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Highlights

Americans depend on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide assurance that medical devices sold in the United States are safe and effective. FDA classifies medical device types into three classes, with class I including those with the lowest risk to patients (such as forceps) and class III including those with the greatest risk (such as pacemakers). FDA's responsibilities include premarket and postmarket oversight--spanning, for example, both premarket review of devices and postmarket surveillance (the collection and analysis of data on marketed devices). These responsibilities apply to all devices marketed in the United States, regardless of whether they are manufactured domestically or overseas. In 2009, GAO added FDA's oversight of medical products, including devices, to its list of high-risk areas warranting attention by Congress and the executive branch. GAO was asked to testify on recent work related to FDA's responsibilities for medical devices, including premarket review, postmarket surveillance, and inspection of manufacturing establishments. This statement is based on a recent GAO report, Medical Devices: FDA Should Take Steps to Ensure That High-Risk Device Types Are Approved through the Most Stringent Premarket Review Process (GAO-09-190, January 15, 2009) and on other GAO reports and testimonies related to FDA oversight.

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