FDA Seeks to Improve Communication with Public about Product Risks

June 7, 2007

The Food and Drug Administration said this week it will name a panel of experts to help better communicate with consumers about problems with drugs, food and other products.

The announcement comes as the agency braces for new criticism over how it handled public communications after a recent medical journal article revealed GlaxoSmithKline’s diabetes drug Avandia may increase the risks of heart attack.

The British drug maker said it provided information cited in the article to the FDA last August. Lawmakers in the House say they plan to investigate why the FDA did not notify doctors and patients about the information earlier.

The FDA said the new 15-member panel will help the agency develop plans for publicizing risks and benefits of the products it regulates. The FDA is not required to follow the advice of its advisory groups, though it often does.

The Institute of Medicine, a nongovernment advisory group, last year recommended the FDA create such a panel. The idea was in the group’s report for improving the FDA’s drug safety system after the Vioxx controversy. Merck pulled that widely sold pain medication from the market in 2004 after studies showed it could increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

The agency seeks experts in marketing, communication and other social sciences who are not affiliated with the FDA to serve on the panel. FDA is accepting nominations for panel members via mail and its Web site at www.fda.gov.

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