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IN FOCUS FDA rethinks its risk communications Last month, FDa issued its often lengthy. now, as the inter- must communicate the context strategic Plan for Risk Commu- Strategic Plan for net and emerging technologies of the message so that the words nication, a 44-page tome 10 years Risk Communication both enable and feed the public’s make sense to the audience.” For in the making by multiple agency FDA’s plan demand for greater transparency example, says the agency, when and external committees. calls for: and communication frequency, FDa says a product is “safe “We are committed to improv- n Surveys to these protracted waiting periods and effective,” it means that in ing communications the public assess public are giving way to communica- a very specific legal context— receives about the products we understanding tion in real time.” i.e., when used as labeled and regulate,” said FDa commis- of FDA com- In the past, the agency has intended. moreover, research Hamburg sioner margaret hamburg, mD, munications communicated with the public assesses risks and benefits for a in a statement. “the FDa must about medical products through privileged intermediar- population, but for individuals, communicate frequently and n Increased use of plain lan- ies, handing down indecipher- results may vary. these are not clearly about risks and benefits guage accessible to audiences ably worded labeling to the hoi caveats that consumers are likely and inform patients and con- with limited health literacy or polloi through priestly classes to be mindful of when making sumers about ways to minimize English proficiency including physicians, industry medical decisions. and, as the risk as they become increasingly n Creating and maintaining an and the media, who would then report notes, people are com- involved in managing their health internal database of agency and render them into slightly less plicated. they don’t take drugs and well-being.” external risk communication inscrutable form. nowadays, any as directed, because they don’t research old schmo can pop over to the want to think of themselves as the plan is a hail of bullet points and action items, most agency’s somewhat retro, vintage sick and taking them does, or of them pretty vague (“Capac- an acknowledgment that the ter- looking site and pull up medi- because they start to feel better ity strategy 1: streamline and rain has shifted. cal hieroglyphics on drugs and and think they can discontinue more effectively coordinate the “In the past, FDa’s commu- devices themselves. treatment, or because they forget development of communication nication efforts were largely another key subtext of the or misread the instructions. messages and activities”). But restricted to overseeing the plan is a post-Vioxx shift i
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