Guidance on applications for medical device clinical trials under the interim order: Overview

Published: May 7, 2020
Updated: May 3, 2021

This guidance document is for applicants who wish to:

This guidance document has been updated to support the interim order signed by the Minister on May 3, 2021, which replaced Interim Order No. 1 (IO No. 1). Key information is also provided in this document for applicants and authorization holders of COVID-19 medical device clinical trials under IO No. 1.

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Scope and application

This guidance outlines the requirements when applying for a clinical trial authorization involving a COVID-19 medical device (defined in the interim order) and when conducting such a trial. It also provides key information for applicants and authorization holders of COVID-19 medical device clinical trials under Interim Order No. 1 (IO No. 1).

A COVID-19 medical device clinical trial may be authorized under the IO or under Part 3 of the Medical Device Regulations. Those applying and authorized under the IO would be exempt from the Regulations.

Similar to IO No. 1, IO No. 2 provides an optional authorization pathway to advance clinical trials by increasing efficiencies and reducing the administrative burden of certain requirements.

IO No. 2 offers flexibilities that were included in the original interim order, such as:

This interim order also ensures that all authorizations, suspensions and exemptions for clinical trials issued under IO No. 1, including any terms and conditions, will remain in effect. Also, any application that was outstanding when IO No. 1 was repealed would be deemed to be an application made under IO No. 2. The Minister also maintains the ability to request more information about a COVID-19 clinical trial submission at any time.

The interim order applies to COVID-19 drugs and medical device clinical trials, which are expected to be the predominant therapies used with respect to COVID-19. For information on COVID-19 trials involving drugs, please see Health Canada's guidance document on applications for drug clinical trials under the Interim Order No. 2 Respecting Clinical Trials for Medical Devices and Drugs Relating to COVID-19.

Policy objectives

The interim order facilitates COVID-19 clinical trials to investigate and offer patients potential medical devices for diagnosing, treating, mitigating or preventing COVID-19, while upholding patient protections and ensuring the validity of results.

Policy statements

Health Canada is committed to prioritizing the review of clinical trial applications designed to investigate the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation and/or prevention of COVID-19.

The interim order provides an optional expedited authorization pathway for testing:

Such measures respond to the continued urgent need to identify potential diagnostic, treatment, mitigation or prevention options for Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, clinical trials involving COVID-19 medical devices must still meet high ethical research standards and safeguard the safety of patients. As such, many requirements from Part 3 of the Medical Devices Regulations that protect those involved in trials and those who help ensure that results are reliable are in the IO.

Where possible and where proper procedures are in place to monitor such activities remotely from the site, trial activities may include virtual recruitment, informed consent, monitoring and/or visits.

An authorization for importation or sale for the purposes of a clinical trial under this IO is subject to compliance. Where there is non-compliance, Health Canada will take enforcement measures.

Background

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in December 2019 and have since spread around the world. COVID-19 has been known to cause respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.

The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic related to COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. The virus has now affected most countries across the globe and continues to evolve, producing new variants worldwide.

There are a limited number of authorized therapies and vaccines to effectively treat or prevent COVID-19 in the original and/or variant forms. Thus, there continues to be an urgent need to study such therapeutic products in clinical trials. Clinical trials represent an important step in finding safe and effective treatment options for patients.

The interim order and this guidance document have been developed to enable medical devices that are integral to the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of COVID-19 to be investigated efficiently within a clinical trial.

Definitions

Unless explicitly listed below or in the interim order, all expressions in this guidance document have the same meaning as under the Regulations. A full list of applicable definitions is available in Section 2.1.2 of the Applications for medical device investigational testing authorizations guidance document.


Clinical trial
A study involving human subjects (participants) for the purpose of discovering or verifying the effects of a drug, a device or a food for special dietary purpose.
Clinical trial site
The location where a qualified investigator conducts or monitors clinical trial activities.
COVID-19
The coronavirus disease 2019.
COVID-19 medical device
A medical device that is manufactured, sold or represented for use in relation to COVID-19.
COVID-19 medical device authorization

An authorization to do any of the following activities:

  • import or sell a COVID-19 medical device that is to be tested in a clinical trial and
  • conduct a clinical trial in respect of such a device
Incident

Any incident involving a COVID-19 medical device that is tested in a clinical trial that:

  • is related to a failure of the device or a deterioration in its quality or effectiveness, or any inadequacy in its labelling or in its directions for use or
  • has led to the death or a serious deterioration in the state of health of a clinical trial subject, user or other person, or could do so were it to recur
Interim Order No. 1 (IO No. 1)
The Interim Order Respecting Clinical Trials for Medical Devices and Drugs Relating to COVID-19 was made by the Minister on May 23, 2020, and published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on June 6, 2020.
Qualified investigator

A person who is a member in good standing of a professional association of persons entitled under the laws of a province to provide health care under their licence in that province and who:

  • conducts a clinical trial or
  • in the case of a clinical trial conducted by a team, is the responsible leader of that team
Research ethics board
A body that is not affiliated with an applicant for a COVID-19 medical device authorization or a holder of such an authorization, and whose principal mandate is to approve the initiation of, and conduct periodic reviews of, biomedical research involving human subjects to ensure the protection of their rights, safety and well-being.

Note about guidance documents in general

Guidance documents provide assistance to industry and health care professionals on how to comply with governing statutes and regulations. They also provide guidance to Health Canada staff on how mandates and objectives should be met fairly, consistently and effectively.

Guidance documents are administrative, not legal, instruments. This means that flexibility can be applied by industry. However, to be acceptable, alternate approaches to the principles and practices described in this document must be supported by adequate justification. They should be discussed in advance with the relevant program area to avoid the possible finding that applicable statutory or regulatory requirements have not been met.

As always, Health Canada reserves the right to request information or material, or define conditions not specifically described in this document, to help us adequately assess the safety, efficacy or quality of a therapeutic product. We must make sure that such requests are justifiable and that decisions are clearly documented.

This document should be read in conjunction with the accompanying notice and the relevant sections of other applicable guidance documents.

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