The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health (OWH) released a progress report yesterday on its first decade of work. OWH was created by an act of Congress as a response to the dearth of women participants in medical studies, and the subsequent lack of knowledge about women’s health. Its mission is to advocate for women’s inclusion in clinical trials, encourage sex difference and subpopulation analysis of medical results, and “protect and advance the health of women through policy, science and outreach.”
The progress report detailed the studies OWH supported regarding heart disease, dioxin, silicone breast implants, and the safety of medication during pregnancy, among other research areas. Furthermore, the report detailed the fact sheets and other women’s health resources that it has made available, including a “pregnancy registry” which tracks women and the medications they take while pregnant to evaluate the overall safety of those drugs for pregnant women. In an email that accompanied the release of the report, Kathleen Uhl, the assistant commissioner for women’s health, wrote that the office’s future goals would include more sex difference research, expanding their data repository, and working to educate consumers.
Women’s contraceptive health was conspicuously absent from the report, with no mention made of the emergency contraceptive Plan B or of any other hormonal or nonhormonal contraceptive advances of the past decade. Susan Wood, the former director of the OWH, left the agency because of delays regarding a decision on over-the-counter status for Plan B, and has since voiced fears that scientists will leave the FDA because “social conservatives have extreme undue influence.”