The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced the launch of a new interactive tool for educating patients, their advocates, and consumers about the processes involved in medication development.

Since the early 1990s, the FDA has been working directly with patients and their advocates to help them understand about product development and regulation. This includes patient representatives who participate in FDA advisory meetings. Patient input will be more focused and valuable when they better understand how medical products are studied, reviewed, assessed, and brought to market.

The interactive FDA Patient Network website educates patients, their advocates, and consumers about the development of prescription and over-the-counter medications. New channels of communication will be available, including live chats with senior agency officials. With the launch of this website and the increased ability for patients to understand the safety processes involved in drug development, it is hoped that the role of patients can be expanded to a wider audience in new and broader ways.

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“I am excited because this new Patient Network website provides a new model for FDA to follow in making its inner workings transparent to the public,” Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of the FDA, said in a statement. “It ushers in a new era of access and input for patients and consumers that will evolve with the needs of both communities.”