Today the FDA launched what is being billed as the "first phase of its transparency initiative" which is less about transparency than providing a sound educational footing for how the FDA operates. It is much welcomed, and long overdue.
The FDA Basics site is very comprehensive. There is a landing page where one can sign up for RSS Feed Updates to FDA Basics. There is a menu to the left that allows you to drill down to get information about any of the FDA's functional areas – to learn more about drugs or devices or vaccines for example.
Once you click on an area – say drugs, you can drill down to get more specific information. There is an overview on how a new drug is approved. There is a video of John Jenkins, which was posted here on Friday, who explains how new drugs are developed. There is even a resource to guide you through common FDA abbreviations and acronyms. If you go into any of the areas of FDA operation, there are a complete suite of resources to help you understand what it is that FDA does in each of these areas, and how the system works. It is really well put together, clear and works quite well. Anyone coming to work in communications and health care and medical product marketing should be required to spend a good deal of time on this site to learn the ropes. The FDA is due a good round of applause for this effort, and it is certainly reflective of new leadership determined to make the FDA a better, more functional place. The site is not only supportive of transparency, but is highly instructive and educational. Congratulations to Drs. Hamburg and Sharfstein.
That said, there is still a way to go. The press release refers to the second phase of the transparency initiative as that which will make more transparent the activities of the agency as it relates to its function. Part 1 was about making clear the functionality. Part 2 will be about how the FDA makes its decisions. That will be most welcomed.