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Pentagon Seeks Drug to Counter Effects of Radiation Sickness

April 27, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The military is testing drugs that would allow troops to fight even after exposure to radiation, such as that from a nuclear blast, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

The work is being conducted in cooperation with several other members of the NATO alliance, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Ken Hagemann, director of the Defense Nuclear Agency.

In a meeting with defense reporters, Hagemann said the drug could not reverse the potentially deadly consequences of exposure to radiation, but could allow troops to continue working for some time.

A Defense Department official, who provided more detailed information on condition of anonymity, said ``two commercial drugs ... are being evaluated for military use.″

``It’s not an antidote″ to radiation exposure, the official said, but rather is designed to counter the nausea and vomiting that are the initial symptoms of radiation sickness.

The drugs are Ondansetron and Granisetron, developed by the companies Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham, respectively.

They are being tested by two dozen military volunteers at an Air Force base in Texas, the defense official said, adding that they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the surgeon general.

The project began in 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has cost the United States about $600,000 per year, and other NATO allies about the same amount, the official said.

The countries originally included Canada, France, Spain, Britain and the United States, but Spain withdrew several years ago, the official said.

The Defense Nuclear Agency will finish its reports on the testing by 1996, the official said.

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