Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 4, Issue 1, 2003

Volume 4 Issue 1 2003


The Effect of the FDA VVarning on the Use of Droperidol by U.S. Emergency Physicians

Objectives: To determine if emergency physicians' (EP) use droperidol has changed since the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning of December 2001 concerning QT interval prolongation, torsade de pointes, and sudden death; and to query EP opinions regarding droperidol before and after the FDA warning and regarding potential alternative drugs.

Methods: An internet-based survey was designed with questions regarding droperidol use in the emergency department (ED). Data collected included EP demographics, use of droperidol before and after the FDA warning, use of alternative drugs, and incidence of arrhythmias. A representative sample of EPs were contacted by e-mail and asked to complete the survey.

Results: A total of 2,000 e-mails resulted in 506 (25%) completed surveys. There was no second mailing. Responders' average years practicing was 12.6 +_ 9.2. EP responders worked in private/community (n=278, 55%), academic/county (n=187, 37%), and HMO (n=41,8%) hospitals. The majority (n=455, 90%) used droperidol and were aware of the FDA warning (n=460, 91%). Droperidol was no longer available at 122 (24%) of the respondents' EDs as a result of the FDA warning. Prior to the FDA warning, EPs who had used droperidol used it as an antiemetic (n=408, 90%), for control of agitation (n=330, 73%), for treatment of headache (n=247, 54%), and for treatment of vertigo (n=106, 23%). After the FDA warning, 387 (85%) of EPs reported their use of droperidol had decreased or ceased altogether, and 68 (15%) always obtained an electrocardiogram prior to administration. Of those who used droperidol for agitation, 137 (42%) felt there were no other drugs with greater efficacy. Haloperidol was the most cited alternative agent (n=160, 79%) followed by benzodiazepines (n=223, 68%). Of those who used droperidol for antiemesis, 116 (28%) felt there were no other drugs with greater efficacy than droperidol; promethazine was the most cited alternative agent (n=26O, 64%). Two (0.4%) EPs reported arrhythmias in patients who received droperidol. Only 37 (8%) EPs reported they were unconcerned with potential loss of droperidol from the market.

Conclusion: Based on this survey, EP use of droperidol has decreased dramatically as a result of the FDA warning. However, EPs believe that there are few or no alternative antiemetic drugs that have an improved adverse effect profile.

I Can't Believe It's Not Toothpaste! Poison Control Center Calls Regarding Dental and Oral-Care Products

Background: A cluster of incidents in which non-toothpaste products were used to brush teeth prompted a review of all calls to one Poison Control Center (PCC) regarding exposures to dental and oral-care products to determine if any resulted in significant toxicity.

Methods: Retrospective review of 65,849 calls to one PCC during one calendar year. All inquiries about exposures to substances used as dental or oral-care products were analyzed by a single reviewer for reported adverse effects, including hospital admission or PCC referral for emergent medical evaluation.

Results: 798 calls involved exposure to dental or oral-care products, comprising 1.21% of all calls received. Toothbrushing incidents with non-toothpaste products (122 cases) did not result in any significant recognized toxicity. Twenty-four patients were either referred for emergent medical evaluation (14) or were admitted to the hospital (10). In 23 of these patients (96%), the toxic agent was either an over-the-counter analgesic or a local anesthetic used to treat dental pain.

Conclusions: Among PCC calls received regarding dental and oral-care products, over-the-counter analgesics and local anesthetics used for dental pain resulted in the most frequent need for emergent medical evaluation or for hospital admission.