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Survey of cases of paracetamol overdose in the UK referred to National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) consultants
  1. H K R Thanacoody,
  2. A M Good,
  3. W S Waring,
  4. D N Bateman
  1. NPIS (Edinburgh Unit) on behalf of UK National Poisons Information Service, UK
  1. Dr H K R Thanacoody, Scottish Poisons Information Bureau, Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, 51 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, UK; ruben.thanacoody{at}


Background: Paracetamol is the most common means of drug overdose in the UK. Guidance on management is available to junior doctors through TOXBASE, the online resource managed by the UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) and in poster form. TOXBASE is supported by NPIS units and further by a UK national rota of clinical toxicologists. A study was undertaken to examine reasons why calls about paracetamol are referred to consultants to better understand issues in managing this common poisoning.

Methods: Calls relating to paracetamol overdose referred by a poisons information specialist to the duty NPIS consultant between 1 May 2005 and 30 April 2006 were identified from the database and the number of TOXBASE accesses during the same time period was determined. Enquiries that resulted in consultant referral were classified into six categories.

Results: Calls referred to NPIS consultants pertain mainly to patients who present late, staggered overdoses, adverse reactions to N-acetylcysteine, and interpretation of blood results. This information has been used to inform the development of TOXBASE so that comprehensive advice is readily available to end users.

Conclusions: The operation of a national consultant rota enables information on difficult or unusual cases of poisoning to be pooled so that treatment guidelines can be developed to optimise treatment throughout the UK.

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  • Competing interests: None.