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Vietnam’s Bach Mai Hospital struggles with shortage of antidotes, patients in danger

Vietnam’s Bach Mai Hospital struggles with shortage of antidotes, patients in danger

Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 20:04 GMT+7
Vietnam’s Bach Mai Hospital struggles with shortage of antidotes, patients in danger
This image shows a nurse taking care of a poisoned patient under treatment at the People’s Hospital 115 in Ho Chi Minh City, southern Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

The Poison Control Center under Hanoi-based Bach Mai Hospital, a leader in treatment for poisoning in Vietnam, is lacking many antidotes, a worrying situation that poses danger to patients.

All the antidotes in shortage are scarce, including serum against the venom of Malayan krait (bungarus candidus) snakes, and specific drugs for patients poisoned with arsenic, mercury, or toxic bacteria Clostridium botulinum, among others, Dr. Dao Xuan Co, director of the hospital, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday.

In the face of the dearth of specific antidotes, the hospital has to use alternatives that require longer treatment periods while bringing low efficacy and causing side effects, Dr. Co said.

The hospital proposed that the Ministry of Health should establish reserve storage of rare antidotes to save the lives of patients, the director added.

“Such storage can be in place in one of the hospitals where poison control units are set up, and drugs from the storage will be delivered to anywhere nationwide when needed,” Dr. Co recommended.

Dao Hong Lan, acting Minister of Health, said she directed the Drug Administration of Vietnam to take solutions to ensure it fully provides antidotes for Bach Mai soon.

Shortages of antidotes pose a risk to patients and are not a new problem in the country. 

Four months ago, a four-year-old Vietnamese girl in Phu Yen Province, south-central Vietnam passed away a week after she was bitten by a venomous Malayan krait snake, but no venom antiserum against the species was available to save her.

“We contacted Children’s Hospital 1 and Children’s Hospital 2 in Ho Chi Minh City for transferring the girl to either of them, but they said that they had no specific venom antiserum for the snake species,” Dr. Phan Van Minh, director of the Phu Yen Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital, said after the girl’s hospitalization on May 16. 

Last year, some people died and many others suffered from motor paralysis and speech impairment after consuming domestically-produced pâté products, which were found to contain clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that produces dangerous toxins under low-oxygen conditions.

Vietnam had no specific antidote for clostridium botulinum at the time of poisoning, and when the World Health Organization could arrange to deliver antidotes to Vietnam later, many poisoned patients had already entered the late stages of the disease, when the efficacy of antidotes is very low. 

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Vinh Tho - Lan Anh / Tuoi Tre News


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