CINCINNATI -- The University of Cincinnati (UC) has developed a faster approach for informing consumers online when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) withdraws a medication.
The new approach works with NetWellness.org, a commercial-free, consumer health Web site produced by Ohio's three medical research universities--UC, Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University.
"Information about drug withdrawals may not reach patients quickly enough to prevent potentially dangerous side effects," explains Peter Embi, MD, lead author on the UC-based study published in the most recent online edition of the Journal of Medical Internet Research. "Given the public's growing use of the Web for health information, it's important that Web-based consumer health content is kept up to date, particularly that involving withdrawal of a potentially harmful medicine.
"However," says Embi, assistant professor of medicine and a researcher at UC's Institute for the Study of Health, "it's been shown that many sites don't update their content for days, or even weeks, following an FDA drug withdrawal.
"Our new approach," he says, "allows just one person to modify affected Web pages in less than an hour and within just hours of an FDA drug withdrawal announcement."
Embi says he hopes this new method will encourage those responsible for other Web sites carrying critical consumer health information to adopt a similar 24-hour response standard to drug withdrawals.
"There's evidence that patients continue to use medications for some time after their withdrawal, which occasionally causes harmful effects," Embi explains, "so it's important to inform the public as quickly as possible."
Before developing the new approach, Embi and his team evaluated NetWellness' previous update process following the FDA's withdrawal of the painkilling, anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx (rofecoxib) on Sept. 30, 2004.