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Engage, don't tell

The world is looking at India and its drug regulation laws. One indicator of this is the fact that a year after the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) Commissioner visited India, its senior officials are back in the country holding talks with Indian officials.

twitter-logo E Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: March 24, 2015  | 19:16 IST

Associate editor E Kumar Sharma
The world is looking at India and its drug regulation laws. One indicator of this is the fact that a year after the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) Commissioner visited India, its senior officials are back in the country holding talks with Indian officials.

While the attention is on how best to enforce drug regulations, there are others concerns too. Monitoring quality of drugs is a major issue, apparent from the deaths in Chhattisgarh following sterilization procedures on women in November last year. There is also a need to take a look at taking proactive steps to contain spread of diseases (the country is still trying to cope with swine flu and its impact).

In this backdrop, everybody would naturally follow closely what the Indian drug regulator has to say. But then, visit its website and the all-important section dedicated to consumers.

It is apparent that the website is far from being user-friendly and is not easy to navigate. Also, a lot more can be done with the content that it can access. It does give information on H1N1 (swine flu), which to be fair, is useful and handy. But then, experts believe it is not a comprehensive knowledge bank. Instead of just being a "government notice board", the Indian regulator's website can play a broader role. Indeed, today many want it to be seen as the "credible voice for the consumer". That would mean not just being topical by talking about H1N1 drugs but also covering a wide range of general issues and global trends.

In fact, the Indian drug regulator could use this as an opportunity to take a big leap forward by providing information to consumers through social media and also have a free app. Its own website could be used as a platform to warn consumers of prohibited medicines, blacklisted companies and spurious drugs. It could provide price comparisons for similar therapy drugs, point to new drug research in India and globally besides giving information on new drugs and new viruses and their mutations along with what is being done about them.

It is possible to do all this. Here is what the USFDA website offers its consumers.

After all, a regulator's website should arguably be the most credible source and the first point of reference for anyone seeking information, more so in the case of health care. A user-friendly website that engages the consumers will not only attract more visitors but also ensure that the regulator remains up-to-date. Incidentally, the section on consumers on the Indian drug regulator's site was updated on February 2, 2015, whereas that of the USFDA was updated on March 11, 2015. One could begin by at least a weekly update.

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