FDA to discuss use of household anthrax medikits

A joint U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is scheduled to discuss the feasibility of storing antibiotic medikits in homes in case terrorists release anthrax spores in major U.S. cities.

Anthrax is classified as a category A agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Category A agents pose the greatest threat to public health based on their potential for use in a bioterror attack. Anthrax is highly lethal, but illness and death can be prevented if a person is treated immediately with antibiotics, according to MedPageToday.com.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research Projects Authority recently asked the FDA to advise it on what studies would be needed for approval of an anthrax medikit.

In response, the FDA's Anti-Infective Drugs Advisory Committee and the Non-Prescription Drugs Advisory Committees scheduled a meeting to discuss the potential benefits and risks associated with the widespread usage of medikits.

The anthrax medkit would contain a 10 day supply of the antibiotic doxycycline. To obtain a kit, an individual would need a prescription from a healthcare provider and would then be able to purchase one at a pharmacy. Postal workers and their households have already been granted access for personal home medikits.

Current government plans in case of an anthrax release focus on the distribution of antibiotics from a central supply location within several days of the notification of an attack. Several metropolitan areas could potentially speed the distribution process to 48 hours with the help of a recent federal readiness initiative, MedPageToday.com reports.

The availability of medikits would reduce congestion in the distribution process and allow people to initiate treatment much sooner. It is feared, however, that having a ready supply of antibiotics may lead to people taking the medication for other infections. Such use could promote antibacterial resistance.

A recent report issued by the Institute of Medicine recommended halting the pursuit of an FDA-approved medikit. The IOM concluded that the risk of inappropriate use was too high and that prepositioning antibacterial drugs in homes could increase the probability that terrorists would pursue the use of a resistant strain of anthrax in an attack.