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CR poll: Americans want safer medical devices

Consumer Reports News: March 20, 2012 12:08 PM

Americans support stricter safety standards for medical devices, according to a new Consumer Reports poll. More than eight of 10 people in the survey said it was more important to prevent safety problems in the devices than it was to encourage innovation or avoid delays in getting them to market.

The poll was released as House and Senate Committees issued draft legislation to reauthorize the statute governing medical devices. Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, says that the House draft bill would weaken oversight of medical devices. And while the Senate draft improves protection for devices that are already on the market, it doesn't do enough to keep unsafe devices from being sold in the first place.

"Recent problems with metal hip implants and surgical mesh have shown how our current system fails to ensure medical devices are safe and effective, said Lisa Swirsky, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union.

Most medical devices don't require proof that they have been clinically tested and found to be safe and effective before they are cleared for distribution or sale by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to our poll, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 95 percent of respondents said that effective consumer protections for medical implants should include a nationwide system for tracking medical implants so patients can be notified about safety problems or recalls. Nearly one in five said they had a medical implant and almost half said that a family member or close personal friend had one.

The medical device industry has been pushing Congress to scale back oversight, in order to promote innovation and make it easier to get new devices approved.

"Congress should recognize that the public is far more concerned about making sure devices are safe and work than how quickly they are made available," Swirsky said.

Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project has called on Congress to require more rigorous safety testing before medical implants and life sustaining devices are allowed on the market and to establish a better system for monitoring devices after approval, including a national system for notifying doctors and patients when safety problems arise.

Consumer Reports Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Strong Medical Device Safety Oversight [Consumers Union]

Maggie Shader

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