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Fears over drug for troops in Iraq

Press Association | September 17 2006

British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are being treated with an experimental drug that has not been fully tested.

The Ministry of Defence is giving soldiers an experimental blood clotting drug called NovoSeven, the Guardian reports.

It says that because randomised controlled trials have not yet been carried out it is impossible to judge the drug's effectiveness. But the MoD said the drug has only been authorised after "an extensive review of the current evidence".

Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis, chairman of the science and technology select committee, said the MoD's decision was "a dereliction of its duty of care that indicates a moral bankruptcy within the military." And an expert in trauma care has warned "there is potential for harm".

NovoSeven, which is also known as Recombinant Factor VIIa, was originally licensed in 1999 as a treatment to stem bleeding in haemophiliacs.

It is undergoing trials for use to stop bleeding in trauma patients with severe wounds and bleeding within the brains of patients with severe head injuries, but its effectiveness and safety as a blood-clotting agent in these circumstances has not been proven.

Professor Ian Roberts, an expert in trauma care at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Like all treatments there is potential for harm and it is not licensed for use."

Prof Roberts wrote to Defence Secretary Des Browne on August 8 to ask whether the MoD had approved the drug for use on British servicemen and women.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "The MoD attaches a high priority to medical research into trauma care. We are confident that we are offering the best possible care to our servicemen and women based on currently available evidence.

"The use of Recombinant Factor VIIa in the Defence Medical Services (DMS) has been authorised after an extensive review of the current evidence. It is strictly controlled in the DMS and only authorised when conventional medical treatments have failed."

 

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