WASHINGTON: The Food and Drug Administration is expanding its press team as it works to create a more open, more responsive agency.
The FDA is currently in a hiring mode, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs.
"We need to think differently about how we communicate information ... and when we communicate information," he told attendees at the PRSA's Health Academy meeting in Washington.
The agency is working to be more proactive in educating reporters and is also working with the media on developing enterprise articles, he noted.
One of the challenges the FDA still faces is how to communicate risk information. Even when the FDA receives reports of an "emerging risk," it still requires more studies to determine how big the risk is. The balancing act comes from realizing that by communicating about "emerging risks," patients might begin to make medical decisions based on incomplete data.
"Risk communication in and of itself is a social science," Gottlieb said. "In everything we do, [we are] trying to measure the impact of fair balance."
The new transparency initiative also mean collaborating with drug companies on communication efforts -- from messages to press releases, according to Susan Bro, who recently joined the FDA from Pfizer to serve as senior communications advisor in the Office of the Commissioner.
The lag between when companies communicated about an emerging risk, and when the FDA added its response is what created "the intrigue and the ambiguity," in the media, she said.
The FDA can now call a press conference within 45-60 minutes after a drug safety alert is raised.
The agency is also trying to position itself as a resource for reporters before another crisis hits.
"I think we're going to have a tremendous opportunity with reporters to [show them] what goes on at FDA," Bro said.