FDA plans consumer Web site overhaul

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The FDA announced plans to overhaul its consumer-facing Web site in an effort to get with the “new mode” of “real-time communication of the 21st century,” agency officials said. FDA spokeswoman Crystal Rice told MM&M the Web site facelift “reflects an agency-wide recognition that we can and must do a better job at Web communications,” based on “our own experiences as well as user feedback.” The first component of the agency’s new-look consumer Web presence will be the addition of a “Consumer Health Information for You and Your Family” Web page, Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said in statement e-mailed to the press. The Web page, scheduled for roll-out sometime during the “next few months,” Rice said, is expected to feature consumer stories, provide informational links and include interactive content. Also, as part its online push, the agency will discontinue printing its FDA Consumer magazine, replacing it with a consumer health information e-newsletter. News of the FDA’s Web site makeover followed just over a month after a report surfaced stating that the agency “bungled” efforts to build a new Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) to detect the side effects of marketed medicines. The report, prepared for the FDA by consulting firm Breckenridge Institute but undisclosed to the public, stated that the FDA continues to rely on its existing “dysfunctional” computer system as a primary tool for tracking the safety of medications sold in the US. Meanwhile, in March the FDA unveiled the final version of its Drug Watch system. The agency said it no longer planned to use the name Drug Watch to describe the Web page containing links to drug safety information. Instead the FDA has designated those drugs for which new safety postings are available with a red asterisk next to the drug name, as listed on an index on the CDER section of the FDA Web site at fda.gov/cder/drug/DrugSafety/DrugIndex.htm. An asterisk signals the presence of a public health advisory, alert or information sheet for healthcare professional or patient. The format finalizes draft guidance issued in May 2006, in which the agency proposed keeping a drug watch safety list.

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