Susan Wood quit her job as an assistant commissioner for woman’s health at the Food and Drug Administration in 2005 because she thought political, not scientific, forces were delaying efforts to make the Plan B emergency contraceptive available without a prescription. Four years later, she rejoiced when she was present to watch President Barack Obama sign a statement that said decisions in his administration would be based on science, not politics.
Now she says she is beyond disappointed. Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, a member of his cabinet, Wednesday made a new decision to prevent a further expansion of Plan B’s over-the-counter use, this time to adolescents, overruling not only FDA staffers but also the drug agency’s commissioner, Margaret Hamburg. Although the HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, was within her legal authority under the 1938 law that created the FDA, this is the first time a presidential administration has ever publicly overruled the FDA in this manner.