Snakebite Serum Shortage Warned : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

If anyone thinks this is coincidence, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you!

Snakebite Serum Shortage Warned By JOANN LOVIGLIO Associated Press Writer PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The manufacturer of a widely used snakebite serum is warning of shortages of the drug.

The drug, made by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, based in the Philadelphia suburb of St. Davids, is the only product available to neutralize toxins from three types of poisonous North American snakes: rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads.

The shortage is due to the closing of a plant in Marietta, Pa., for renovations.

``There is none of the product being produced right now,'' Wyeth-Ayerst spokesman Doug Petkus said Tuesday.

He said orders are being filled on an emergency basis only, and if hospitals use the serum prudently, supplies should last until the plant is reopened next spring.

Wyeth-Ayerst sent nearly a thousand letters to clinics nationwide last week informing them of the situation.

Approximately 7,000 bites from poisonous snakes are reported annually in the United States, resulting in about 15 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most happen during the summer, and the majority are in the Southeast and Southwest.

The serum, or antivenin, reduces swelling and tissue damage.

University of Pennsylvania toxicologist Dr. Robert Hendrickson called the shortage reason for concern. ``It's the only thing that's really going to help. There's not a whole lot that can be done otherwise,'' he said.

Hi-Desert Medical Center in California's Mojave Desert is urging locals and visitors to the Joshua Tree National Park to be careful.

``We only have enough antivenin to treat a couple of people, but we don't see that many bites, so it's nothing we're panicking about,'' medical center spokeswoman Deborah O'Connor said. ``If we run out, we can network with other hospitals to get some.''

The serum is made from the blood of horses, which are given doses of the snakes' venom and build antibodies against the poison.

The serum costs about $450 a vial, and the average dosage per snakebite victims is 20 to 40 vials, depending on the severity of the bite and the symptoms, said Hi-Desert pharmacy director Herman Galicia.

``We're asking people to be very careful. Mother Nature really has an animal there that can do some serious damage,'' he said.

-- K (, July 19, 2000

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