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Effectiveness of delayed activated charcoal administration paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Simon Thomas


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Aims. Oral activated charcoal is used to treat drug overdose and is effective at reducing drug absorption when administered within 1 h of drug ingestion. There are fewer data on efficacy when the delay is longer, as is the case in most drug overdoses. This study investigated the efficacy of activated charcoal at preventing paracetamol (acetaminophen) absorption after simulated overdose when administration was delayed between 1 and 4 h. Methods. An open randomized-order four-way crossover study was performed in healthy volunteers comparing the effect of activated charcoal 50 g on the absorption of 3 g paracetamol tablets when administered after an interval of 1, 2 or 4 h or not at all. Plasma paracetamol concentrations were measured over 9 h after paracetamol ingestion using h.p.l.c. and areas under the curve between 4 and 9 h (AUC(4,9 h)) calculated as a measure of paracetamol absorption. Results. Activated charcoal significantly reduced paracetamol AUC(4,9 h) when administered after 1 h (mean reduction 56%; 95% Confidence intervals 34, 78; P < 0.002) or 2 h (22%; 6, 39; P < 0.03) but not after 4 h (8%; -8, 24). When administered after 1 h activated charcoal reduced individual plasma paracetamol concentrations significantly at all times between 4 and 9 h after paracetamol administration. Administration at 2 or 4 h had no significant effect. Conclusions. These results in healthy volunteers cannot be extrapolated directly to poisoned patients. However, they provide no evidence of efficacy for activated charcoal when administered after an interval of more than 2 h.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thomas SHL; Yeates PJA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

Year: 2000

Volume: 49

Issue: 1

Pages: 11-14

ISSN (print): 0306-5251

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2125

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.2000.00107.x

PubMed id: 10606832


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