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Few hospitals 'stock enough poison antidotes for emergency use'

Published 19/11/2015

Hospitals said the high cost of some antidotes along with the need to replace stock, which may expire before use, were to blame for poor stocking
Hospitals said the high cost of some antidotes along with the need to replace stock, which may expire before use, were to blame for poor stocking

Few hospitals stock enough antidotes for emergency use in patients who have been poisoned, research suggests.

Experts found that fewer than a quarter of hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were carrying all the recommended antidotes for immediate use.

These are category A antidotes, which are used for poisoning with drugs such as paracetamol and opioid painkillers, and chemicals such as cyanide.

There were also problems with stocks of category B drugs - to be given within an hour - for things like alcohol poisoning.

All hospitals stocked at least one of the four required antidotes for cyanide poisoning, an improvement on the 4.6% in 2010.

But the researchers, including from the department of clinical t oxicology at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, said "cyanide poisoning antidotes are used in the management of critically unwell patients and delays in antidote administration could result in mortality".

There was an improvement in the stocking of category B antidote fomepizole, recommended for toxic alcohol poisoning, from a 2010 audit - up from 16.8% of hospitals in 2010 to 73.4%.

However, the researchers said "there remains a small number with no appropriate antidote stocked for treating this important and potentially serious life-threatening poisoning".

When it came to category C antidotes, some, such as calcium edetate for lead poisoning, were not well stocked, with only 16.8% of hospitals carrying it.

Hospitals said the high cost of some antidotes along with the need to replace stock, which may expire before use, were to blame for poor stocking.

The audit was published in the European Journal of Hospital Pharmacy.

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