Apple

FDA decides to regulate some wearables, as Apple Watch launch looms

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple event announcing the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, Sept. 9, 2014.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple event announcing the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, Sept. 9, 2014.  (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

More wearable devices are going to go on sale during 2015, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just put together its preliminary guidelines to determine which wearables will face regulatory scrutiny and which will get a free pass. The proposal states only wearables that claim to help diagnose and treat serious illnesses, as well as those that pose a threat to consumers' welfare, will be monitored by the FDA.

Wearables which fall under the broad “General Wellness” category will not be regulated by the agency. In other words, any claiming to help with weight management, fitness, relaxation, stress relief, mental stimulation, self-help, sleep, or sex will not have to stand in front of the FDA. The guidelines say wearables may give suggestions and keep tabs on vitals like pulse, breathing rate, and so on, as long as the companies who make the devices don’t claim to hold the same authority as a doctor.

Related: Is your health data safe on the Apple Watch? The FDA investigates

Meanwhile, the FDA will put devices which promise to diagnose and treat serious illnesses or problems like obesity, eating disorders, severe anxiety, autism, muscle problems, or erectile dysfunction, under its microscope. The others forced to meet the FDA’s requirements include those that could be dangerous or hazardous if used improperly.

Overall, it seems unlikely many wearables will fall outside the “General Wellness” category, and therefore, most should avoid government regulation. Apparently, Apple met with the FDA multiple times over the last year to make sure the Apple Watch would meet all of the administration’s requirements upon its launch in 2015. It’s possible those conversations shaped the  FDA’s guidelines to some extent.