For the past six years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put out a short video segment called “Patient Safety News,” which FDA says is:

“a televised series for health care personnel, carried on satellite broadcast networks aimed at hospitals and other medical facilities across the country. It features information on new drugs, biologics and medical devices, on FDA safety notifications and product recalls, and on ways to protect patients when using medical products.”

About a year ago, FDA started posting these video snippets on YouTube.

One can assume that FDA is posting these so that they reach a broader audience, and not just health professionals. Since they’re aimed at health care personnel, it’s not surprising that the language in them is not all that consumer friendly. But the videos end up sound like little more than the announcers reading text from a drug’s FDA label. Do, for instance, doctors and nurses catching these short snippets in, say, a hospital staff lounge or cafeteria, really stop and listen to the droning text of a drug’s label? Even if they do, does the content penetrate and get retained in the probably busy and distracting environments in which they’re shown?

The FDA might be better off not simply reciting label text in these videos, but rather summarizing the warnings/label changes/what-have-you in a more consumer-friendly fashion. If the purpose behind posting these videos on YouTube is to reach consumers, then the the FDA is failing miserably on that front, as the language used in impenetrable and inaccessible. It’s safe to assume that consumers watching these videos have no idea after they’ve watched them whether it was good news, bad news or no news about the drug in question.

Take, for instance, this Patient Safety News segment with the riveting title of “New Data on Thromboembolic Events with Ortho Evra Contracept“:

It says things like “these findings support an earlier study that also concluded that women in this group were at higher risk for venous thromboembolism. Another earlier study found that women using the patch did not have a greater risk, but the results from the two positive studies support the concerns that the patch could increase the risk of blood clots in some women.”

And then it concludes that women with concerns should talk to their health care providers. But the overall message is completely unclear — is there a risk? is there not a risk? How much of a risk? This is likely confusing not just to consumers but to prescribers as well.

The FDA did much better in a segment it did on Over-the-Counter cough and cold remedies for kids, Caution Giving Children Cough and Cold Medicines. It had clear recommendations, and the visuals reinforced the message, even if the language was a bit unnecessarily complicated (how many consumers know what an “active ingredient” is?):

It would also be useful if FDA were to do versions of these videos in other languages, particularly Spanish.

The production values of the series are a bit low-tech, which is to be expected, I suppose. Perhaps the FDA needs to take a cue from the very Direct-to-Consumer Advertisements it regulates?

To see all of the videos FDA has posted on YouTube, go here. You can also view the videos on the FDA website here.