WASHINGTON -- In response to reports that antitheft systems could occasionally interfere with the function of pacemakers and other internal medical devices, members of the medical industry, antitheft system manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration here have joined forces to create a plan that is expected to alleviate concerns regarding the technologies.
In the past, it has been reported that metal detectors and antitheft detection devices, specifically the electromagnetic field produced between the detection gates posted at a store's exit, could potentially interfere with certain medical devices such as pacemakers, defibrillators and spinal-cord stimulators.
During an advisory meeting held this fall, however, representatives from both industries and the FDA agreed that there is no evidence indicating these systems pose a health threat for medical implant wearers.
"We are working with both the medical industry as well as the manufacturers of antitheft devices and metal detectors to make the technology more compatible," said Sharon Snider, spokeswoman for the FDA.
The FDA reported that more than one million Americans have internal medical devices, but that there have been only 44 reactions over the last 10 years. "Only 11 instances were related to antitheft and shoplifting devices," said a source familiar with the situation. None of the reported incidents were considered serious.
The meeting prompted the FDA to issue a statement to physicians explaining that while electromagnetic fields produced by antitheft systems and metal detectors may affect internal medical devices, interactions are unlikely to cause clinically significant symptoms in most patients.
"The most important issue is that patients should not be alarmed," the FDA's Snider said. "We do not want this viewed as a public-health problem. Many people go through the systems every day, and we have had very few negative reports."