The Global Medical Device Nomenclature (GMDN), the de facto global standard for identifying the world’s millions of medical devices, has been made freely available to all manufacturers for the first time this week. The GMDN is currently used by over 7,000 medical device manufacturers around the world, and the Agency hopes the move will encourage smaller and start-up manufacturers to also use the standard.

The GMDN covers all equipment and devices used in hospitals, from sterile wipes to pace-makers, from scalpels to MRI scanners. Currently it lists more than 25,000 categories of medical devices, with around 700 new categories created in 2018. New categories that identify breast implants with different surface textures, a sensory-neuron simulator to aid muscular rehabilitation and tumour-therapy magnetic nanoparticles are examples of the diverse nature of new medical device technology that needs describing.

“The GMDN has always been available for free to regulators and academics globally,” said Mark Wasmuth, CEO of the GMDN Agency. “Following a consultation with the industry and regulators last year, we have introduced this free level of membership for manufacturers to reflect that regulators are increasingly insisting that all medical devices adopt it.”

“The GMDN fulfils the vital need for similar devices to have a common name where they have the same function, which is something barcodes cannot do,” says Wasmuth. “This is particularly important in a global marketplace where providers, users and regulators want to compare devices from different manufacturers and know if they perform similar or different functions.”

This will also be beneficial for researchers. “In addition to making the data free to manufacturers, we are working on enabling it to be more easily used in epidemiological studies,” Wasmuth says. “The GMDN allows studies to easily track and compare similar devices by a wide range of manufacturers to see, for instance, if particular ones are having notably better or worse results than comparable devices.”