Navigation Links
Pharmacists crucial in plan for terrorist chemical weapons

Los Angeles, CA (December 9th, 2011) Terrorist attacks with chemical weapons are a real possibility, according to a study that appears in the online open access journal, Journal of Pharmacy Practice, published by SAGE. Thanks to their extensive knowledge of toxic agents, and how to treat those who have been exposed, pharmacists are an invaluable resource in the event of an actual or potential chemical weapons attack.

Chemical weapons act on their victims through a number of mechanisms. They include nerve agents, chemicals that cause blistering (vesicants), choking agents, incapacitating agents, riot control agents, blood agents, and toxic industrial chemicals. With their knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutics, pharmacists are a valuable asset to health care facilities and government agencies planning for the unthinkable a terrorist attack with chemical weapons.

In his article, clinical pharmacist and forensic pharmacologist Peter D. Anderson details the clinical effects chemical weapons, and their treatment. Nerve agents work by blocking the actions of acetyl cholinesterase (the chemistry involved is similar to how many pesticides kill). These toxins include sarin, tabun, VX, cyclosarin, and soman. Vesicants like sulfur mustard and lewisite produce blisters and damage the upper airways. Choking agents, which cause fluid to build up in the lungs (pulmonary edema), include phosgene and chlorine gas.

Incapacitating agents are temporary and "non-lethal," and include fentanyl and adamsite. Mace and pepper spray are familiar riot control methods. Blood agents include cyanide, which works by blocking oxidative phosphorylation in the body. Toxic industrial chemicals such as formaldehyde, hydrofluoric acid, and ammonia also merit consideration as terrorist weapons.

"Potential chemical weapons are in no way limited to the traditional agents that we think of as chemical weapons," Anderson explains.

The good news is that there are potential antidotes to these chemical agents, which can save lives if they are used quickly and correctly. Pharmacists need to work in their hospitals to prepare emergency plans, and with the pharmacy and therapeutic committees to stock for a potential chemical accident or terrorist attack. In the US, for example, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies that can be sent in an emergency to any US state within 12 hours.

The threat from chemical agents may appear to be a symptom of our modern society, but the idea has been around since antiquity. Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots (a purgative) to contaminate the water supply in the Pleistrus River during the Siege of Cirrha as long ago as 590 BC. Modern chemical warfare during World War I included the release by German soldiers of 150 tons of chlorine gas near Ypres, Belgium, and phosgene and nitrogen mustard also played a role in the conflict. Choking agents, vesicants, blood agents, and nerve gas joined the range of chemical weapons available by World War II. Even though conflicting nations produced these in large quantities, no major chemical weapon events occurred during World War II.

The Chemical Weapons Convention was finalized in 1993, prohibiting development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. The treaty also mandated weapons destruction. 130 countries signed the convention (excluding Iraq and North Korea).

Although the article is about chemical weapons, Anderson emphasizes that pharmacists can also be a resource for biological, radiological and nuclear attacks as well as natural disasters.


Contact: Ashley Loar
SAGE Publications

Related medicine news :

1. Community Pharmacists Rise to Meet Winter Weather Challenges, Survey Finds
2. Pharmacists Play a Vital Role in Providing Immunizations in Their Communities
3. Health advice from pharmacists saves hundreds of millions of euros
4. Adding pharmacists to docs offices helps patient outcomes, study shows
5. Pharmacists Improve Patient-Care Teams: Analysis
6. Organic Clothing can be as Crucial to Your Health as Organic Food or Yoga
7. Concord Coalition Reacts To Health Care Bill Passage: Cost Control Vigilance is Now Crucial
8. A more active lifestyle crucial for day-to-day function in COPD patients
9. Social Security Disability Benefits Can Be Crucial to Surviving With Spinal Cord Injury, Allsup Reports
10. A high-fat diet alters crucial aspects of brain dopamine signaling
11. Water management and malnutrition crucial issues at McGill food conference
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... According to an article ... the way that they are handling security in light of the recent terrorist attacks ... in an attempt to stop an attack from reaching U.S. soil. Especially around special ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... Lizzie’s Lice Pickers just ... is offering customers 10% off of their purchase of lice treatment product. In addition, ... price. According to a company spokesperson. “Finding lice is a sure way to ruin ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... well-respected Microsoft Dynamics SL User Group (MSDSLUG). Recognized as Microsoft’s official group for ... of Microsoft Dynamics SL software users, partners, industry experts and representatives. Intellitec Solutions’ ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... The men and ... nonprofit healthcare organizations in the country. They have overseen financial turnarounds, shown commitment ... advance the healthcare industry as a whole through their advocacy and professional efforts. ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... November 26, 2015 , ... Inevitably when people think ... customers choose to buy during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday massage chair ... to search the Internet high and low to find the best massage chair deals, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... Juntendo universitetssjukhus ser potential att använda ... magnetresonansbilder (MR-bilder) för patienter med multipel ... ett forskningsavtal med SyntheticMR AB för att ... forskningsprojekt på sjukhuset. Med SyMRI kan man ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... the addition of the  "2016 Future ... European Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM) Market: ... Intelligence, Emerging Opportunities"  report to their ... has announced the addition of the  ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... DUBLIN , November 26, 2015 ... of the "Self Administration of High Viscosity ... ) has announced the addition of ... report to their offering. --> ... the addition of the "Self Administration of ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: