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FDA Turns to Social Media to Create Transparency
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FDA Turns to Social Media to Create Transparency

Melissa Davies

The FDA announced yesterday that it is launching a Transparency Task Force, charged with “making useful and understandable information about FDA activities and decision-making more readily available to the public in a timely manner and in a user-friendly format.” The task force will seek public input on how the FDA can be more transparent, including identifying “new technologies for informing the public.” To this end, there will be a public meeting on June 24, 2009, to solicit recommendations.

The FDA created a Transparency Blog to provide updates on the task force’s activities. Though they will be moderated, comments will be allowed on the new blog, and there are parameters around what will be posted (they are reasonable parameters that don’t appear to limit the scope of discussion). Although the FDA recently tipped its hat to Web 2.0, certainly there is much for the agency to learn about social media and all of the communications opportunities it represents.

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In the category of government agencies setting a good example of transparency, we have already witnessed the CDC’s use of multiple social media tools to share information with the public during the swine flu crisis earlier this year. Twitter, YouTube and the CDC’s own Web site were all part of the agency’s outreach efforts and helped the CDC provide a calm voice of reason as public fears mounted.

Will the FDA follow the CDC’s lead and begin to leverage social media to make itself more transparent to the public? Taking it a step further, will the lessons learned through this process lead to more definitive guidance on how pharmaceutical companies can and should engage in social media? We look forward to finding out.