Senator Lifts Hold on FDA Nominee Over RU 486 Abortion Drug

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senator Lifts Hold on FDA Nominee Over RU 486 Abortion Drug Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 7
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A pro-life senator has lifted the hold he placed on a vote on the nomination of Andrew von Eschenbach to head the Food and Drug Administration. Sen. Jim DeMint had been blocking a vote because he was upset with the way the agency has handled the RU 486 abortion drug, which has killed eight women.

DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, had previously called on the FDA to remove the abortion drug, also called mifepristone, from the market.

According to FDA reports, there have now been eight known deaths associated with RU 486, nine life-threatening incidents, 116 blood transfusions, and 232 hospitalizations. In total, more than 1,050 women have had medical problems after using the drug.

But, DeMint said Thursday morning he spoke with von Eschenbach. He won’t vote for the nominee but said he would lift his hold and allow a vote to proceed.

“I recently met with Dr. von Eschenbach and he answered my questions about RU-486," he said in a statement given to "Now that he’s provided me with this information, I will not object to consideration of his nomination."

Yet, DeMint said he wouldn’t support von Eschenbach despite their conversation.

"I will not support his nomination. A qualified FDA nominee would publicly discourage the use of RU-486 and take immediate steps to suspend the drug until a full investigation can be completed," DeMint said.

"Dr. von Eschenbach has been the acting FDA commissioner for over a year but he has done nothing to publicly discourage the use of this deadly drug," he added.

Von Eschenbach did not make any guarantees about additional actions the FDA might take to remove the abortion drug form the market or whether it would take additional measures apart from its severe black box warning to tell women of the risks associated with using it.

Von Eschenbach has served as acting FDA commissioner since September 2005, but he has come under fire from DeMint and other pro-life advocates for the agency’s lackluster investigations into why the abortion drug has killed and injured so many women.

Abortion advocates have also complained about his performance saying he wrongly delayed a decision on selling the morning after pills over the counter, without a prescription.

A Senate committee approved his nomination in September but three lawmakers held it up after that.

DeMint’s hold came after abortion advocates lifted theirs.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington both placed holds on von Eschebanch’s nomination because of the FDA’s delay in approving non-prescription sales of the Plan B drug. With a new deal the agency reached with Barr Laboratories in August to sell the drug to anyone over the age of 18, the two reversed their positions.

One leading doctor familiar with the abortion drug agreed with DeMint that more should be done in response to the abortion drug injuring women.

Dr. James McGregor, an obstetrics professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, told an FDA panel earlier this year that the problems are sufficient to warrant limiting the use of the abortion drug or pulling it from the market entirely.

"I recommend we reduce or eliminate mifepristone, or at least consider that," McGregor said.