In the circles I run in, there’s been a buzz about an announcement first made last December about a “partnership” between the FDA and WebMD. Yesterday the two entities announced an expansion of that partnership “to provide increased access to FDA’s consumer health information.”
I can appreciate the FDA’s interest in reaching the public more directly with its messages.
But WebMD has turned over its “channel” – some of it marked “news” – to a government agency. Should journalists “partner” with a government agency for news and information?
And they boast that “Since the launch, over 150,000 consumers have accessed the FDA destination on WebMD … The FDA’s consumer information is also available through WebMD the Magazine, distributed ten times a year and reaching an additional 11 million consumers with each issue.”
And I would remind the FDA that, while there may not be any ads on the FDA pages of the WebMD site, users are just a link away from ads on WebMD material. I just visited and quickly found myself viewing ads for drugs for fibromyalgia, depression, coronary artery disease and others. Is that appropriate for the FDA?
Something doesn’t feel right about this – for either party – or for the public.
Sandy Szwarc of the Junkfood Science blog looked at this in greater detail when the partnership was first announced in December.