Dec. 3, 2008 -- The FDA and WebMD today announced the first-ever partnership between a U.S. public health agency and a private health-information provider.
The partnership will enhance the FDA's ability to get crucial information to the American public, FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, said in a news conference.
"This is going to enable the FDA bringing to millions of people timely product-safety alerts and important health information," von Eschenbach said. "And it will let us do this in a way that is making use of innovative technologies and the increasing use of the web and Internet as a source of providing information to the public."
The FDA's information will appear in clearly marked pages on the WebMD web site that are free of advertising. FDA information will also appear in WebMD the Magazine. And the FDA web site will link directly to WebMD content.
Why did FDA pick WebMD as its first partner? Von Eschenbach pointed to WebMD's nearly 50 million unique visitors per month and to WebMD the Magazine's 9 million print readers.
"WebMD has been a leader with regard to innovation in the use of the web as a form of communication and service to the public," von Eschenbach said. "What we will do by virtue of this partnership ... is to really be able to present online ... content material we at FDA feel is extremely important for consumers to be aware of as they are making critically important decisions for themselves and for their families about their health and the products that they use to ensure their health."
WebMD CEO Wayne Gattinella said the collaboration will further empower people to make decisions that affect their health.
"We have witnessed a tremendous move to health and wellness that is playing a role in all aspects of consumers' lives," Gattinella said. "Whether it relates to the drugs we take or the food we eat or even the cosmetic products we use, consumers are becoming much more involved in their health and well-being. This partnership between WebMD and the FDA is an important collaboration that further bridges that intersection of health, wellness, and prevention."
Gattinella noted that this is only the first phase of what the FDA and WebMD expect to be an evolving relationship. In this phase:
- WebMD will carry a new resource center to provide timely FDA information on food, drug, and cosmetics safety.
- WebMD health centers will link directly to relevant FDA information.
- WebMD will carry FDA health alerts warning of product safety issues.
- WebMD will feature FDA-developed, real-time polls that will help the agency gauge the public's interest and needs.
- From WebMD, consumers will be able to report problems directly to the FDA.
While this is the first such partnership, von Eschenbach stressed that the FDA is exploring different partnerships with a variety of media outlets.
"What we have done is to take advantage of a mutual interest and to take a partner that has extraordinary capability and expertise to promote the agency's public health mission," von Eschenbach said. "This is just the first of what may be many such partnerships. We are fortunate to have as our first partner one that can bring to the table such extraordinary expertise as WebMD has."