Friday, October 14, 2005

Well, Duh!

For some reason, this regime hasn't managed to put a cork in the General Accountability Office, a governmental watchdog. The GAO has issued a draft report on the Food and Drug Administration's refusal to approve a contraceptive drug for over-the-counter distribution raised a lot of howls, and it now appears that the howlers were absolutely correct in their outrage. The fun part of the GAO draft report is the refusal to cooperate by the former head of the FDA, as noted in the Washington Post.

The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration declined to cooperate with an inquiry by the Government Accountability Office into the agency's controversial decision to reject nonprescription sales of an emergency contraceptive.

According to congressional staffers who have read the draft GAO report but were not allowed to copy it, the document has several footnotes indicating Lester M. Crawford did not respond to requests for an interview.

The draft report, which is being reviewed by the FDA and members of Congress, describes the agency's decision-making process on Plan B as highly unusual because officials in the commissioner's office were directly involved and the FDA office directors who normally rule on applications refused to sign the rejection letter. An FDA advisory panel earlier voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal.

In its draft report, the GAO says FDA advisory panels had reviewed 23 applications to switch a prescription drug to over-the-counter status, and that the Plan B application was the only one where the agency did not follow the experts' recommendation.
[emphasis added]

Mr. Crawford denied any White House pressure, but it is clear from the article that the main reason for the initial rejection of the drug as over the counter was that the drug might lead to increased sexual behavior by teenaged women. That argument is one that the religious reich made in objecting to yet another form of contraception. The odd decision by the agency not to follow the recommendation of the advisory panel in this single case suggests that the pressure came from somewhere, a conclusion that appears to be buttressed by Mr. Crawford's refusal to speak with the investigators.

The GAO cannot compel Mr. Crawford (who, it should be noted, resigned abruptly recently) to speak with them as part of the investigation, but some other governmental agency (such as Congress or a Special Prosecutor) certainly does have that kind of subpoena power.

Like I said yesterday in the post entitled "God Talk": I don't care about people's personal religious beliefs. I just don't want a governmental official using those beliefs to run my government.


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