The end of the state of emergency will be the end of the derogation regime which, in view of the exceptional situation resulting from the SARS-cov-2 pandemic, has introduced into our legislation the possibility of placing on the market surgical masks authorised by derogation. From 1 April 2022, manufacturers who want to continue to market surgical masks in Italy will have to comply with the ordinary legislation on medical devices.
For authorised masks already placed on the market, the Circular of 4 March 2022 (https://www.trovanorme.salute.gov.it/norme/renderNormsanPdf?anno=2022&codLeg=86093&parte=1%20&serie=null ) indicates that they may be made available only until 31 May 2022 and that only masks that are part of existing stocks available to personnel participating in efforts to contain the virus and prevent its further spread may be made available until such stocks are exhausted and at the latest by 31 July 2022.
The circular of 4 March 2022 clarified certain aspects of the procedures for placing surgical masks on the market in view of the imminent expiry of the state of emergency.
The circular recalls that from 26 May 2021 it is no longer possible to place on the market surgical masks marked CE pursuant to Directive 93/42/EEC, implemented in Italy with the d.lgs. 46/97, and it is stressed that manufacturers who intend to place on the market surgical masks, must ensure compliance with the requirements of Regulation (EU) 2017/745.
According to MDR 2017/745 before placing a device on the market, the manufacturer is obliged to prepare the technical documentation that must enable it to assess its compliance with the general performance and safety requirements(GSPR) set out in Annex I to the Regulation.
This documentation shall be presented in a clear, organised, unambiguous and easily searchable format and shall include methods and test results to support compliance with the specifications. For surgical masks, these are mainly tests of bacterial filtration (BFE) efficiency, respirability (Pa/cm2), microbial contamination (cfu/g), splash resistance (kPa) (only in the cases provided, type IIR masks) and biocompatibility.
The manufacturing, design and performance requirements and test methods for surgical masks are set out in UNI EN 14683:2019 “Medical face masks – Requirements and test methods”, which, although not yet harmonised in accordance with the Regulation (cf. Circular of 12 November 2021) is the main tool for the manufacturer to demonstrate the conformity of the device.
Quality Management System (QMS):
To ensure that series production continues to comply with the requirements of the Regulation, the manufacturer establishes, documents, applies, maintains, updates and constantly improves a quality management system, in accordance with the obligations laid down in art. 10, paragraph 9 of the Regulation.
Post Market Surveillance:
The manufacturer shall establish and update a post-market surveillance system throughout the life cycle of the device.
In conclusion, the manufacturers of surgical masks already CE marked, in accordance with Directive 93/42/EEC, and persons who have obtained derogation authorisations for the production and marketing of surgical masks having an interest in continuing to regularly place on the EU market its own masks such as medical devices, must follow all the indications contained in the Circular and in the reference standards indicated.
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