FDA to launch drug safety Web site

The Food and Drug Administration plans to launch a Web page to share drug safety information with health care professionals and patients, as part of reforms at the agency.

The new Drug Watch Web Page will offer discussions of potential safety problems even before FDA has reached conclusions that would prompt a regulatory action, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in an announcement yesterday. He also pledged improved oversight of the agency’s management of drug safety issues at the site, which FDA expects to be available on Feb. 23.

The FDA has been criticized for a decision-making process that allowed drugs on the market that later were pulled due to side effects, such as the popular Merck and Co. arthritis painkiller Vioxx, which was pulled because it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The FDA will create a new independent Drug Safety Oversight Board, comprised of FDA members, and medical experts from other HHS agencies and other health-related departments, such as the Veterans Affairs Department.

"FDA understands that the public expects better and more prompt information about the medicines they take every day," said acting FDA commissioner Lester Crawford, who President Bush nominated yesterday as permanent FDA commissioner.

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