Healthcare: US drugs regulator moves to achieve clarity

WASHINGTON: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to introduce measures to boost its transparency in the wake of criticism over issues such as its handling of the recall of Merck & Co's arthritis drug Vioxx.

The drugs regulator is to beef up its procedures for overseeing the safety of drugs already in the market by creating an independent drug safety oversight board.

The FDA will undertake various initiatives, such as public and media events, over the next few months to consult on and promote planned changes, said press officer Brad Stone.

The regulator has been criticised for failing to act on evidence that Vioxx may be linked to heart problems.

The drug was withdrawn last September after research suggested that the painkiller doubled the risk of cardiac arrest. FDA scientist Dr David Graham told an inquiry in November that the FDA was guilty of a 'profound regulatory failure'.

Mike Leavitt, the US health and human services secretary, has now promised a new 'culture of openness'.

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