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About antivenom

Why is there shortage of coral snake antivenom?

Pfizer/Wyeth has been the sole producer of antivenom in the United States. They no longer are manufacturing it. When present stocks are gone there, will be no FDA-approved antidote for coral snake bites.

About coral snakebites:

About snakebite toxicity: What happens when a person is bitten?

The neurotoxic effects of the coral snake venom are manifested by muscle weakness,difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, unable to move eyelids (ptosis), blurred vision (diplopia), tongue fasciculations (twitching), decreased oxygen saturation, paralysis, and potential respiratory arrest. A patient may face weeks of ventilator support with subsequent pneumonia, tracheotomy and multi-system failure. Long term rehabilitation may be needed for neuromuscular damage. Prophylactic use of antivenom, which has long been the recommendation of poison centers, has been effective in preventing these signs and symptoms. Case reports of patients in which antivenom was delayed show that symptoms can progress to paralysis over a 12-18 hours period. In the last 40 years, there has been one fatality reported when a person failed to seek medical treatment after a bite.

What does the bitten area (bite site) look like?

The coral snake delivers venom by hanging on to chew while injecting venom but can also deliver venom in one quick strike. Blood at the puncture site signals that the skin has been broken and a possible envenomation has occurred. The mild signs around the bitten area and the delayed onset of symptoms (up to 18 hours) often lead people to believe that no damage has been done.
Addressing the antivenom shortage

What’s being done about the antivenom shortage?

Many people are involved in addressing this problem. This list may not include all actions that have been taken. There are four main areas in which actions need to be taken:

Managing and distributing remaining Antivenin(Micrurus fulvius)® supply:

  • At the request of the FDA, Wyeth (now a subsidiary of Pfizer, Inc) made a five year supply of antivenin in preparation to allow a transition to another product. That supply was to have expired in 2008. Since 2008, Wyeth has been testing the remaining supply and obtaining FDA approval to extend the expiration date annually.
  • Florida Poison Information Center – Tampa has been conducting a antivenom inventory of its hospitals to determine the level of supply and provide information to pharmacists as needed.
  • Florida Poison Information Center -Tampa has established a cooperative working relationship with Pfizer, Inc. to ensure a regional response that protects the potential snake bite victims and maximizes the availability of the Antivenin(Micrurus fulvius)®in those areas where it is most needed.