In just a few weeks, FDA will hold its public meeting to discuss the use of social media tools in marketing pharmaceutical drug products. (See back story.) The last time the agency held a meeting to discuss these types of items was in 1996 when the Internet’s popularity was growing by leaps and bounds.
While the agency is doing its best to figure out how to regulate online marketing—which comes with a whole new set of timing variables—it’s also working to keep up with technology on its own website. For example, last week, FDA posted a new widget that highlights fraudulent H1N1 swine-flu prevention and treatment products.
A widget, if you’re not familiar, is defined by Wikipedia as “a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation.” In other words, similar to an RSS feed, you can place the already designed box-like item on your personal or business website and updated links and information will automatically feed into it.
FDA actually has a few widgets available. A peanut product recall widget lists all products pulled from the market for peanut contamination. A MedWatch widget highlights industry news including adverse events and product safety information. A food safety widget links to food safety programs at the agency as well as information on foodborne illnesses, allergies, and more. Some more simple FDA widgets are noted on the agency website here.
I’m happy to see that the government is taking advantage of these easy and timely tools to keep the public and industry informed. Whether the regulation of companies using online media tools will be as simple remains to be seen.