Contraceptive delay opens door to debate

WASHINGTON: Advocates on both sides of the morning-after pill debate have launched aggressive grassroots and media campaigns now that the Food and Drug Administration has called for more public input on sales and marketing questions.

WASHINGTON: Advocates on both sides of the morning-after pill debate have launched aggressive grassroots and media campaigns now that the Food and Drug Administration has called for more public input on sales and marketing questions.

These groups fired off press releases to newsrooms across the country, rallying their supporters and expressing their disappointment.

The American Life League, for example, has publicly urged supporters to make their views known. And Concerned Women for America posted a link to FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford's e-mail address on its homepage.

Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women arranged local rallies, and NOW has also called for a national day of action.

"Contraception advocates" also tried to capitalize on divisions within the FDA itself over the delay, and released to The Associated Press a resignation e-mail from the director of the Office of Women's Health, who left her post in protest.

On the Hill, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) accused the FDA of announcing the delay late Friday "in a clear attempt to slip under the radar of the media."

A representative at the FDA was not immediately available for comment.

Peter Pitts, the FDA's former chief communications officer, now SVP of Global Health at MS&L, noted that the FDA is not trying to protect its reputation, but is concerned about being "open to lawsuits."

"The FDA is worried about making the right public health decision," he said. "People use lawsuits to get drugs on or off the market."

Barr Laboratories, maker of morning-after pill Plan B, noted in a press release that it "would continue to press for approval."

But Carol Cox, VP of IR and corporate communications, declined to elaborate on the outreach that the drug company plans to take.

"We do intend to participate in the comment period, as outlined by the FDA," she said in an e-mail.

Pitts noted that the FDA would require Barr to follow the prescription rulebook for direct-to-consumer marketing.

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