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Doctor on FDA Panel Is Criticized

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From Associated Press

A physician who has been criticized for his views concerning birth control was named this week to a Food and Drug Administration panel on women’s health policy.

Dr. W. David Hager, a University of Kentucky obstetrician-gynecologist, was among 11 physicians appointed Tuesday to the FDA’s Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.

Hager has questioned the safety of the abortion pill RU-486, and acknowledges that he opposes abortions.

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Abortion-rights activists are concerned about Hager’s appointment because he participated in a Christian Medical Assn. campaign this year that attempted to reverse the FDA committee’s 1996 recommendation that led to RU-486 being approved.

The National Organization for Women and six other groups that support abortion rights have called Hager’s selection a conflict of interest.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America on Tuesday called the appointment of Hager and other doctors on the panel “a frontal assault on reproductive rights that will imperil women’s health.”

It said Hager and his wife, Linda, have recommended “specific Scripture readings and prayers for such ailments as headaches and premenstrual syndrome.”

But Hager, a part-time professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said his beliefs won’t compromise his judgment.

“Yes, I’m pro-life,” he told the Courier-Journal of Louisville. “But that’s not going to keep me from objectively evaluating medication.

“I believe there are some [RU-486] safety concerns and they should be evaluated.”

Hager also has condemned the birth control pill, used by about 10 million U.S. women, saying it provides a convenient way for young people to be sexually active outside of marriage.

But Hager said he does not deny birth control prescriptions to unmarried women.

The advisory committee has not met for two years, and its entire membership had lapsed. Its job is to review and evaluate data -- and make recommendations -- concerning the safety and effectiveness of marketed and experimental drugs for use in obstetrics, gynecology and related specialties.

It will be chaired by Dr. Linda C. Giudice, the chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility for the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Stanford University Medical Center.

FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said the panel “will provide sound, science-based advice on reproductive health issues that will improve women’s lives across the country.”

In addition to Hager and Giudice, the other physicians appointed to the panel are Leslie Gay Bernitsky, a urologist from Albuquerque; Susan A. Crockett of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Nancy Dickey, chancellor of the Texas A&M; College of Medicine; Scott Shields Emerson of the University of Washington, Seattle; Michael Furman Greene of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; Vivian Lewis of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York; George A. Marcones of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Valerie Montgomery Rice of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City; and Joseph Barney Stanford of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.


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