21 CFR 820 is the FDA federal regulation that pertains to quality systems for medical device manufacturers, and it is part of the agency’s set of Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) for industry. Also referred to as the FDA’s quality system regulation (QSR), the regulation defines design controls and quality processes at all stages of device development in order to ensure that all medical devices marketed in the United States are safe and effective.
21 CFR 820 consists of 15 subparts, which define quality system requirements for each stage and function within the medical device manufacturing process. We define each subpart below.
Federal regulations are organized as Title → Chapter → Subchapter → Part, which means that 21 CFR 820 is short-hand for:
ISO 13485 is the de facto international quality system standard for medical device manufacturers, but this is not currently the standard in the United States. While Part 820 and ISO 13485 are structured differently, they have no conflicting requirements. Therefore, companies that are marketing medical devices in the U.S. and in other markets will need to comply with both ISO 13485 and the FDA’s QSR, as defined in 21 CFR 820.
However, the FDA is moving towards harmonizing these standards, and on February 23, 2022 issued a proposed rule to amend the QSR to align more closely with the international consensus standard for Quality Management Systems, primarily by incorporating reference to the ISO 13485 standard. The FDA has published FAQ’s about the proposed rule.
The General Controls subpart contains three sections providing general information about the regulation, including the scope and applicability along with key definitions.
The regulation defines current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) requirements governing the methods, facilities, and controls used for the “design, manufacture, packaging, labeling, storage, installation, and servicing of all finished devices intended for human use." Specifically, this subpart defines:
The requirements of this regulation are intended to ensure the safety and efficacy of all finished medical devices intended for human use that are manufactured in or imported into the United States. Manufacturers that are involved in some, but not all, manufacturing operations should comply with those requirements that are applicable to the functions they are performing.
This section of the regulation contains definitions for a number of terms used throughout the document. The following are the major definitions related to quality records:
The section of the regulation sets the basic requirement for a quality system by stating that “Each manufacturer shall establish and maintain a quality system that is appropriate for the specific medical device(s) designed or manufactured, and that meets the requirements of this part.”
The term “appropriate” is used throughout this regulation and can be open to interpretation. A manufacturer, however, should assume that all requirements are appropriate and applicable except in cases where non-implementation of the requirement can be shown to have no effect on the product's specified requirements or ability to carry out necessary corrective actions.
This section of the regulation defines the overall responsibilities and the resources required for the management of the quality system.
Executive management is responsible for establishing a quality policy and ensuring adequate resources to effectively maintain and manage the quality system. In addition, management is responsible for establishing a specific quality plan, consisting of relevant practices, resources, activities, and procedures.
Periodic audits of the quality system are required to be conducted by personnel not directly responsible for the activities being audited. The dates and results of each audit need to be documented, along with the results of the audit. It is expected that corrective actions and, when necessary, reaudits, be performed for any identified noncompliances.
Manufacturers are responsible for assigning sufficient personnel with appropriate experience and training to perform all tasks required by the quality system plan.
Manufacturers of all class II and class III medical devices, along with the specific class I devices listed in paragraph (a)(2) of this regulation, are required to establish design control procedures that ensure design requirements are met as specified.
Design controls shall define:
Medical device manufacturers are required to put in place document controls for all documents required in this regulation.
Document approval and distribution
One or more people must be assigned to review and approve documents prior to issuance. The approval must be documented, include a date and the signature of the approver, and be made available at all locations where applicable. Procedures must also be in place to ensure that obsolete documents are removed and/or prevented from being used.
Similar to document approval procedures, changes to documents must be approved, reviewed, and documented. Records of all changes must be maintained.
To continue reading this Regulatory Brief, including a definition of the remaining subparts and a comparison of 21 CFR 820 to ISO 13485, please download the full brief.