Washington State Senator, Patty Murray, and New York Senator, Hillary Clinton, say they will place a “hold” on the nomination of Lester Crawford as the new head the US Food and Drug Administration until a decision is made on the over-the-counter approval status of Barr Laboratories’ Plan B (levonorgestrel) emergency contraceptive.

The agency controversially over-ruled the recommendations of its advisory panel last year that Plan B should be approved, saying that the company needed to prove that the product was safe for use in younger girls aged 11 to 16 [[07/05/04b]]. The agency’s surprise ruling came in for much criticism and sparked allegations of political interference – the Bush Administration has implemented a more restrictive policy on issues such as abortion since coming to power. Barr subsequently refiled its application, but excluded use of Plan B in girls under the age 16 and the FDA had been expected to make a decision by a January 2005 deadline [[23/07/04b]], [[25/01/05d]].

“The FDA advisory committee has recommended approval of Plan B based on safety and effectiveness, but the FDA continues to drag its feet,” Senator Murray said. “I have always supported a strong and independent FDA, but by ignoring sound science, they have jeopardised public confidence and the health of American women. This is too important a decision to be endlessly delayed for ideological reasons.”

“The bottom line is that the FDA has had the Plan B application for years and the American people simply need an answer yes or no. Science should never take a back seat to politics and ideology,” Senator Clinton said. Her sentiments were echoed by Senator Murray, who said: “The approval of Plan B should be made based on the public health needs of women across the country, not concerns over ‘behavior’ or philosophical beliefs.”