FDA partners with WebMD on consumer updates

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Wayne Gattinella, WebMD President & CEO
Wayne Gattinella, WebMD President & CEO

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a partnership with WebMD to provide consumer updates and other content on a special area designated specifically for FDA.

FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach told reporters during a conference call today that WebMD's exclusive FDA resource, located at webmd.com/fda, would be free of advertisements, and that FDA would be responsible for content in that area.

FDA content and materials to be used in WebMD's online newsletters and in WebMD's magazine will be tailored for WebMD's audience, but “not to the point that it creates an exclusive relationship [with WebMD], by any means,” said von Eschenbach. The partnership with WebMD should lay out a path for future partnerships, noted von Eschenbach, adding that the deal “should not be construed as FDA putting a seal of approval on WebMD.”

According to Wayne Gattinella, president and CEO at WebMD, navigational links to the FDA area of the website will be promoted on WebMD's homepage, and across the site.  Additionally, links in content areas on fda.gov will send consumers to the FDA resource area of WebMD.

The creation of the FDA resource on WebMD represents the first phase of the partnership, and includes FDA public health alerts, collaborative FDA safety alerts, and information on how consumers can report problems to the FDA, said Gattinella. According to von Eschenbach, 50 FDA consumer updates will appear on WebMD over the next year, with three articles per year scheduled for bi-monthly WebMD the Magazine.

“WebMD has been a leader with regards to innovation and services for the public,” said von Eschenbach, citing WebMD's 50 million unique visitors each month, and nine million readers of magazine. “WebMD has been an organization, like the FDA, that is…patient-centered,” said von Eschenbach. Data from comScore's Media Metrix for October 2008 counted 19.6 million unique visitors to WebMD. In its 2008 3Q report, WebMD claimed an average of 49.9 million unique users of the WebMD Health network, per month.

At any rate, the partnership provides FDA with a significantly larger reach, considering that fda.gov currently receives approximately six million visitors per month. Within the fda.gov site, the agency garners only 130,000 page views of its conslumer health information resource, per month, according to FDA documents. Terms of the agreement (here, in pdf) require FDA consumer health information to be “easily distinguishable from non-FDA content,” and “free of advertisements, to avoid implying FDA's endorsement or support for a particular product, service or website.”

No cash considerations were made regarding the partnership, which exists solely as a content exchange, a WebMD spokesperson said.

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