FDA to Regulate Internet Ads

The Food and Drug Administration is "preparing to regulate promotion of drugs and medical devices in cyberspace," the Associated Press/Baltimore Sun has reported.

Patients seeking medical information on the Internet currently can find a wide range of "potentially lifesaving research in top medical journals to a site that claims positive thinking 'can change your genetic base.'" However, physicians fear that the proliferation of medical information "makes it hard for patients to separate science from quackery." FDA officials met with 470 manufacturers, consumer advocates and Internet experts last week to discuss FDA regulation of cyberspace.

The FDA is currently required by law to regulate how drug and medical device manufacturers "promote their therapies to prevent" people from being "misled about their value." According to the AP/Sun, while drug companies are prohibited from promoting products that have not been approved, it would be more difficult to regulate advertising on the Internet.

Critics of the proposed regulations fear that the rules "will block the free flow of information." David Vance, of Glaxo Wellcome Inc., said that there is no need for "extra guidance." He said "that everyone from highly informed laymen and physicians to more gullible novices use the Internet and said: 'We can't protect the idiot.'"

Critics are also concerned over "where the FDA will draw the line between hype and detailed information needed to decide whether to volunteer for clinical trials of experimental drugs."

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