The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   S I G H T I N G S

AIDing "Population Control"

The U.S. Agency _for International Development (AID) is seriously considering a highly controversial move: financing the distribution of the contraceptive Depo-Provera in AID's 'Third World "development" projects, even though The U.S. Food and Drug Administration' rejects Depo-Provera for use as a contraceptive in the United States because it is too dangerous. (See Monitor, August 1980.)

Up to now, AID has held to an official policy of not financing the distribution of any product for uses the FDA rejects in the U.S. However, AID has taken all but the final step in making an unprecedented policy exception solely for Depo-Provera, a drug manufactured by the Upjohn Company.

Upjohn's own test of Demo--Provera showed a high incidence of breast cancer in beagle dogs and endometial cancer in rhesus monkeys. And women injected with the contraceptive have reported cases of heavy bleeding and involuntary sterility.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the Health Research Group in Washington has studied the effects of Depo-Provera as a contraceptive and concludes that it is unsafe. "We strongly oppose the approval of Demo--Provera as a contraceptive because its dangers far outweigh any benefits for this purpose," Dr. Wolfe says.

High officials in AID's office of population, nevertheless, strongly favor going ahead with financing the drug's distribution. They have asked AID field officers in various countries to check whether foreign governments would request AID-funded Depo-Provera. "A few countries expressed concern," says Stephen Joseph, acting assistant administrator of AID's development support bureau, "but the general reaction - and this is a strong generalization - is that countries would see themselves using Depo-Provera in most cases."

A ruling by AID is imminent. "I've asked that the issue be shaped up for decision," said acting administrator Joseph Wheeler on Feb. 4, "and I'm expecting we will have reached a determination in the next two , or three weeks."

"Population control" is not a project AID takes lightly. "AID has been the pioneer in the population field," says Wheeler. "Since the 1960s, when we began population work, we've provided at least half of the funding for international birth control, including the pill, IUD, and sterilization of women."

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