs, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 has established the calendar for the transition of different classes of devices, i.e. 26 May 2025 for IVDs that fall in class D under the IVDR, 2026 for class C, 2027 for class B and A sterile.
The Joint implementation plan identifies two sets of priorities to be tackled by the stakeholders, on the basis of public health’s goals, patient safety and transparency. Set A includes essential actions to enable IVDs to maintain access to the market. Set B includes the development of other new pieces of legislation and guidance documents needed to better support the transition and the designation of EU reference laboratories for high-risk IVDs.
Set A, essential actions
Contingency planning and monitoring are the first priority to be met under Set A essential actions, in order to anticipate possible risks of IVDs’ shortages arising from the transition to the new framework. The MDCG will closely follow this process to monitor its progress and identify systemic risks and mitigation actions, with a particular attention to the availability of particularly critical IVDs.
Regular updates are also expected from the industry and notified bodies to inform member states and the Commission about the need of specific actions. This type of activity would also support the identification of barriers that could result in shortages of devices, e.g. with reference to the designation of notified bodies or the certification process. Stakeholders are also requested to be ready to manage some uncertainty in areas where guidance is still not available, thus requiring the provision of sound justifications to maintain critical IVDs on the market.
The second highest priority is the availability of a sufficient number of notified bodies to support the expected very high volume of applications for the certification of medium and high-risk IVDs. The plan indicates the need to make available national experts for the joint assessment of notified bodies. Member states should also address the need to improve the notified body capacity, discussing this issue within the MDCG and its specialised working groups as well as with the Commission. According to the Joint plan, the percentage of IVDs requiring certification under the new IVDR will rise up to 80-90%, from approx. 10% devices requiring involvement of a notified body under Directive 98/79/EC.
To facilitate this part of the transition, Regulation (EU) 2022/112 establishes that certificates issued under the Directive 98/79/EC are valid, under certain conditions, until May 2025. Renewals of existing certificates by a set of nineteen notified bodies designated under the current Directive is possibile, if necessary, up to 26 May 2022.
The plan also takes into consideration the possible occurrence of new Covid-19 restrictions, that may highly impact the work of the notified bodies (for example, due to the need to run first-time audits of many manufacturers). The Commission and the MDCG are thus called to consider how notified bodies can perform conformity assessment activities in such circumstances.
Set B, high priority actions
Actions included in set B are not essential for manufacturers to market their IVDs, but their implementation would support a smoother transition.
The EU reference laboratories are a new type of independent scientific body designated by the Commission to carry out additional tests on the performance and compliance with any common specifications of class D devices, before placing them on the market. If the Commission would not designate a EU reference laboratory for a particular device in class D, those requirements are not applicable. According to the Joint plan, a call for application to member states and the Joint Research Centre shall be issued by the Commission to nominate candidate laboratories. New implanting acts on tasks and criteria and on fees to be levied by the EU reference laboratories are also expected.
According to the IVDR, the adoption of common specifications (CS) is optional; nevertheless, the Joint plan indicates the intention of the Commission to propose some sets of common specifi cations and reach an agreement on the text that should enter the first adoption round. This should also lead to the adoption of the first implementing act containing the common specifications. This round should include common specifications relative to Kidd and Duffy blood grouping, Chagas and syphilis, and cytomegalovirus/Epstein-Barr virus devices, for which the drafting process is at an advanced phase.
New common specifications should be targeted to class D devices and will be developed by the IVD sub-group of the MDCG. Already existing CS under the old Directive should be transposed without major modifications.
A new implementing act on the MDR/IVDR standardisation request should be adopted by the Commission and accepted by relevant bodies (CEN/Cenelec). The Commission should also adopt the implementing acts on the publication in the Official Journal of references of harmonised European standards in support of the IVDR requirements.
Set B of actions include also the drafting and endorsement of a guidance on notified body designation codes, as well as of guidance on batch testing for notified bodies. New guidance may be also developed on significant changes and on appropriate surveillance, as referred to in Article 110(3) of IVDR. The MDCG should also complete the issuing of a new guidance on clinical evidence for IVDs, which is part of the documents needed to support the evaluation of the devices’ performances and the work of expert panels.
To this instance, the plan also indicates the need for a clarification on what constitutes a “type of device” and on the process to be followed by notified bodies in context of views of the expert panel. A template for summary of safety and performance should be also released, together with a template for the application/notification of performance studies. The issuing of an IVDR-specific guidance on harmonised administrative practices and alternative technical solutions until Eudamed is fully functional is also planned.
The joint plan also includes sections on actions required in the field of companion diagnostics, legacy devices and in-house devices.