Controversy erupts over plan to let Pentagon authorize unapproved drugs for battlefield use

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…

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