Feds Allow Emergency Use of Drugs, Tests to Combat Deadly Enterovirus

The Obama administration is allowing emergency use of unapproved drugs and diagnostic tests to combat a highly contagious respiratory virus that has infected more than 1,000 people.

The administration announcement Friday notes that the nation is on the cusp of a potential “public health emergency” due to enterovirus-D68, which causes severe respiratory illnesses in mostly children and teens. The virus has infected 1,153 people across the country and killed 14 people as of Jan. 15, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Almost all the confirmed cases were among children, many of whom had asthma or a history of wheezing,” the CDC said last month. “There were likely millions of mild [enterovirus] infections for which people did not seek medical treatment and/or got tested.”

The designation allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clear use of unapproved drugs or other medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat or prevent serious diseases that have no adequate approved treatment, according to the agency’s website. The FDA used the same emergency authority to allow Ebola patients to receive experimental medical treatments.