FDA commissioner to speak directly to consumers in select cities

WASHINGTON: Dr. Lester Crawford, newly confirmed as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, is taking the agency?s new transparency initiative on a road trip.

WASHINGTON: Dr. Lester Crawford, newly confirmed as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, is taking the agency?s new transparency initiative on a road trip.

About 150-200 people in three cities will have the opportunity to meet with Crawford for a series of six-hour chats about issues such as drug safety, direct-to-consumer advertising, and conflicts of interest.

The heads of the FDA's six divisions will also participate in the conversations.

"As we celebrate our 100th year [in 2006], we want to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the American public," said Suzanne Trevino, assistant commissioner for public affairs.

She noted that the forums would allow Crawford to "truly learn on the grassroots level what the public has to say."

Conversations are currently scheduled in Miami, Boston, and Phoenix.

The FDA will create transcripts of each meeting, and use public input to determine what issues need to be addressed in future outreach efforts.

"Our goal is to take that information and see some results from it," Trevino said. "This is not just for show."

In addition to answering questions, the FDA will also ask attendees about what information they would like from the agency, and what it can do to build confidence and improve communication.

This is the first time that the agency has reached out to the public in this way since Dr. David Kessler served as commissioner during the Clinton administration.

The conversations are part of the FDA's ongoing initiative to improve communications with the public. The agency launched the effort in February, as it faced mounting criticism ? including from its own scientists ? over whether it could monitor drugs post-approval.

Other initiatives include setting up an independent Drug Safety Oversight Board and posting information about drug risks on a Drug Watch web page.

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