Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=177027
Story Retrieval Date: 6/18/2013 2:54:21 AM CST
Chicago-area experts familiar with the anesthetic drug sodium thiopental said patients should not be affected by the announcement that Hospira, the sole U.S. maker of the drug, is exiting the market.
But patient safety could be jeopardized, according to the American Society for Anesthesiologists, which issued a statement Monday expressing concern that Pentothal, the drug’s trademarked name, will no longer be available for surgeries as a general anesthetic. The drug also had been used in the United States as part of the lethal injection cocktail.
The organization said Pentothal is the drug of choice for inducing anesthesia in certain at-risk patients like pregnant women and people with neurological disorders because it has fewer negative side effects.
But some who study and use the drug say the medical world won’t miss it.
Many medical centers have not had access to the drug for months because of earlier delays in Hospira’s manufacturing process, said Dr. Tom Krejcie, a professor of anesthesiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
At Children’s Memorial Hospital, Peter Anley, manager of pharmacy clinical services, said the hospital has already been using other drugs to induce anesthesia in its pediatric patients.
Northwestern, has been using other drugs, Krejcie said, particularly propofol, which gained notoriety as one of the drugs present in Michael Jackson’s body at the time of his death in 2009.
“Thiopental has almost been entirely replaced by propofol, and there is very little difference between the two,” Krejcie said.
But Paul Carvey, a professor of pharmacology at Rush Medical Center, said thiopental had its benefits. The drug is quick acting and wears off just as quickly, which was good for patients, he said.
“There are other rapid inducers that will have to be used,” Carvey said. “We will clearly find alternative means.”
In addition to propofol, alternatives include etomidate and methohexital, marketed under the trademarked names Deprivan, Amidate and Brevital, respectively.
There are about 400 medications on the country’s short-supply list that have limited availability, most of which, like antibiotics, are more crucial than thiopental, Krejcie said.