By Steve L. Morin R.N., B.S.N.
My job in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Health and Constituent Affairs (OHCA) is to serve our nation’s patients in two ways: by listening to their concerns regarding FDA’s policy and decision-making and advocating for them in our agency; and by informing many patients and patient organizations about FDA’s mission and its work to advance the development, evaluation and approval of new therapeutic products.
This dialogue was formalized and greatly expanded in 2012 when, after a series of listening sessions with many patient advocacy organizations, OHCA created the Patient Network.
Specifically designed for patients, caregivers, patient advocates and disease-specific patient advocacy organizations and the communities that advocate on their behalf, this program serves two goals. It facilitates patient engagement with FDA policy and decision makers, and it educates its audience about the process that brings new medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – and medical devices from a concept to the marketplace.
Our Patient Network covers a range of FDA-specific topics and conducts numerous activities that are of interest to patients and patient advocates. One of these activities were webinars with information about upcoming public meetings hosted by FDA.
For example on March 31, 2014, OHCA was pleased to host the first-of-its-kind “LiveChat” with the diabetes community. This online discussion gave patients an opportunity to interact with FDA experts and to better understand a recently released draft guidance dealing with the studies and criteria that FDA recommends be used when submitting premarket notifications (510(k)s) for blood glucose meters.
On September 10, 2014, our Third Annual Patient Network Meeting titled “Under the Microscope: Pediatric Product Development” brought together more than 100 patients, patient advocates, representatives of academia and industry, and FDA leaders. The participants discussed pediatric product development and the ways patient advocates can participate in it.
And on September 17, 2014, our Patient Network webpages were upgraded. The “For Patients” section on FDA’s website is presented in a clear manner with easy-to-use formats. Also, a “For Patients” button is located on our homepage.
We have continued to pursue our goals of informing the public and engaging with patients by building upon the patient-centered webpages and enhancing activities that express our desire to be helpful and transparent. This is our philosophy that has helped the Patient Network evolve to what you see today.
As the Patient Network program continues to grow, I hope to expand it to have more interactive webinars like the “LiveChat” that address specific concerns of the patient communities. Also, we will continue to make it possible for patients to learn from FDA experts who approve medical products.
The FDA realizes that listening to the “patient voice” and conducting our dialogue is important, and it continues to develop its model for patient involvement through the Patient-Focused Drug Development Meetings and other OHCA sponsored meetings and webinars. We hope patients and those who care for them will join us in that effort, and make it still more helpful in protecting and promoting the public health.
Steve L. Morin, R.N., B.S.N., is a Commander of the United States Public Health Service and the Manager of the Patient Network in FDA’s Office of Health and Constituent Affairs