FDA declines to scrutinize claims by “low risk” mhealth apps, devices. What’s the takeaway?

FDA said it will ease up vetting general health and wellness apps, but it will scrutinize clinical applications and devices. Does this mean the FTC will step up?

mdacne screengrab itune sapp store

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued final guidance on “low-risk” digital health apps and devices for general health management 18 months after it  came out with draft guidance.

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The document offers information on the kinds of apps and devices for which it will and won’t take action. Apps promoting or maintaining a healthy weight or to assist with weight loss goals and healthy eating are OK.  The guidance says that companies can make claims that their apps and devices can help with healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease or improve their management. But those lifestyle choices have to be advocated by the likes of the American Heart Association or American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist or peer-reviewed medical journals.

So what are some examples of what’s not OK? Claims that a product will treat or diagnose obesity, an eating disorder, such as bullimia or anorexia, or an anxiety disorder. Digital health entrepreneurs are also encouraged to ask themselves the following questions:

Is the product invasive?
Is the product implanted?
Does the product involve an intervention or technology that may pose a risk to
the safety of users and other persons if specific regulatory controls are not applied, such as risks from lasers or radiation exposure?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, they need to assume their products are considered clinical applications, will be scrutinized and should act accordingly.

My takeaway from the guidance is twofold. It’s a question of resources. Although there are thousands of general wellness apps, more and more medical device and pharma companies are developing digital health devices and apps of their own.  Second, the Federal Trade Commission has shown it is willing to take action against companies that it deems to be making false health claims about their apps and devices.

Image: MDacne app, iTunes