In The Field

Contraceptive craziness (warning you will enjoy politics or else)

Reproduction was hard enough. So today, just to throw a kink in things, a major focus at ASRM’s 2007 annual meeting was contraception. I didn’t make it to many of the symposia on the topic — too busy with preimplantation genetic diagnositcs. Nevertheless few choice comments came from an engaging, though poorly attended late morning panel on the politics of contraception, something that is largely only an issue for christian dominated countries like the US.

Wayne Shields, president and CEO of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals was talking about ideological intrusions into research and public health policy, which he sayshas “been brought to new art by this administration.” Vanessa Cullins, vice president of Planned Parenthood agreed and worried about the more insidious changes in the way regulations have been interpreted urging folks to look deeply into the Waxman report, and warning, “The damage that has been done through the areas of regulation that are not seen are the ones that are going to be haunting us for generations to come.”

Kirsten Moore President of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project seemed the most upbeat, no less so for the fact that fewer people had heard of her organization (and just maybe because of it). She recounted the story of how Susan Wood came to her group when she planned to resign from the FDA over what she saw as blatant disregard for scientific information over the regulation of the Plan B contraceptive.

She urged attendees to take part in an open session by the FDA next month to consider a new class of hybrid over the counter/prescription drugs that might include smoking cessation medications, plan b, and the new weight loss pill Alli.

She called the move “pure cover your ass mechanic [begging pardon for the language. Plan B] should be on the shelves next to condoms.” But, she said, her friends at the FDA (and she still has friends there, apparently) were adamant that if her group wanted to kill all progress, all they had to do was start talking about over the counter contraceptives.

As is customary at such meetings scientists and medical professionals were urged to take a more active role in politics. A show of hands revealed that few were interested in this endeavor. But for this field, Moore said, tough toenails. Better learn to have fun with it.


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