The Director of Women’s Health at the Food and Drug Administration, Susan Wood, resigned today in protest over the agency’s delay on a decision to approve the emergency contraceptive "morning after" pill, sometimes called Plan B, for over-the-counter use. Late Friday afternoon, the FDA stated that they would neither approve or reject an application to allow women over 17 to get Plan B without a prescription, citing "unresolved regulatory issues." In response, Wood cited unwarranted interference in agency decision-making in her choice to leave.
The FDA science staff has overwhelmingly favored approval of improving access to Plan B, but the agency has twice delayed the approval, and stated this time around that a formal and "possibly time-consuming" rule making process would be needed for approval. It seems that in what should be a science-based process, the FDA may be bowing to political pressure from the Bush administration and anti-abortion activists to keep the drug off the market with endless delays.
Seven states have already approved over-the-counter access to Plan B, including Washington, and all Canadian pharmacies now offer emergency contraception without a prescription. As we’ve written about here, and here, universalizing one-stop access to emergency contraception at pharmacies is one of the best public policy options toward reducing the number of unintended pregnancies-perhaps by as much as half. Children conceived intentionally receive better prenatal care and have lower infant mortality rates. Approving better access to Plan B sounds like a good plan for women’s health, it’s no wonder that Wood said that her employer’s actions were "contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women’s health."