Blog Life Sciences Perspectives July 06, 2020

FDA’s COVID-19 Enforcement Policy for Digital Health Devices for Treating Psychiatric Disorders

Developers of certain digital health devices for treating psychiatric disorders may be able to take advantage of an FDA enforcement policy, which remains in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.  The policy applies to certain prescription computerized behavioral therapy (CBT) devices for psychiatric disorders, digital health therapeutic devices for psychiatric disorders that operate using a different fundamental technology than CBT, other variations of CBT devices, such as non-prescription devices, and low-risk general wellness and digital health products for mental health or psychiatric conditions.

Relevant psychiatric conditions include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Insomnia Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Substance Use Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The enforcement policy’s goal is “to help expand the availability” of these devices to aid those with these conditions “while reducing user and healthcare provider contact and potential exposure to COVID-19.”

Under this policy, these devices may be distributed and used without complying with the following regulatory requirements, where such devices do not create an undue risk in light of the public health emergency: 510(k) submission, correction and removal reports, registration and listing requirements, and Unique Device Identification requirements. For those software products with low-risk general wellness indications or functionality, FDA does not intend to enforce regulatory requirements consistent with the agency’s existing policies, which were in effect prior to the pandemic. Finally, FDA’s enforcement policy sets forth certain recommendations regarding the performance and labeling elements for these devices, such as user instructions that direct the patient to contact a physician before using the device. This enforcement policy highlights FDA’s regulatory flexibility for software and app developers in this therapeutic area during the COVID-19 pandemic.