September 1st, 2005
Dr Susan Woods, the head of the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Women’s health has sadly had to resign her position in protest over the FDAs approach to making emergency contraception available over the counter.
In her resignation statement she explained that the Commissioner of the FDA’s decision to continue to limit women’s access to emergency contraception (that would reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions) meant she could no longer stay in post. She said “I have spent the last 15 years working to ensure that science informs good health policy decisions. I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled”.
It is shocking Dr Woods has had to resign and we must continue to make contraception (including emergency contraception) widely available. But we should also admire Susan for her bravery and for making a stand for women and their partners everywhere. It would have been easy to stay in post and turn a blind eye, or be complicit in a programme that wasn’t helping people’s reproductive rights. Many scientists do this every day. Susan Woods took the more difficult path of making the public aware of the FDA’s activities – but in a world of increased scientific apathy thank goodness for people like her.
The National Women’s Health Network have distributed a statement (in full below) to indicate their support for Dr Woods.
Leaders of the women’s health community commend Dr. Susan F. Wood for her commitment to promoting women’s health and the integrity of science
Washington, DC – The national effort to improve the health of women suffered a serious blow today with the resignation of Dr. Susan F. Wood as the director of the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health. Dr. Wood resigned in protest over the agency’s handling of Plan B. She announced her resignation earlier today.
The women’s health community applauds Dr. Wood for her personal commitment to the FDA’s mission of making science-based decisions to improve the health of the public and we are very sorry to lose her. Dr. Wood was one of the champions of a decade-long effort to improve women’s health through increased federal research and support.
Dr. Wood’s impact on women’s health was felt in many ways during her nearly 5 years at the FDA. She led the agency’s effort to ensure that women were included in trials of new drugs and medical devices, and put into place reporting and recordkeeping systems that enabled researchers to quickly determine whether women were affected differently than men by specific
products. Dr. Wood was also a key player in the FDA’s efforts to increase our shared knowledge about the effects of medications used in pregnancy on the health of the fetus and the pregnant woman.
Dr. Wood also demonstrated her leadership in women’s health by creating new programs to communicate important health information to average women, such as the FDA’s Take Time to Care campaign. She was awarded the Commissioner’s Certificate of Excellence for her work on the agency’s education campaign on menopause hormone therapy.
Dr. Wood encouraged dialogue with the FDA on a broad range of women’s health issues, from many avenues. She welcomed input from consumers as well as industry, health professionals and biomedical researchers.
The resignation of Dr. Wood ‘s just one example of the damaging implications of the FDA’s willingness to ignore clear scientific evidence and clear scientific shortcomings in their approval decisions for prescription drugs, medical devices, and other medical products. American women will be harmed directly by FDA’s inappropriate decisions, as well as indirectly harmed when
outstanding public servants decide to resign from this ailing agency.