A lot of people concerned with the delays in obtaining FDA approval for the over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive Plan B breathed a sigh of relief when it looked like the FDA was getting ready to move on the issue. Before traveling up to Capitol Hill for a hearing on his nomination as the new FDA commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach announced he'd like to talk to Plan B's manufacturer about offering the contraceptive over-the-counter to women over the age of 18.
Hold on a minute. Why limit OTC availability to 18 year olds? The FDA scientific advisory panel voted overwhelmingly that Plan B was safe for use by women of any age. John Jenkins, director of the FDA's Office of New Drugs, wrote in an internal memo leaked to the Washington Post: "The agency has not [previously] distinguished the safety and efficacy of Plan B and other forms of hormonal contraception among different ages of women of childbearing potential, and I am not aware of any compelling scientific reason for such a distinction in this case."
Von Eschenbach and the Bush Administration have not offered any scientific evidence that justifies limiting Plan B's OTC availability to women over the age of 18. They are sill playing politics aimed at appealing to the religious right that fears that unmarried women will feel free to have more sex if Plan B is easily obtainable at the corner drugstore.
The FDA is legally required to consider only the scientific evidence for safety and efficacy when approving new drugs. Von Eschenbach's scientifically unjustified limit on Plan B's availability shows that he is playing politics and disqualifies him as the new FDA commissioner.