Poison Control Centers Seeing Ever Greater Dangers in the Medicine Cabinet
Working as a community pharmacist in a retail setting, I field many different types of questions over the course of a normal work week. One type of phone call I often receive is from a frantic parent who fears that his/her child has ingested an unknown quantity of adult medication, vitamins or other pharmaceutical substance.The first course of action in these situations is always to have the parent or caregiver to phone a poison control center.
Poison control centers, which are located throughout North America, employ medical professionals who have certification in toxicology from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. These centers employ physicians with specialization in clinical toxicology, registered nurses and pharmacists who field questions from both the general public, and other medical professionals in emergency room settings. There are a total of 57 poison control centers in the United States which provide free, professional advice to individuals in the continental U.S., Guam, Micronesia, Puerto Rico and American Samoa. All these centers are open 24 hours per day, 365 days each year.
As the funding that the poison control centers receive comes under greater scrutiny, and with potential cuts looming, it is imperative to remind ourselves of the critical and relatively cost-effective work that these services provide. Consider the following--poison control centers field four million phone calls yearly from individuals who may have been exposed to a toxic substance. In approximately 75% of these calls, the poison control professionals are able to give information which leads to self-treatment, thereby avoiding costly doctor and emergency room visits. Millions of health care dollars each year are saved by the information dispensed by poison control centers.
Then, consider the following. As North Americans continue to consume pharmaceuticals at a rapid pace, the typical home contains several prescription and non-prescription drugs, many of which can have dire or fatal effects on young children, if accidentally ingested. Many types of drugs, once fairly uncommon, are now routinely used to treat a variety of maladies, including antipsychotic drugs (used for sleep, behavioral disturbances, mood swings), and anti-epileptic drugs (used for fibromyalgia, treatment of migraines, mood disorders).Continued on the next page