Letter to Ranking Member Waxmen of Opposition to H.R. 3303, the SOFTWARE Act of 2013

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February 14, 2014

The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Member
Energy & Commerce Committee

Dear Ranking Member Waxman,

As members of the Patient, Consumer, and Public Health Coalition, we strongly oppose H.R. 3303, the SOFTWARE Act of 2013. The Act, as drafted, would have the harmful consequence of exempting so-called “health software” and “clinical software” devices from FDA oversight.  Also, the Act is premature.  Congress is awaiting a study commissioned in 2012 to guide lawmakers on this very issue.

Health care providers and patients rely on the FDA to establish that a device is reasonably safe and effective. Without FDA to carefully scrutinize the risks and benefits of a device, patients’ health may be seriously harmed.  Even if the device is safe, if it is not proven effective, then patients could be harmed by inaccurate results that are either anxiety-producing or erroneously reassuring; these outcomes could result either in unnecessary testing or serious illness or death.

Medical devices are clearly defined in Section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.   The SOFTWARE Act muddles the definition of a device, by creating new categories of products that can potentially overlap with the current definition of medical device, but are exempt from regulation as devices.

We are extremely concerned that this bill will deregulate a broad swath of medical devices that rely on software. For example, radiation treatment planning software for cancer patients, scanning devices such as MRIs and CT scanners, or heart monitoring devices, might no longer be regulated by the FDA.  This would put the health of millions of Americans at risk.  Additionally, contrary to some claims, this Act does not give the FDA any new tools or new or updated authorities to regulate medical devices.

The Act also is premature.  The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) mandated a Health Information Technology (HIT) report, which is due to be released this year.  The report will make recommendations on “an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework to health information technology including mobile medical applications.” The report sought input from a broad range of stakeholders including patients, consumers, health care providers, start-up companies, health plans, venture capital investors, small businesses and others. Rather than move rashly on legislation that could harm patients, Congress should wait for the recommendations from the HIT report and discuss them thoughtfully.

We strongly urge you to oppose this bill because it could deregulate medical technology crucial to patient health, causing patients unnecessary risk, and because it proposes congressional action before Congress can review the report to address this issue mandated in FDASIA.

For more information, contact Paul Brown at (202) 223-4000 or pb@center4research.org

American Medical Women’s Association

Annie Appleseed Project

Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health

National Consumers League

National Physicians Alliance

National Research Center for Women & Families

National Women’s Health Network

The TMJ Association

Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists

WomenHeart