Dr. Rostker holds roundtable meeting
With Veterans Service Organizations

  WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 23, 1997 (Gulflink) - Dr. Bernard Rostker, special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, invited 22 veteran services organizations (VSOs) to his office at the Pentagon on February 26, in what was the first in a series of workshops dealing with Gulf War issues. The purpose of this workshop was to provide these organizations a forum to bring questions and concerns on related Gulf War issues. The veterans provided Dr. Rostker a list of topics that they want to explore during future monthly meetings. It is Dr. Rostker’s intent to invite a subject matter expert for each topic discussed. This is a continuing effort to strengthen relationships with the VSOs, while discussing the complete range of Gulf War issues . Among the VSO representatives attending this meeting were: the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion and the Air Force Association.

Dr. Rostker told the group that their participation in this process is critical and that their feedback is very useful. He added that his office has a high level of commitment and will continue to learn everything possible about the potential causes of illnesses, including events before, during and after the war, and will continue to look for ways to improve communications with Gulf veterans on all relevant health care issues. The topic of Khamisiyah was of particular interest to those in attendance.

Dr. Rostker addressed concerns over Pyridostigmine Bromide (PB) which was given to the troops. "DoD could have done a better job of communicating to all the troops what the possible effects might be for PB. It was approved by the FDA after careful deliberation by a specially constituted human-use review committee of the Food and Drug Administration. It was determined that PB could be instrumental in saving the lives of many service members. This approval was based on extensive scientific information which supported the safety and effectiveness as preventive treatment.

Pyridostigmine bromide is not an exotic or experimental drug. It was approved by the FDA in 1955 for use in treating myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease which causes muscle weakness and fatigue. However, when approved for use in the Gulf, the approval was as an investigational new drug – this classification signifies that PB had not been formally approved for general commercial marketing as a nerve gas antidote. It was given as a prophylactic or protective step, only to prevent the effects of certain types of nerve gas. A medical publication was produced on potential health risk and the medical community communicated with the field commanders. But we need to do more the next time." DoD is still looking at this PB issue and has not yet developed a final position on this subject.

The VSO representatives agreed with Dr. Rostker on other areas that need to be looked at during future workshops, such as: the future of medical record keeping on the battlefield, medical surveillance, and obtaining information on what medications were given during the war and what medications are given now. In addition, the representatives expressed an interest in the nine town hall meetings currently being held to meet veterans groups across the country.