In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommended that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) include cybersecurity review as a greater part of the premarket review process for medical devices. In particular, the report suggests including cybersecurity documentation as a criterion in the FDA’s Refuse-To-Accept (RTA) checklist, using presubmission meetings to address cybersecurity questions, and including cybersecurity as an element of the FDA’s Smart template.

The FDA has been ramping up its cybersecurity review lately to deal with increased cybersecurity concerns. For example, a ransomware attack caused an Indiana hospital to shut down its system. Other cyberattacks may have gone undetected.

Currently, the FDA reviews documentation that manufacturers submit regarding cybersecurity as part of the premarket submissions. The FDA uses this information to consider known cybersecurity risks and threats when reviewing submissions that deal with networked medical devices. The FDA may request additional information from applicants when submissions require clarification or when cybersecurity documentation is lacking. In view of these requests, the FDA regularly approves manufacturers on cybersecurity issues when sufficient documentation is provided.

For example, in one review of a glucose monitoring system, an FDA reviewer did not find “any information on how the manufacturer included cybersecurity in the device’s design,” according to the report. “The FDA reviewer explained that the device relied heavily on users to protect against cybersecurity threats by using antivirus software and enabling firewalls. The FDA reviewer requested that the manufacturer update its hazard analysis to address the missing information. The manufacturer did so, and FDA found the update to be acceptable.”

Because of examples like this, the report suggests using cybersecurity documentation as an element in the FDA’s RTA checklist. The RTA checklist is a screen against incomplete applications. Were cybersecurity part of these checklists, failure by a manufacturer to provide adequate cybersecurity documentation could prevent the FDA to accept the submission for substantive review.

The report also suggests that the FDA use presubmission meetings to address cybersecurity-related questions. These meetings serve as a way for manufacturers to ask the FDA specific questions, such as whether the submission satisfies the FDA’s standards. During these meetings, the FDA can include cybersecurity as part of the discussion, which may reduce the amount of time for the FDA review.

Finally, the report recommended that cybersecurity be a stand-alone element in the FDA’s Smart template. A dedicated section on cybersecurity could allow FDA reviewers to explain the results of their review regarding cybersecurity in a standard format.

The FDA has agreed with these recommendations and has begun taking steps to implement them, such as by including cybersecurity in the Smart template. The FDA also said that it “intends to update the RTA checklist and the accompanying guidance to specifically identify cybersecurity as an item in the checklist during the next update of these items.” The FDA is also currently considering new rules that may require submission of software as part of a premarket submission.