First online drug alerts go to U.S. doctors

The newly launched Health Care Notification Network (HCNN) has delivered the first online drug alerts to U.S. physicians. The alert focused on a widely manufactured and commonly used class of antibiotics and was sent immediately via the HCNN to health care providers, who are no longer forced to wait days or weeks for a traditional "Dear Doctor Letter" to arrive via U.S. mail, reports Nancy Dickey, MD, former president of the American Medical Association (AMA) and chair of the iHealth Alliance, the not-for-profit board in San Francisco, that governs the HCNN service.

"The HCNN dramatically improves the process of notifying physicians of time-sensitive and important patient safety information," she says. "With the success of this first notification, the HCNN is well on its way to moving patient safety into the Internet age."

The effort was praised by Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "E-mail notification offers significant advantages over traditional mail delivery, and helps ensure that we can adequately protect the health and safety of Americans," she says.

In just six months and as a result of the joint efforts of the AMA, state and specialty medical societies, health plans, consumer advocacy groups, government leaders, and industry — the HCNN already reaches physicians across the country. The HCNN is promoted by those organizations, as well as most medical liability carriers and many university medical centers, because it significantly reduces delays in notifying physicians of important medication and device safety alerts, which dramatically improves patient safety.

The HCNN replaces traditional U.S. mail delivery of urgent drug warning and recall letters to physicians. Physicians not yet enrolled in the HCNN will receive the alert in paper via U.S. mail later in the month. Free to all licensed U.S. physicians and their staff, the HCNN is used solely for FDA-mandated Patient Safety Alerts, fulfilling the recently updated FDA guidance for the electronic delivery of the alerts. It is not used for advertising or marketing.

Physicians and health care providers can register to receive electronic alerts at or through participating medical societies and other HCNN partners. For more information about the HCNN and online Patient Safety Alerts, visit