Coral snake antivenin not available after 2010

May 20, 2010 8:29:49 PM PDT
The coral snake is one of the few deadly snakes in the state. If you're ever bitten, getting to an emergency room as soon as possible is a key to staying alive. But soon, those doctors may not have the power to save you.

Margie Bellamy loves being outdoors and thinks watering the lawn is relaxing. But she is also aware that others might also be enjoying her lawn.

"I really don't know much about snakes," Bellamy said. "I try to look them up, but when they are juvenile, they have different colors, different markings, and I just stay away from them."

Bellamy's reaction is similar to what most of us do too, but snakes don't always cooperate

And coral snake antivenin supplies are about to run dry.

"If this snake bit me, I would be in Hermann hospital for a minimum of 10 days, very sick," said snake expert Clint Pustejovskey. "It would shut down my respiratory system."

The drug maker, Pfizer owned the only FDA-approved coral snake antivenin.

However, in 2003, it shut down its antivenin factory, deeming it unprofitable, because the bites are so rare.

Now the expiration date on those remaining vials is coming due by the end of this year.

So if you're bitten and the symptoms begin, doctors could be scrambling for an alternative treatment.

"Something like double vision, and then it would progress to difficulty breathing, and that would be difficulty breathing because the central respiratory system is impaired," ER Dr. Brent King said.

While, there is a coral snake antivenin in Mexico, it lacks FDA approval and not available in the U.S.

And Pustejovskey says without an antivenin, the deadly bite could take more lives.

"When we no longer have anything, if a young child is bitten by this snake, they are going to be on artificial respiration, basically on life support," he said.

Meanwhile, as Bellamy finishes watering her lawn, she'll keep wearing her protective clothing.

"And they tell you all they have is Benadryl, or whatever they have, and not an antivenin, that's scary, I think," Bellamy said.


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