An Oklahoma court will decide whether or not a law that restricts how doctors can treat women with abortion-inducing drugs is constitutional. The case comes just three weeks after another Oklahoma judge struck down the state’s mandatory ultrasound law and as the women’s health advocates battle a push to give legal rights to embryonic cell clusters.
The law at the center of this dispute tackles a common and controversial practice known as off-label prescribing. The Oklahoma law under review requires doctors to follow the strict guidelines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prohibits any off-label uses of the drugs including changing a recommended dosage or prescribing it for different symptoms than the drug was initially approved for.
But this flies in the face of established medical practice and again segregates out women’s medical treatment and care as separate and unequal from men. Approximately 40-60% of all prescriptions written in the United States are for off-label uses, yet bills like the one in Oklahoma only target the very small percentage of off label uses related to abortion.
The lawsuit hits the divide between the FDA’s ban on off-label marketing of pharmaceutical products and the FDA’s acceptance of doctors who routinely prescribe medications and dosages for off-label usage. It’s an area that deserves scrutiny across the entire medical industry, but that’s not what is happening here.
Instead, anti-choice activists insist the FDA’s regulatory muscle should only be flexed to restrict access to medical care related to abortion services. This is on its face discriminatory as it limits women’s access to routine medical practices simply by virtue of their gender.
If and when lawmakers want to get serious about the problems in the FDA regulatory structure that allows cozy relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies and blurs the lines of informed patient consent, then we can have a conversation about the appropriate on and off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs. But until then these bills are nothing more than legislative attempts to dictate the standard of care as it relates to women and reproductive health care, regardless if those legislators are doctors or not.
Photo from Italian voice via flickr.