June 3, 2009
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has vowed to become more open.
The FDA announced Tuesday that it has formed a transparency task force to look into ways to make its activities more public. The group will make recommendations to give the public greater and timelier access to information about its activities and decision-making. "Our administration is committed to making government open and transparent," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a prepared statement. "The Transparency Task Force will give the American people a seat at the table and make the FDA more open and accountable." The group has asked for public input on how to go about making the change from an organization that has withheld information to protect trade secrets to one that protects confidential information while opening up about its decision-making process. The group will accept written feedback and hold a public meeting June 24. "President Obama has pledged to strengthen our democracy by creating an unprecedented level of openness and public participation in government, and the FDA looks forward to participating in this process," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement. "I have asked the Transparency Task Force to deliver recommendations to me for ways to make more information available and foster better understanding of decision-making." The Transparency Task Force will identify information that the FDA should provide about specific agency operations and activities, including enforcement actions and product approvals. It will identify barriers to transparency, seek tools and new technologies to inform the public, recommend changes to internal policies and guidance, and outline any related policy changes it deems necessary. Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein will chair the task force. The group will report its findings to Hamburg. "Implementation of the Transparency Task Force's recommendations should make agency actions and decisions, and their underlying processes and bases, more transparent to the public," said Sharfstein. Additionally, the FDA has launched a "transparency blog," where the public can learn about its activities, at least through November.
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