FDA Lags in the Digital Space Compared to Sister Agencies

As if it were needed, yesterday one more example emerged yesterday to demonstrate how the FDA is failing in the all important digital space.  The National Institutes of Health announced a collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation that has the aim to make "health and science information online more accessible and reliable."  It is indeed a visionary and laudable goal.  After all, evidence has demonstrated that health is one of the main reasons people go to the internet to seek information and that for those with chronic illnesses, it is an invaluable resource from which they not only get information, but act upon it.  

That is why other healthcare agencies in government, including HHS, CDC and now NIH have taken many steps to embrace digital communications as a means to talk to patients and to provide useful resources to help them get access to quality information that will be of help to them.  The efforts of these agencies span both a breadth and depth and convey that they understand the important role of the internet in healthcare communications.  

Unfortunately, because of the weird vagueness of DDMAC respecting digital and online communications, drug and device manufacturers who are in a position to provide a great deal of accurate  information that is accurate through Wikipedia find that their own legal and regulatory departments are extremely wary of doing so, fearful of even correcting misinformation that may be contained in an entry of Wikipedia.  In other words, misinformation – while bad – is often not being addressed by those who possess good information because of the fear of regulatory repercussions.  It is another example of the inertia that the agency has embraced respecting digital media actually runs counter to the best interests of patients.  

As part of the new collaboration announced yesterday by NIH and Wikimedia, "NIH will host Wikimedia staff and volunteers working in the sciences for an
all-day event on its Bethesda campus. Participants will learn about the
philosophy and mechanics of Wikipedia and will begin what is hoped to be a
long-term dialogue aimed at improving public knowledge about health, science,
and medicine. The international foundation has never before worked with a
federal agency or a health sciences institution."  

The event will be held tomorrow.  It is perhaps too much to hope that someone from FDA asks if they can go – but they should – they might learn something.  And we are probably light years away from FDA deciding to hold such a workshop to contribute to the integrity of health care information and advise companies on how they can contribute.  Nevertheless, it would be nice and everyone would win.  
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