FDA or MDR Approval: Which is Better for MedTech Startups?

FDA or MDR Approval Which is Better for MedTech Startups blog Consonance
One crucial decision startups face is whether to pursue certification from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Union’s Medical Device Regulation (MDR). Both regulatory bodies offer pathways for market approval, but understanding the advantages and suitability of each is essential for startup success. In this article, we explore the notable advantages of FDA or MDR and discuss which option may be better for MedTech startups.  

Medical Devices Approval Process

Ok, let’s start from the end. This might be quite useful to see the result to target before we dive into details. In the European Union (EU), the approval process operates on a decentralized basis. Devices that meet regulatory standards are marked with the Conformité Européenne (CE) mark. To attain this recognizable symbol, manufacturers undergo audits conducted by a Notified Body (NB), a preapproved organization authorized to assess technical evidence and manufacturing facilities for compliance. Upon meeting EU medical device regulations, approval is granted, allowing the application of the CE mark and the marketing of the device across Europe. However, specific country registrations may also be necessary. The duration of this approval process varies depending on the complexity of the medical device, ranging from several months to several years.

Contrastingly, in the United States, the approval process for medical devices falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA approval primarily focuses on ensuring the device’s safety and effectiveness for patients, users, and the environment, while the EU prioritizes compliance with the MDR medical device regulation.

Despite criticisms of both the U.S. and EU systems for lengthy approval times, the duration of approval hinges on various factors, including device complexity and risk level. In the EU, regulatory approval does not guarantee swift market entry, as additional bureaucratic processes can impede approvals. Ultimately, approval in both systems is contingent on adherence to either the MDR medical device regulation or U.S. FDA CFR.
FDA or MDR compliance is required for medical devices

FDA or MDR compliance is required for medical devices

Advantages of FDA Certification

Larger Healthcare Market Access

One significant advantage of FDA certification is the access it provides to the vast United States market. The U.S. healthcare market is the largest globally, offering significant opportunities for MedTech startups to scale and grow their businesses.

FDA certification enables startups to tap into a market with diverse healthcare systems and high demand for innovative medical technologies, potentially leading to faster adoption and revenue generation.

Familiarity with the Regulatory Environment

For startups with founders or key personnel familiar with the U.S. regulatory environment, pursuing FDA certification may offer a smoother and more efficient process. Familiarity with FDA regulations, including pre-market pathways such as the 510(k) clearance or the De Novo classification process, can streamline the certification process and reduce the learning curve for compliance.  
Navigating the Path to Building a Successful MedTech Product

Navigating the Path to Building a Successful MedTech Product


Expedited Approval Pathways

The FDA offers expedited approval pathways, such as the Breakthrough Devices Program and the Priority Review designation, for innovative technologies addressing unmet medical needs. Familiarity with FDA regulations, including pre-market pathways such as the 510(k) clearance or the De Novo classification process, can streamline the certification process and reduce the learning curve for compliance.

Advantages of MDR Certification

Access to the European Market

Perhaps the most significant advantage of MDR certification is access to the European market, which comprises 27 member states and a population of over 450 million people. This expansive market offers significant opportunities for medical device manufacturers to penetrate diverse healthcare systems and reach a wide patient population.

Harmonized Regulatory Framework

MDR establishes a harmonized regulatory framework across the European Union, streamlining the certification process for manufacturers. With consistent standards and requirements, manufacturers can navigate the regulatory landscape more efficiently, reducing time-to-market and compliance costs.

Emphasis on Safety and Efficacy

MDR places a strong emphasis on ensuring the safety and efficacy of medical devices through stringent regulatory requirements. By aligning with international standards and best practices, MDR certification enhances confidence among healthcare providers and patients regarding the quality and reliability of medical devices.

Unified Device Classification System

MDR introduces a unified device classification system based on risk, simplifying the regulatory classification process for manufacturers. This clarity enables manufacturers to better understand their regulatory obligations and navigate the certification process more effectively.

Enhanced Post-Market Surveillance

MDR mandates robust post-market surveillance requirements, including vigilance reporting and post-market clinical follow-up, to monitor device performance and ensure ongoing safety and effectiveness. This proactive approach to surveillance enhances patient safety and strengthens regulatory oversight.

Transparency and Traceability

MDR introduces the European Database on Medical Devices (EUDAMED), a centralized platform for transparently managing and sharing information on medical devices. This enhances traceability throughout the supply chain and promotes transparency in regulatory processes, benefiting both manufacturers and regulatory authorities.

Global Market Recognition

MDR certification not only provides access to the European market but also enhances global market recognition. Compliance with MDR standards signifies adherence to rigorous regulatory requirements, facilitating market entry into other regions and strengthening the international reputation of manufacturers. In summary, MDR certification offers significant advantages for medical device manufacturers, including access to the lucrative European market, harmonized regulatory standards, emphasis on safety and efficacy, and streamlined certification processes. By obtaining MDR certification, manufacturers can position themselves for success in the competitive global medical device industry.

Which is Better for MedTech Startups MDR or FDA?

The suitability of FDA or MDR certification for MedTech startups depends on various factors, including the target market, regulatory expertise, and product development timelines. While FDA certification offers advantages such as access to a large market and expedited approval pathways, MDR certification also presents compelling benefits, including access to the European market and a streamlined regulatory process in some cases.

MedTech startups targeting primarily the U.S. market or developing breakthrough technologies may find FDA certification more advantageous, especially if they have prior experience or expertise in navigating the FDA regulatory landscape. However, for startups looking to access the European market or seeking a potentially simpler regulatory process, MDR certification may be the preferred option.

Ultimately, MedTech startups should carefully evaluate their business objectives, market strategies, and regulatory capabilities to determine whether FDA or MDR certification aligns better with their goals. Consulting with regulatory experts and considering long-term market access and growth opportunities are essential steps in making an informed decision.  

If you don’t know which one to choose and how it would affect your product development, let’s talk. We can help you to move your MedTech product ahead of the curve.

Contact us now!

Paweł Zieliński Consonance Medtech
Paweł Zieliński
Head of Marketing