Regulation of Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs) – Revisited

Two years ago this coming September I posted a blog about the FDA’s intent to regulate LDTs and the need for laboratory professionals to both keep an eye on what happens and to be a part of it. I believe it’s time for an update on what has been happening and a further exhortation to stay involved.

The FDA is definitely going to regulate all LDTs. This is no longer a future possibility, but is now an approaching reality. In October of 2014, the FDA put out two new draft guidance documents for 120-day comment periods. One document, “Framework for Regulatory Oversight of Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs)” lays out the FDA’s various risk categories and classifications for different LDTs and also lays out the FDA’s timeline for enforcing regulation of them. The second document, “FDA Notification and Medical Device Reporting for Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs)” delineates how labs will report their LDT testing to the FDA and the protocol for adverse event reporting to the FDA, which all labs performing LDTs will be required to do.

During the 120-day comment period, many groups commented, weighing in on their perspective about the FDA regulation of LDTs. AACC and the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) published position statements. CAP Today did a comprehensive article. Although nearly everyone agrees that some form of LDT regulation is necessary, there is a wide range of opinions on what that regulation should entail, and even who should ultimately be responsible for it.

Despite many suggestions that perhaps the FDA should approach this regulation differently, they plan to move forward. Their “Framework . . .” document lays out about a nine-year timeline for regulating all LDTs, starting first with the highest-risk group. LDTs will broadly be classified into three groups: low-risk, which are also known as “traditional” LDTS, moderate-risk and high-risk. Traditional LDTs are those developed by a single lab for use on a single patient population. This classification will cover many hospital-based LDTs and it will have the least rigorous regulation by the proposed guidance documents. Moderate and high-risk LDTs will be tackled first by the FDA and will require pre-market review and approval as part of the regulatory requirements.

The FDA is perhaps listening to some of the comments being generated however. Most recently the FDA has announced that an interagency taskforce will be formed to deal with LDT regulation. Currently that task force includes the FDA and CMS, although many laboratory associations are hoping it will be expanded to include more groups. As laboratory professionals, it’s up to us to stay informed of this new regulation headed our way, and to do our best to be involved in the process.

-Patti Jones PhD, DABCC, FACB, is the Clinical Director of the Chemistry and Metabolic Disease Laboratories at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX and a Professor of Pathology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

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