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Congressman Waxman Encourages the FDA to Examine New Research on HPV and Condoms

On August 2, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Lester Crawford encouraging him to review the findings of new research that suggests condoms significantly reduce the risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.1

The study, presented last month at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research (ISSTDR) in Amsterdam , found that young women who consistently used condoms were 70% less likely to acquire HPV in the cervical or vulvovaginal area. In preventing cervical HPV specifically, condoms proved even more effective (80%).2 This latter finding is particularly significant because the development of cervical cancer is highly correlated with a cervical infection, rather than a vulvovaginal infection.3 The recent study has also been lauded by public health professionals such as Dr. King Holmes, Director of the University of Washington 's Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, who stated that evidence now “suggests that condom use reduces the risk of HPV infection and the risk of HPV-associated diseases.”4

This latest evidence comes just as the FDA is considering whether to require warning labels on condoms that state that they do not provide effective protection against HPV infection. Applying political pressure to the agency to rule in favor of stricter labels, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) initially placed a hold on a vote to approve Crawford's nomination to head the FDA. After he was assured by the agency that condom labels would be reviewed for medical accuracy, Coburn lifted the hold. Sen. Coburn and Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) also wrote a letter urging prompt action on condom labeling from the FDA “regarding the lack of protection against HPV infection.”5 Using scare tactics in regards to STDs is not unfamiliar territory for Sen. Coburn, who hosted a briefing earlier this year titled “The Revenge of the STDs” for Capitol Hill staffers and interns. The presentation was complete with Star Wars theme music and graphic pictures of genitalia infected with untreated STDs, including HPV.6

There is already well-accepted evidence supporting the idea that condoms provide some protection against genital warts and cervical cancer, the two major health risks associated with HPV.7 This new study follows the methodological recommendations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and thereby provides more credible evidence that condoms protect against HPV.8 According to Congressman Waxman, “the new study, combined with previous evidence, seriously undermines the call by some conservative organizations and lawmakers for labeling that warns consumers that condoms do not protect against HPV.”9

The FDA has received the letter but has not yet responded to it or released any statements regarding condom labeling. In addition, the CDC, which recently produced a web cast to update provider prevention knowledge on HPV, has not yet changed any of its prevention messages about HPV to incorporate this new research.10

View Congressman Waxman's letter to the FDA.

References

  1. House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, “New Study Should Influence Condom Labeling Debate: Letter to FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford ,” Press Release published on 2 August 2005, accessed 2 August 2005, <www.democrats.reform.house.gov>.
  2. Rachel Winer, “The Effect of Consistent Condom Use on the Risk of Genital HPV Infection Among Newly Sexually Active Young Women,” Presented at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research (ISSTDR), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 11 July 2005, accessed 15 July 2005, <www.isstdr.nl >.
  3. Elizabeth R. Unger, “Human Papillomavirus and Cervical Cancer,” Conference Summary, Atlanta, GA, November 2004, accessed 19 August 2005, <www.cdc.gov>.
  4. House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, “New Study Should Influence Condom Labeling Debate: Letter to FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford .”
  5. Ibid.
  6. Hanna Rosin, “The Senator's Guide to Safe Sex,” The Washington Post , 27 May 2005, C01.
  7. National Institutes of Health, Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence of Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention ( Herndon , VA : National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 12 June 2000), accessed 19 August 2005, <www.niaid.nih.gov>.
  8. “New Study Should Influence Condom Labeling Debate.”
  9. Ibid.
  10. National Center for HIV, STD & TB, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “HPV and Cervical Cancer: An Update on Prevention Strategies,” Web cast released 9 August 2005, accessed 9 August 2005, <www.phppo.cdc.gov>.

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