Starting next year the government will move quickly to put new but unproven drugs into the hands of the sick if the medicines show promise against life-threatening or disabling diseases.

New rules being published by the Food and Drug Administration reflect the Bush administration's push to streamline the agency's process for approving drugs, especially for people with terminal diseases such as cancer and AIDS.The rules could take effect in about 30 days.

"Accelerated approval, conditional approval, these were innovations built upon the agency's commitment to provide access to experimental drugs for those dying of life-threatening disorders," FDA Commissioner David Kessler said in a speech this week.

While there has been widespread approval for getting experimental drugs into the hands of people dying from such diseases as AIDS and cancer, some in Congress have criticized the Bush administration for wanting to do likewise with drugs that treat less serious ailments.

A recent report by the House Government Operations Committee complained about that.

Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., said he supported use of such drugs to aid the dying but said the White House was forcing the FDA to allow the use of experimental drugs for less-than-life-threatening illness.

"This is nothing more than a parting gift from the Bush administration to those who seek to lower FDA's approval standards for all drugs," said Payne, chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee on human resources.

The rules came from the Council on Competitiveness, chaired by Vice President Dan Quayle. The panel had recommended accelerated approval for drugs for "any condition, regardless of its severity, when the condition lacks satisfactory alternative therapy."

The FDA narrowed that to diseases considered serious or life threatening. It cited AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's, heart failure and angina pectoris as examples of life-threatening illnesses; arthritis, asthma, diabetes, lupus and depression as serious diseases.

"The seriousness of a disease is a matter of judgment but generally is based on its impact on such factors as survival, day-to-day functioning or the likelihood that the disease, if untreated, will progress from a less severe condition to a more serious one," the agency said in proposed rules published last spring.

Under the new rules, experimental drugs would come to the market quickly through a short cut in the testing process, which will measure a drug's potential effectiveness based on lab results that scientists think may translate into benefiting the patient.

Traditionally, drug approval has been based on the manufacturer's ability to prove that the medicine was safe and effective, meaning that it provided relief from a disease's symptoms or that it prevented disability or death.

Drug companies that receive this speedy approval for a product will have to continue human tests to confirm that the product works, under the new rules. If it doesn't work, the rules provide for taking it off the market quickly.

The rules are virtually unchanged from the version proposed last April, said FDA spokeswoman Monica Revelle.