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Hospitals short of poison antidotes

Thursday August 9th, 2012

Many British hospitals do not stock antidotes for well-known poisons such as cyanide or the viper bite, it was reported today.

A survey of hospitals found that most stocked antidotes for paracetamol overdose together with activated charcoal and antidotes for illegal drugs and tranquilliser overdose.

But 15 percent of hospitals were found not to stock dicobalt edetate, the preferred treatment for cyanide. Some 20 hospitals said they had other antidotes, according to Emergency Medicine Journal but nine had nothing.

And just 47 per cent stocked viper antiserum.

Researchers obtained replies from most UK hospitals about their stocks of antidotes.

National guidance says a hospital with an emergency care department should stock some 29 kinds of antidote. Of these 11 are emergency antidotes that must be immediately available - including the cyanide antidote. And viper antiserum is among category B treatments, needed within the hour.

The researchers, led by Dr Ruben Thanacoody, of the National Poisons Information Unit (NPIS), Newcastle upon Tyne, write: "While antidotes that are used commonly are widely available, those needed to treat less commonly encountered poisonings are often not stocked.

"This is of concern, because poisoning with the agents concerned is frequently associated with severed morbidity and mortality, and the timely use of an antidote may be life saving."

Emergency Medicine Journal August 9 2012; doi 10.1136/emermed-2012-201224

Tags: A&E | General Health | NHS | UK News

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