We're learning a little more this morning -- but only a little -- about the mystery surrounding the Office of Women's Health at the Food and Drug Administration. As we've noted, the office has been in the news lately because its director, Susan Wood, resigned last month to protest the FDA's dithering on the morning-after pill. The FDA issued a press release last week in which it said that Norris Alderson, an expert in veterinary science, would take over as acting director of the office. But as soon as that press release appeared -- as soon as Planned Parenthood and others raised concerns about Alderson's qualifications for the job -- it disappeared again, replaced by one that said that Theresa Toigo will serve as the acting director.
What happened? We still don't know. We've asked Alderson. He hasn't responded to our e-mail message. We've asked the FDA spokeswoman whose name appeared on the Toigo press release. She tried to call us back once, missed us and hasn't responded to any further requests from us. But that same spokeswoman did talk to the Washington Post yesterday, and here's what she said: Alderson was never appointed acting director, and the FDA's press office knows nothing about the press release that said that he had been.
How's that again? A press release goes up on the FDA's Web site -- then is replaced by a press release acknowledging that it's a "revision" of a previous press release -- and the FDA's press office knows nothing about it? And how is it that a Web page on the Health and Human Services Department site listed Alderson as the acting director of the Office of Women's Health until just yesterday, when Alderson's name was replaced with Toigo's? And why, as the Post notes, was Alderson reportedly introduced to Office of Women's Health staff last week as the new acting director?
Toigo, who has run the FDA's Office of Special Health Issues, appears to be a capable replacement for Wood, and Wood herself has said so. But why was Alderson named as the acting director first? And why is the evidence of his appointment disappearing from the Web so quickly and so completely?
If the FDA has answers for any of this, it didn't offer them to the Post, and it isn't offering them to us.