Dear Doctor letters, now via email

June 25, 2008

The postmarked Dear Doctor letter containing drug safety alerts may be going the way of the mimeograph, the buggy whip, and the 8-track.

The postmarked Dear Doctor letter containing drug safety alerts may be going the way of the mimeograph, the buggy whip, and the 8-track.

Since March, over 150,000 physicians have signed up for the Health Care Notification Network (HCNN), an electronic update of the service that sends out paper-based Dear Doctor letters. Both snail-mail and email systems are paid for by the pharmaceutical industry, and both receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration before any alert is issued.

The mailed versions of the alerts take days or sometimes weeks to arrive in mailboxes. Many physicians already turn to the Internet and email subscriptions to receive their medical and pharma news. HCNN expects over 300,000 physicians to sign up for the service by year's end.

The system is free to all licensed physicians in the United States, and is only used to notify physicians of alerts from the FDA, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers; and will not be used for advertisements or spam. The system hopes to inform doctors and their staffs about changes in their field as quickly as possible