Monkey business at the FDA?

Why did the agency issue -- and then disappear -- a press release announcing that an expert in veterinary science had been appointed acting director of the Office of Women's Health?

Published September 19, 2005 1:01PM (EDT)

What's going on in the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Women's Health?

That's a question we're still trying to answer. Susan Wood, former director of the office, quit in protest last month over the FDA's delay in approving -- or even making a decision on -- the so-called morning-after pill. Sometime last week, it appears, the FDA posted a news release on its Web site that said Norris Alderson had been appointed the acting director of the office. As we noted Friday, Alderson's appointment immediately drew fire from Planned Parenthood, which complained that he was (a) a man and (b) someone who had appeared to have decades of experience in ... veterinary science.

But sometime Friday, the FDA put up a new press release that said that Theresa Toigo -- who is (a) a woman and (b) not an expert in veterinary science -- is the new acting director. Alderson wasn't mentioned in the release, and the release that did mention him disappeared almost immediately from the Google cache, replaced somehow by an old post about insulin. It's as if the Alderson appointment never happened, but only sort of: Alderson is still listed as the acting director of the Office of Women's Health on a Department of Health and Human Services Web page. And the news release on Toigo says, rather cryptically, "This is a revision of this statement posted earlier on Sept. 16."

So what happened? Did someone in the press office at the FDA simply screw up? Or did the FDA name Alderson to the position and then change course once the agency realized that appointing an expert in veterinary science to the Office of Women's Health might send the wrong message or invite unwanted comparisons to another Bush administration appointee who had animals on his résumé? We'd like to know, and we've asked the FDA and Alderson to explain. We'll let you know as soon as they do.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion War Room