Issue Date: August 7, 2006
Confirmation of FDA commissioner is stalled
Continued delay in the approval of over-the-counter sales of the Plan B contraceptive has stalled the confirmation of Andrew C. von Eschenbach as FDA commissioner. Plan B, which is a higher dose of the active ingredient in normal birth control pills, prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions at an Aug. 1 hearing praised Acting Commissioner von Eschenbach's résumé but questioned why FDA has taken three years to approve Plan B. In 2003, the agency's independent advisory committee recommended that over-the-counter sales be approved for all women of reproductive age. On the day before the hearing, FDA notified Plan B's maker, Barr Pharmaceuticals, that approval of the drug might be possible for women over 18. Two Democrats on the committee consider that move a political rather then a scientific decision and vowed to block Senate consideration of von Eschenbach until FDA makes a final decision on Plan B. The Senate will not vote on his confirmation until September; however, President George W. Bush could appoint him during the August congressional recess.
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