Controversy erupts over plan to let Pentagon use unapproved drugs on battlefield

Friday, 10 November 2017, 11:22:15 AM. The Capitol Hill clash was set off by a provision in the annual defense authorization bill that would allow the secretary of defense to authorize the emergency use of drugs and devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The permission would apply to military personnel who are outside the United States. The purpose, the bill says, would be 'to reduce the number of
WASHINGTON – Should the Pentagon be allowed to authorize the use of unapproved drugs and medical devices on an emergency basis for combat soldiers? That question has sparked a furious battle this week among some of Washington’s biggest power players, with the Defense Department and its congressional advocates on one side and the Food and Drug Administration and the health committees on the other. The Capitol Hill clash was set off by a provision in the annual defense authorization bill. The provision would allow the secretary of defense to authorize the emergency use of drugs and devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The permission would apply to military personnel who are outside the United States. The purpose, the bill says, would be “to reduce the number of deaths or the severity of harm to members of the armed forces . . . caused by a risk or agent of war.” Under current law, the FDA has the sole authority to make decisions on medical products, including during an emergency. The Defense Department can ask the FDA to grant an emergency authorization to use unapproved drugs and devices if there’s a threat of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agent. The FDA and leaders of congressional health committees say that giving the Pentagon the authority to decide whether to use unapproved drugs and devices could expose soldiers to dangerous products. Members of the defense panels and the Pentagon argue that the measure would...Read more
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