Advocates Praise FDA's Choice to Fund Office of Women's Health

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007

Women's groups and members of Congress late Friday celebrated a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to fully fund the agency's Office of Women's Health.

Last month, agency insiders leaked information indicating that FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach had devised plans to reduce the office's fiscal 2007 budget by about 25 percent -- a cut that advocates said would have effectively suspended the office's activities for the rest of the year.

During the past week, activists and several members of Congress repeatedly pressed von Eschenbach about the pending move -- and until Friday the commissioner said he had not made up his mind. But late that day the agency released its long-awaited 2007 operating plan, which funds the office at the same $4 million level it has had for several years.

"It is disappointing that on the important issue of women's health, FDA had to be persuaded to simply maintain the funding level that was requested by the administration and provided by Congress," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairman of the House appropriations committee that funds the FDA.

At the same time, she said, "It is very gratifying that the FDA reversed course."

The office funds research on biological and other differences between men and women that can affect the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in women.

The office "does a tremendous job protecting and advancing the health of women through policy, science and outreach," said Phyllis Greenberger, president of the Society for Women's Health Research, a D.C.-based advocacy group that had helped raise the alarm about the possible cuts. "Thankfully, its efforts will continue."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company