A controversial evangelical doctor will leave an important Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel following allegations that he had inordinate influence over the FDA’s decision on nonprescription status for emergency contraception (EC). Dr. W. David Hager, appointed to the FDAs’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee after ardent opposition from women’s reproductive health and rights groups, including the Feminist Majority, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he “will no longer be on the advisory committee after June 30.”
An expose in The Nation published online yesterday revealed that Hager claims to have been asked by the FDA to write a minority opinion for the FDA commissioner explaining why over-the-counter status for the emergency contraceptive Plan B should be rejected. An FDA spokeswoman denied this claim, according to the Washington Post. Hager told the Herald-Leader that he could not “reveal” the name of the person who asked him for the minority report. The Nation story also featured a lengthy interview with Hager’s ex-wife, who alleges that Hager sexually abused her repeatedly during their marriage, which was corroborated with both on and off the record sources.
Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to immediately investigate Hager’s claims and the FDA’s decision-making process on Plan B. “Day by day, the public’s confidence in the FDA’s ability to make decisions based on scientific evidence of safety and efficacy is eroding,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Michael Leavitt, HHS secretary. “The FDA should never let political considerations interfere with scientific treatment decisions.”
“The FDA’s credibility has taken serious hits of late,” said Beth Jordan, MD, medical director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “The FDA must address immediately the damning charges that an ideologically driven, fundamentalist Christian was able to exert an inordinate amount of influence over a decision that should be entirely based on the best medical science. Had it been, Plan B emergency contraception would certainly be available over-the-counter now and the nation could more seriously tackle the problem of unintended pregnancies.”