Shortage of lead-poisoning drug in US puts children at risk
Dimercaprol is used to treat lead-poisoning; a life-threatening condition.
A critical antidote for life-threatening lead poisoning is running low on supplies.
For years, the medication dimercaprol has been used to treat the most severe instances of lead poisoning. However, doctors have had to scramble for depleting supplies since the medicine's sole producer in the United States declared bankruptcy in February.
Due to a lack of materials in some sections of the country, doctors have been compelled to resort to less desirable therapies.
In June, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that over 130 medications were in limited supply, 14 of which were cancer therapies.
According to Dr. Diane Calello, the director of a New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School said, “We’re using whatever we can get, knowing it will help, but not knowing if it’s doing as good of a job."
According to Calello, one child had to wait two days during the spring while Calello assisted in locating dimercaprol and another antidote.
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Certain chemotherapies, antibiotics, and other medications have become scarce in recent months, owing in part to the stress on generic pharmaceutical businesses that manufacture some of the lower-margin treatments.
The FDA stated that it is attempting to identify solutions to the dimercaprol shortage, which might include temporarily permitting hospitals to import foreign versions.
Another antidote, edetate calcium disodium, or EDTA, which is frequently used in conjunction with dimercaprol, is also in low supply, according to experts. The FDA cleared the import of a form of EDTA approved in France in October, despite the fact that it has not been licensed in the United States.
Physicians who treat lead poisoning said they generally inject patients with dimercaprol first, followed by EDTA, but they may now have to depend only on EDTA.
According to Dr. Hannah Hays, medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Control Center, medical professionals are "in a really difficult position," describing the current situation as highly stressful.
Lead paint chips and dust flow down to floors where babies and toddlers crawl and play, making children the most vulnerable to lead poisoning. Adults who work in industrial industries may also go to emergency departments with lead poisoning.
A study released this week in The Wall Street Journal uncovered an unnoticed source of lead pollution in soil and water: abandoned telecommunications wires crisscrossing the country. Telecom firms have claimed that the wires they possess do not endanger public health and do not contribute significantly to environmental lead contamination.
Even minor levels of lead in the blood can affect a child's brain development.
Headaches and stomach pain are also common, as are memory loss and sleeping difficulties. Children may also lose weight, vomit, and appear lethargic.
Dimercaprol and EDTA are only used in the most severe situations, when doctors need to lower blood lead levels as soon as possible since excessive levels can be fatal, producing seizures, brain edema, or comas.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, dimercaprol is the chosen therapy for severe lead poisoning. The medicine binds to the lead and helps the body to excrete it through urination.
According to Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, a Philadelphia pediatrician and poison expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “When we need the medicine, we really need to have it on hand."
Osterhoudt addressed the FDA in a letter urgently demanding the issue be resolved.
Doctors sometimes utilize a medication called succimer for less severe cases of poisoning, which is also sometimes in low supply.