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NEWS | Dec. 27, 2019

Army Medical Department Board test auto-injectors, gets feedback from Soldiers

By Jose E. Rodriguez U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

The nerve agent antidote auto-injector is something no Soldier ever wants to use on the battlefield, as the effects of chemical and biological weapons are horrific.

Nerve agents are the most toxic of the known chemical agents. They are hazards in both liquid and vapor states and can cause death within minutes after exposure. Nerve agents are the primary chemical warfare agent threat because of their high toxicity and effectiveness through multiple routes of entry. They are absorbed through the eyes, respiratory tract and skin.

Ensuring nerve agent antidote auto-injectors are functional and usable are critical in savings lives. These nerve agent antidote auto-injectors are designed to be used in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, or CBRN, environment.

Recently the U.S. Army Medical Department Board, or USAMEDDBD, assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, conducted a test of these devices at JBSA-Camp Bullis.

The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense’s Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Medical, or JPM CBRN Medical, at Fort Detrick, Maryland, requested the AMEDD Board conduct a customer test of the nerve agent antidote auto-injector within the operational environment. The data and test findings collected by the AMEDD Board will be will be provided to JPM CBRN Medical.

The nerve agent antidote auto-injector is a replacement for the currently fielded auto-injector for treatment against nerve agent and insecticide poisoning, adjunctive treatment, and management of agent-induced seizures.

The United States military adopted the auto-injector as the drug delivery device because of ease of use, packaging durability, and drug product stability under varying storage conditions.

Soldiers donned Mission Oriented Protective Posture, more commonly known as MOPP protective gear, and tested the auto-injectors in a simulated battlefield exercise complete with smoke grenades. MOPP masks can limit visibility, so the injectors have clear, easy to understand pictorial instructions.

"A lot of these auto-injectors used to have wording, just written instructions," said Gary Cabigon, an operational tester with the AMEDD Board. "What we learned over the years is that pictures are easier to comprehend, especially in a stressful environment."

Cabigon said that when under a CBRN attack vital seconds saved in dispensing the auto-injector matter.

Sgt. First Class Elijah Williamson, an AMEDD Board test officer, talked about conducting the test in the field.

"I think it's great having the training asset at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston," Williamson said. We have the austere environment where we can create the simulation of the battlefield. We do so much on slides and videos that you want to get hands-on and create that realism out at JBSA-Camp Bullis. You can't get that in the classroom."

The nerve agent antidote auto-injectors are designed to deliver an intramuscular injection with a 22-gauge needle with a pressure-activated coil spring mechanism that triggers the needle after removal of the safety cap. When activated, the needle protrudes through the needle end.