With $1 million in seed money from a major drug manufacturer, the Food and Drug Administration has launched a voluntary program to inform patients about the potential risks of the drugs they take.
The new program, which comes at the expense of a Carter administration proposal to require that information leaflets be included with 10 kinds of common drugs, was attacked by consumer groups as another example of bad medicine from the Reagan administration.
"The failure of the previous private-sector initiatives are the reason the Carter administration decided the mandatory program was the only way to go," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, executive director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, a Ralph Nader-backed organization that monitors health issues. Wolfe said his group would press its legal efforts to reinstate the mandatory rules.
The linchpin of FDA's voluntary effort is the National Council on Patient Information and Education, a public relations effort to which Ciba-Geigy has committed $1 million over three years.
FDA's part of the deal is establishing a Patient Education Resources Center, which a spokesman described as a "clearinghouse or file cabinet" for data on private-sector activities. It will have a staff of one.