Safety

Implantable Cardiac Devices and Merlin@home Transmitter by St. Jude Medical: FDA Safety Communication - Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Identified

[Posted 01/09/2017]

AUDIENCE: Cardiology, Surgery, Family Practice, Patient

ISSUE: The FDA is providing information and recommendations regarding St. Jude Medical's radio frequency (RF)-enabled implantable cardiac devices and Merlin@home Transmitter to reduce the risk of patient harm due to cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The FDA has reviewed information concerning potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with St. Jude Medical's Merlin@home Transmitter and has confirmed that these vulnerabilities, if exploited, could allow an unauthorized user, i.e., someone other than the patient's physician, to remotely access a patient's RF-enabled implanted cardiac device by altering the Merlin@home Transmitter. The altered Merlin@home Transmitter could then be used to modify programming commands to the implanted device, which could result in rapid battery depletion and/or administration of inappropriate pacing or shocks. 

There have been no reports of patient harm related to these cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

To improve patient safety, St. Jude Medical has developed and validated a software patch for the Merlin@home Transmitter that addresses and reduces the risk of specific cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The patch, which will be available beginning January 9, 2017, will be applied automatically to the Merlin@home Transmitter. Patients and patient caregivers only need to make sure their Merlin@home Transmitter remains plugged in and connected to the Merlin.net network to receive the patch. The FDA has reviewed St. Jude Medical's software patch to ensure that it addresses the greatest risks posed by these cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and reduces the risk of exploitation and subsequent patient harm. The FDA conducted an assessment of the benefits and risks of using the Merlin@home Transmitter, and has determined that the health benefits to patients from continued use of the device outweigh the cybersecurity risks.

The FDA will continue to assess new information concerning the cybersecurity of St. Jude Medical's implantable cardiac devices and the Merlin@home Transmitter, and will keep the public informed if the FDA's recommendations change. The FDA reminds patients, patient caregivers, and health care providers that any medical device connected to a communications network (e.g. wi-fi, public or home Internet) may have cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized users. The increased use of wireless technology and software in medical devices, however, can also often offer safer, more efficient, convenient and timely health care delivery. The FDA will continue its work with manufacturers and health care delivery organizations—as well as security researchers and other government agencies—to develop and implement solutions to address cybersecurity issues throughout a device's total product lifecycle. The FDA takes reports of vulnerabilities in medical devices very seriously and has issued recommendations to manufacturers for continued monitoring, reporting, and remediation of medical device cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
 
BACKGROUND: Many medical devices—including St. Jude Medical's implantable cardiac devices—contain configurable embedded computer systems that can be vulnerable to cybersecurity intrusions and exploits. As medical devices become increasingly interconnected via the Internet, hospital networks, other medical devices, and smartphones, there is an increased risk of exploitation of cybersecurity vulnerabilities, some of which could affect how a medical device operates.

RECOMMENDATION:
Recommendations for Health Care Providers:

  • Continue to conduct in-office follow-up, per normal routine, with patients who have an implantable cardiac device that is monitored using the Merlin@home Transmitter.
  • Remind patients to keep their Merlin@home Transmitter connected as this will ensure that patients' devices receive the necessary patches and updates.
  • Contact St. Jude Medical's Merlin@home customer service at 1-877-My-Merlin, or visit www.sjm.com/Merlindisclaimer icon for answers to questions and additional information regarding St. Jude Medical's implantable cardiac devices, or the Merlin@home Transmitter.

Recommendations for Patients and Caregivers:

  • Follow the labeling instructions provided with your Merlin@home Transmitter. Keeping your monitor connected as directed will ensure your monitor receives necessary updates and patches. Keep in mind that although all connected medical devices, including this one, carry certain risks, the FDA has determined that the benefits to patients from continued use of the device outweigh the risks.
  • Consult with your physician(s) for routine care and follow-up. Your ongoing medical management should be individualized based on your medical history and clinical condition.
  • Visit www.sjm.com/Merlindisclaimer icon, or contact St. Jude Medical's Merlin@home customer service at 1-877-My-Merlin for additional information, or if you have any questions or issues regarding your St. Jude Medical implantable cardiac device, or your Merlin@home Transmitter.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of lightheadedness, dizziness, loss of consciousness, chest pain, or severe shortness of breath.

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

  • Complete and submit the report Online: www.fda.gov/MedWatch/report
  • Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178

[01/09/2017 - Safety Communication - FDA]

Page Last Updated: 01/10/2017
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