In the last few years, Vietnam's healthcare sector has undergone significant growth, accompanied by a rising need for more advanced medical equipment. The medical devices market in Vietnam exhibited substantial growth, with a value of $1.1 billion in 2017. Projections indicated that this market was set to expand at a commendable Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 9% during the period from 2017 to 2022.
Registration Process of Medical Devices as per Vietnam Regulations:
The government of Vietnam has implemented extensive regulations governing the manufacturing, importation, distribution, and usage of medical devices to safeguard patient safety and maintain superior quality standards.
Vietnam Medical Device Regulation Registration Process:
In Vietnam, manufacturers and importers of medical devices must undergo a registration process overseen by the Medical Device Administration (MDA), a department under the Ministry of Health (MoH). They need to acquire a Certificate of Free Sale or a Certificate of Marketing Authorization before their products can be made available for distribution and usage within the country. The registration process involves the submission of a comprehensive dossier comprising technical documentation, clinical data, and labelling, evidencing the safety and effectiveness of the medical device. The MDA examines the application and may mandate site inspections or request further information to verify adherence to the regulations.
Vietnam follows a risk-based classification system for medical devices, akin to global benchmarks such as the Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF) model. This classification assigns the degree of scrutiny and registration criteria based on the level of risk. There are four classes: A, B, C, and D, with Class A devices having the least risk and Class D devices being associated with the highest risk. The regulatory control over Class A devices, such as bandages and tongue depressors, is minimal, while Class D devices, such as artificial heart valves or implantable pacemakers, undergo a rigorous evaluation process.
Medical devices in Vietnam must have clear and accurate labelling in Vietnamese, containing crucial information such as the device's name, intended use, manufacturer's details, batch number, production and expiry dates, storage conditions, instructions for use, warnings, and applicable symbols. The labelling should be easily readable and permanently affixed to the device.
Clinical Trial Requirements:
Before conducting clinical trials for medical devices in Vietnam, approval from the Ministry of Health (MOH) is required. Detailed documentation, including the trial protocol, ethical considerations, participant recruitment plan, and safety monitoring procedures, must be submitted. Adhering to Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines is essential, and trial results must be reported to the MOH upon completion.
To ensure safety and performance, medical devices in Vietnam undergo testing, which varies based on device classification and intended use. This can include assessments of biological safety, electrical safety, performance characteristics, and usability.
Foreign Testing and Applicable Countries:
In specific cases, the MOH may accept testing conducted in foreign countries. However, this acceptance is subject to certain conditions and requirements. Generally, testing conducted in countries with well-established regulatory systems and accredited testing laboratories is recognized by the MOH.
Medical device manufacturers or their authorized representatives must submit a pre-registration application to the MOH before market approval. This application includes detailed device information, such as technical specifications, intended use, and proposed classification. The MOH reviews the application and grants a pre-registration certificate if all requirements are met.
Approval in EU/US and Impact on Registration:
Regulatory approval in the European Union (EU) or the United States (US) does not guarantee automatic registration in Vietnam. However, having CE marking (EU) or FDA clearance (US) can streamline the registration process. Leveraging existing technical documentation and test reports can demonstrate compliance, potentially speeding up the review and registration process.
Import and Distribution Requirements:
Importing and distributing medical devices in Vietnam requires a separate license from the MOH. Compliance with regulations regarding storage, transportation, and quality management systems is mandatory. Importers and distributors are responsible for reporting adverse events and conducting recalls when necessary.
List of Documents Required:
The specific documents required for medical device registration in Vietnam depend on device classification and intended use. Generally, the application package includes a pre-registration application form, device description, labelling samples, technical documentation (including test reports and certificates), manufacturing process details, clinical trial data (if applicable), and a quality management system certificate.
GMP Inspection Requirements:
Manufacturers of medical devices in Vietnam must adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations. GMP inspections conducted by the MOH assess quality management standards, ensuring device safety and effectiveness. Inspections cover aspects such as facility cleanliness, equipment calibration, process validation, and personnel training.
Timeline and Associated Fees:
The fees for DMEC (Department of Medical Equipment and Construction) licenses vary based on the class of the license. The fees for each class are as follows:
- Class A: VND 1 million (~US$43)
- Class B: VND 3 million (~US$130)
- Class C: VND 5 million (~US$216)
- Class D: VND 5 million (~US$216)
The review time for Class A and Class B licenses is immediate, meaning the application is processed right away. However, for Class C and Class D licenses, the target review time is set at 10 to 90 days. Unfortunately, the actual review time for these classes often exceeds one year or more.
It's important to note that obtaining a Class C or Class D license may involve a longer waiting period due to more complex requirements or a higher volume of applications. Hence, applicants should be prepared for potential delays in obtaining these licenses.
Ongoing Updates and Compliance:
Vietnam's medical device regulations are consistently evolving to conform to the latest international standards and adapt to technological advancements. The Ministry of Health (MoH) regularly revises its standards, guidelines, and prerequisites to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices. Manufacturers and importers need to remain adaptable to comply with these changing regulations. It is vital to maintain a strong post-market surveillance system that includes vigilant reporting to proactively address any adverse events or quality concerns related to medical devices. This step is crucial to safeguard patients' health and preserve the healthcare system's overall credibility.
Market Access Challenges and Future Outlook:
Despite advances made in the realm of regulating medical devices in Vietnam, valuable opportunities for market access remain tenuous. The crux of the issue lies in navigating a plethora of challenges such as a veritable language barrier, prohibitively complex administrative procedures, and inordinately extended approval timelines that pose significant difficulties for foreign manufacturers and importers alike.
Against this backdrop, the Vietnamese government has committed itself to aggressively bolstering market access by promoting international cooperation and harmonizing regulations in a bid to create a truly globalized marketplace. An essential mode of reaching this goal is through alignment with the ASEAN Medical Device Directive (AMDD), which affords a formidable opportunity to facilitate trade and increase access to the market for medical device manufacturers.
Moreover, Vietnam's position in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and ongoing talks regarding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union offer the prospect of further simplifying regulatory processes and expanding market opportunities for medical device manufacturers.
Recent Updates and Price Declaration Process:
The Vietnamese Ministry of Health (MoH) has recently introduced Decree No. 07/2023/ND-CP, which prolongs the validity of current Import Licenses until December 31, 2024. This measure provides a vital sense of certainty for medical device imports, effectively mitigating prior challenges posed by delays in the implementation of new regulations.
Vietnam has made strides in regulating medical devices but faces market access challenges. The government aims to address these with international cooperation and aligning regulations with the ASEAN Medical Device Directive. Participation in CPTPP and FTA negotiations with the EU offers the potential for streamlining regulatory processes and new market opportunities.
Although obstacles arise, the Vietnamese government's drive to synchronize regulations, along with international collaboration, is optimistic for manufacturers and importers striving to enrich Vietnam's progressive healthcare sector. By following regulatory prerequisites, medical device companies can actively participate in advancing healthcare outcomes for the Vietnamese populace.