- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 28 (UPI) — The Food and Drug Administration Friday approved a new lotion that blocks the action of chemical weapons on skin for use by the U.S. military.

The lotion, called Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion or RSDL, "rapidly" neutralizes chemical weapons agents and renders them non-toxic, the FDA said.

The RSDL lotion also removes the biological agent T-2 fungal toxin from the skin.

"If used in time, this lotion can help prevent the serious burns and deaths that results from exposure to chemical warfare agents," FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan said in a written statement.

RSDL will be impregnated in a sponge pad packaged in a foil pouch. In the event of a chemical weapons attack, soldiers would open the pouch and wipe their exposed skin with the sponge.

McClellan said the FDA expedited the review of RSDL "to make it available to our men and women in uniform as quickly as possible."

A Pentagon spokesman said the product is meant to replace the standard M-291 skin decontamination kit supplied to military personnel in the Iraq theater and could be available as early as the end of April. Its cost is about $12 per packet. RSDL is considered superior to the M-291 kit because it actually neutralizes chemical agents instead of simply removing them.

RSDL will be manufactured by the Canadian company O'Dell Engineering Ltd/E-Z-EM Canada Inc.

A spokesman for E-Z-EM told UPI the FDA announced the decision "without our knowledge." The company declined further comment.

This is the second product the FDA has approved this year specifically for use by the military to block the effects of chemical weapons. In February, the FDA approved pyridostigmine bromide tablets for exposure to the nerve agent soman, a decision that was heavily criticized because some studies have suggested PB might have played a role in causing some of the symptoms of Gulf War illness.

The FDA said it based its decision to approve the RSDL lotion "on studies conducted by the U.S. Department of the Army that showed it is safe and effective."

Studies in which animals were treated with RSDL after exposure to chemical agents showed it was effective, the FDA said. Safety in humans was assessed by applying the product to the skin of more than 300 people and looking for signs of irritation and sensitization.

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