FDA amendment DOA

Sen. Murray withdraws move to investigate Plan B delays.

Published November 9, 2005 1:28PM (EST)

On Oct. 26, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. -- said to be "one of the toughest players in an old boys' club" -- introduced an amendment (H.R. 3010) to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill that would shift $3 million from the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the Office of the Inspector General at HHS to help pay for an investigation into alleged mismanagement at the Food and Drug Administration. The investigation would focus, in large part, on the FDA's delays in approving over-the-counter sales of Plan B emergency contraception.

"It is obvious to me, to many of my colleagues, and to millions of American women that something other than science is going on at the FDA," said Murray.

Hold your applause. It was reported yesterday that when Murray offered her amendment, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. -- a former obstetrician who opposes OTC sales of Plan B -- parried with a threat to offer an additional amendment to fund an OIG investigation into the FDA's far less glacial approval of mifepristone (the "abortion pill" formerly known as RU-486) in 2000. The insinuation: "You want an FDA investigation? Then how about we also take a look at why the baby-killer pill was fast-tracked by the Clinton administration?" (Ah, the glory days.)

Checkmate. Murray withdrew her amendment.

According to the Kaiser Network, "A spokesperson for Coburn said that Murray then withdrew her amendment because both it and Coburn's secondary amendment immediately would have come to a vote. A spokesperson for Murray denied that assertion, saying that neither amendment would have reached a vote because they asked for new investigations, which should be introduced into legislation, not through an appropriations bill."

Blah blah blah. It's not clear -- at least on record -- why Murray withdrew her amendment. But it is obvious to me, to many of my colleagues, and to millions of American women that something other than cricket is going on in the Senate.

(Hey wait! Didn't the Government Accountability Office already do that investigation? Yep. It was due at the end of last month. But the FDA has apparently asked the GAO to delay its release. Funny, that.)

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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