FDA Official Quits Over Morning After Pill Sales Approval Delay

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 31, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 31, 2005

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — An FDA official who heads a woman’s health office there resigned in protest Wednesday because the agency put off a final decision on whether to allow the morning after pill to be sold over the counter. FDA officials said they needed more time to determine how to allow it for those over 16, but to require younger teens to still visit a doctor beforehand for a prescription.

Susan Wood, director of FDA’s Office of Women’s Health, announced her plans to quit the agency in an email to colleagues. Abortion advocates, who have been pushing for the drug’s over the counter status, made the email public.

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," Wood wrote.

Wood, who also serves as the assistant commissioner for women’s health said the recent decision, announced by acting Commissioner Lester Crawford last Friday, "continues to limit women’s access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions."

However, pro-life advocates say that’s not the case and point to a recent study showing that the morning after pill fails to reduce the pregnancy rate or abortion rates.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, including a woman who runs an abortion facility, found that that increased access to the "morning after" pill did not lower pregnancy rates, because many women did not use the pills.

Wendy Wright, of Concerned Women for America, testified at the FDA Advisory Committee hearing in December 2003 when the morning-after pill was under review for over-the-counter status. She said the study backs up the concerns she and other pro-life groups demonstrated.

Wright said the study showed "easy access to the drug increases sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates," a situation she called "alarming."

"Furthermore, studies show that the abortion rate is unaffected, and in some cases has increased," she explained.

According to an Associated Press report, Wood joined the FDA in 2000 after directing women’s health programs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The pro-abortion group Reproductive Health Technologies Project released the email about Wood’s resignation.

The FDA responded to Wood’s departure in a statement saying the FDA had advanced women’s health with her help. The agency said "her decision to leave is unfortunate as we work toward solving the complex policy and regulatory issues related to Plan B."

FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford announced Friday that the agency would not approve the drug for sale because of various enforcement issues.

Barr Laboratories, maker of the Plan B drug that can sometimes cause an abortion, wants to be able to see it directly to women over the age of 16 while requiring younger teens to still obtain a prescription from a doctor beforehand. However, Crawford said that would be difficult to implement.

"These are profound regulatory decisions that cut to the heart of our work," he explained. "The answers to these questions can establish very broad and far-reaching policies that could have a significant effect on the way FDA regulates many different drugs."

Barr plans to lobby state legislatures to join the seven states that have already approved over the counter sales of the morning after pill.