US FDA approves first drug to treat radiation sickness

A drug originally used to treat side effects of chemotherapy has now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the deleterious effects of radiation exposure following a nuclear incident.

New York: A drug originally used to treat side effects of chemotherapy has now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the deleterious effects of radiation exposure following a nuclear incident.

The drug, Neupogen, is the first ever approved for the treatment of acute radiation injury and the approval came as a result of research performed by the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) scientists, claims a study.

The investigators did their research in a non-human clinical model of high-dose radiation.

"Our research shows that this drug works to increase survival by protecting blood cells," said Thomas MacVittie, one of the researchers.

"That is a significant advancement, because the drug can now be used as a safe and effective treatment for the blood cell effects of severe radiation poisoning," MacVittie noted.

Radiation damages the bone marrow, and as a result decreases production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Neupogen counteracts these effects.

The drug, which is made by Amgen Inc., was first approved in 1991 to treat cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Although doctors may use it "off label" for other indications, the research and the resulting approval would speed up access to and use of the drug in the event of a nuclear incident, the study noted.

The research builds on 40 years of work that MacVittie and his team have conducted in the field of radiation research, during which they have helped to define the field.

The study was published in the journal Radiation Research.

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