Office of Women’s Health Gets Short-changed

J0409703Are the women of America suddenly facing less health concerns than they have been for the sixteen years?  Common sense probably says the answer is no.  But common sense does not appear to be involved in FDA budgeting decisions.

For the past 16 years, Congress has allocated $4 million towards the Office of Womens Health (OWH).  However, this week it became apparent that $1.2 million dollar’s worth of that budget was disappearing, despite congressional and presidential requests to the contrary.  What gives?

The move prompted the Society for Women’s Health Research to state their opposition to these cuts and also brought protest from the three former directors of the OWH, both statements being exhibited at OBGYN.net

According to the Washington Post article on the issue from February 27, this cut will effectively shut down the OWH activities for the balance of the year.  Reportedly, the OWH will, as a result of the cuts, have committed this year to spending more money than it actually has left in its budget.  Who operates an agency that way?

As you may recall, the OWH was at the center of the Plan B controversy and its director resigned because of the FDA’s fumbled handling of Plan B.  Is the budget cut someone’s way of issuing payback to the OWH?  Such concerns were expressed by several who were interviewed for the article.  In the absence of any other explanation, such a point of view will no doubt stick.

But this is hardly the kind of perception this beleaguered and highly troubled agency needs at this time.  Every single act by the agency should be a step to restoring its reputation, not subjecting it to further question and scrutiny.  About the smartest thing that the FDA has accomplished in the past year is to put the Plan B fiasco behind it.  If the concerns regarding retribution true, the action is not only ham-handed, it fuels the flames of doubt over the agency has become more political than scientific under this Administration and undermines any ability of the FDA to move on from the morass in which it is stuck. 

Several Senators also joined the chorus and called on the Commissioner to see to it that this cut is reversed.  If he knows what he is doing, Dr. von Eshenbach will make sure that the cut is not only immediately restored, but that this sort of action not occur in the future. 

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