[Leslie Carol Botha: The FDA and women’s health in the same sentence makes me nervous. I think it is pretty clear that the FDA does not hold the health of women – nor anyone else for that matter- as a priority. It has become pretty clear that they are the government puppet for the pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Elizabeth Kissling wrote an excellent highlighting some of the FDA’s obvious disregard for the health of women.]
It’s National Women’s Health Week- Celebrate and Reminisce with the FDA
Society for Menstrual Cycle Research
by Elizabeth Kissling
May 15, 2012
I admit, I didn’t know that this is National Women’s Health Week until I received a reminder in my inbox from a U.S. FDA mailing list, letting me know about the Food & Drug Administration’s role in promoting Women’s Health. They’ve published a brochure (available in both HTML and PDF versions) commemorating 100 Years of Protecting and Promoting Women’s Health.
Society for Menstrual Cycle Research members and other women’s health advocates and activists will want to look through the list of the accomplishments the FDA claims responsibility for and lists as unequivocal improvements in women’s health.
For instance, we’ve had many discussions at re:Cycling about the FDA approval of the pill in 1960 as one holding mixed benefits for women, and not always the best choice for women’s health. The brochure also asserts that in 1970, “FDA initiated the first package insert written for consumers to explain to women the benefits and potential risks of oral contraceptives.” That *happened* in 1970, but Barbara Seaman, Alice Wolfson, and the other founding mothers of the National Women’s Health Network had more to do with its initiation than the FDA.
And here’s another inspiring quote from the FDA brochure:
1980: Making Tampon Use Safer
Problem: In 1980, there were 814 confirmed cases of menstrual related Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and 38 deaths from the disease.
Response: FDA began requiring all tampon packages to include package inserts educating women about the risk of TSS and how to prevent it. In 1997, there were only five confirmed menstrually-related TSS cases and no deaths. The tampon package inserts with TSS information continue to be used today.
Sure, the FDA is proud of those safety rules now, but in 1982 the agency asked the industry to come up with their own voluntary standards because they did NOT want to regulate tampon safety. After years of pressure and organizing from Boston Women’s Health Collective members Esther Rome and Judy Norsigian, activist Jill Wolhander, researcher Nancy Reame, and others to standardize tampon absorbency ratings, the FDA finally enacted regulations in 1989, by court order. Nine years after 38 women died from a tampon-related illness.