WASHINGTON -- Food and Drug Administration officials defended the agency yesterday against charges that import restrictions on the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 are a response to political pressures by anti-abortion activists, saying the FDA stands ready to approve import of the controversial French drug for legitimate medical research.
FDA representatives appearing at a House small business subcommittee hearing denied charges that limits on the import of RU-486 were depriving U.S. medical researchers of access to the drug, which could be useful in fighting breast cancer and other diseases.
"The FDA has done nothing to stand in the way of bona fide research," FDA attorney Sandra Barnes said. She called the agency's June 1989 decision to bar import of RU-486 for personal use a "very small action which today has been blown way out of recognition."
Other witnesses argued that the FDA's policy was jeopardizing supply of the drug to U.S. scientists and that it was hampering investigation of its potentially promising uses.
Since the FDA issued its import alert, witnesses said, Rousel Uclaf, the drug's manufacturer, has shown increasing reluctance to provide the drug for medical research.
"I am absolutely thwarted from getting this drug," said Colorado cancer researcher Dr. Kathryn Horwitz.
"The decision-making of the FDA should not be based on who screams and yells the loudest," said Dr. P. John Seward of the American Medical Association.