Regulatory requirements for importing medical devices

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Medical devices are products used to treat, mitigate, diagnose or prevent a disease or health condition in people. They are grouped into 4 classes. Class I devices pose the lowest potential health risk, while Class IV devices pose the highest potential health risk. For more information on the types of devices in each class, visit our medical devices page.

What is commercial importation

Medical devices imported into Canada for sale, with or without a monetary contribution, must meet Health Canada requirements for commercial importation, as outlined in the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Medical Devices Regulations (MDR).

The importation of a medical device that requires direct oversight, operation or administration by another person is a commercial importation.

Examples of commercial importation of medical devices include shipments:

Who can import

An importer is any person in Canada, other than the manufacturer of a medical device, who is responsible for the medical device coming into Canada. Anyone who imports a medical device into Canada must also meet all applicable requirements of the FDA and associated Regulations. Some requirements include the following:

Exemptions

Importers are exempt if they are a:

Foreign distributors or manufacturers of any class of medical device offered for sale in Canada must have an MDEL, unless:

For detailed guidance on requirements for an MDEL, see table 1 of the guidance on medical device establishment licensing (GUI-0016).

To verify if an importer, foreign distributor or foreign manufacturer has a valid MDEL, see our medical devices establishment licence listing database.

To verify if a medical device holds a valid MDL, see our medical devices active licence listing database. Class I medical devices are not required to hold an MDL and are not listed in this database. To verify a class of medical device, see the keyword index in the guidance for industry.

Unlicensed and counterfeit medical devices

Our Medical Devices Directorate (formerly the Medical Devices Bureau) helps to ensure the safety, effectiveness and quality of medical devices sold in Canada. The Medical Devices and Clinical Compliance Directorate in the Regional Operations and Enforcement Branch conducts compliance and verification activities once a device is on the Canadian market.

Unlicensed, or counterfeit, devices have not been assessed for safety, quality or effectiveness by Health Canada. A counterfeit device can be mistaken for an authentic, licensed product.

Counterfeit medical devices may include:

They may also have misleading packaging or labelling.

A medical device is counterfeit when it:

Counterfeit medical devices pose a health and safety risk to Canadians. The health risk may be low or high, resulting in hospitalization or even death.

These counterfeit devices also:

Unlicensed and counterfeit health products and associated activities violate the FDA and its Regulations. All applicable FDA and MDR requirements must be met at the time for importation into Canada of medical devices.

Compliance and enforcement actions

We work with the Canada Border Services Agency to prevent the importation into Canada of medical devices that do not comply with the FDA and the MDR.

Our compliance and enforcement policy for health products (POL-0001) outlines the actions Health Canada can take to prevent or address non-compliance or address a public health and safety issue. These include:

Contact us

For more information about the import requirements of medical devices, contact Border Centres of Health Canada:

For more information about MDLs, contact the Medical Devices Directorate:

For more information about MDELs, contact the Medical Devices Establishment Licence Unit:

If you have a complaint about a medical device or other health product, you can report it by using the following online form:

For more information about medical device complaints, contact the Medical Devices Compliance Unit:

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