Thursday, November 9, 2006
A federal magistrate judge has ruled that a reproductive-rights group can seek White House e-mails and other documents as part of its lawsuit promoting broader access to the "morning-after" pill.
The ruling by Viktor V. Pohorelsky allows the Center for Reproductive Rights to subpoena more than three years of Plan B-related communications between the White House's domestic-policy office and select Food and Drug Administration officials. The documents include e-mails, letters and records of conversations.
The group sued the FDA seeking to lift age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of Plan B. The center seeks the documents to determine whether the White House interfered with the FDA's handling of a request by manufacturer Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. to allow sales without prescriptions.
The ruling issued Monday and disclosed yesterday rejected a government effort to block the group from trying to subpoena the records.
Pohorelsky also allowed the group to take testimony from Sandra L. Kweder, deputy director of the FDA's office of new drugs, and Jay Lefkowitz, a former White House domestic policy aide.
Former FDA commissioner Mark B. McClellan said in an earlier deposition that he gave Lefkowitz "occasional updates" on Barr's Plan B application, according to a transcript released by the group.
In August, the FDA said it would let women 18 and older buy Plan B without a prescription, but younger consumers would still need a doctor's note. Barr expects pharmacies nationwide to begin selling the pills over the counter to adults by the middle of November.
The pill is a high dose of the most common ingredient in birth-control pills. When taken within 72 hours, the two-pill series can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.