By Scott Hensley
Fire up your computers and point your browsers toward fda.gov. Today's the day the Food and Drug Administration publicly starts coming to grips with the way consumers and drug companies talk to one another on the Internet.
The two-day meeting aims to get input for rules the FDA is working for how drugmakers and other companies that market regulated products should behave online. The fundamental questions turn on how companies can provide balanced advertising information and what their obligations are to deal with consumers' comments, criticism or reports of health trouble with products.
More than 800 people tried to go to the meeting in Washington, said emcee Tom Abrams, head of FDA's Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications. Hundreds were turned away.
Scores of people asked to talk, and it'll be a jam-packed day of presentations, ranging from those by drugmakers like Eli Lilly, whose rep explained the regulatory uncertainties that have kept the company from being active online, to a talk by Consumers Union's Steve Findlay.
We figure it's better to watch the Webcast anyway. For one thing, Abrams asked everyone to turn off their mobile devices at the start of the meeting, to avoid interference with all the electronic equipment. How would we survive? We're also finding it's easier to follow the proceedings on Twitter, where a bunch of folks are tweeting using the hashtag #fdasm.
Update: Google unveiled a plan to improved online drug ads during the last presentation Thursday. See it here.