Integration of poison control centers and drug information centers was addressed at a number of sites in the late 1970s and early 1980s as pharmacists became more involved with their development (Czajka et al., 1979; Troutman and Wanke, 1983; Wanke et al., 1988).


The following key messages can be drawn from the discussion provided in this chapter:

  • Poison control centers and the work of dedicated poison specialists have had a significant impact on U.S. health care. Key achievements include:

    • Development and implementation of medication safety caps.

    • Establishment of limits on the number of children’s aspirin tablets and subsequently other over-the-counter medications in a bottle.

    • Development of imprint code regulations to help speed identification of medications.

    • Use of TESS data to encourage passage of federal regulations in 1997 to reduce the number of iron tablets in a container.

    • Demonstration that nearly 80 percent of human exposures can be managed in the home using poison control center personnel guidance, thus reducing the burden on the health care system and providing reassurance to parents (Watson et al., 2003).

    • Demonstration of the ability to provide an immediate response to public health exposure concerns, such as anthrax, and subsequent participation in bioterrorism responses.

  • The current structure of poison control centers is quite variable and developed as a result of historical factors that may be irrelevant to current functional needs.

  • Poison prevention efforts have historically focused on children, despite more recent recognition of greater risk for morbidity and mortality in adults.

  • More emphasis has been placed on treating patients with drug abuse and alcohol problems as the role of poison control centers has broadened to include adults. Although medical toxicologists see such patients regularly as part of their management of critically ill patients, further integration of these aspects into poison control center services is warranted as part of the spectrum of poisoning treatment.

  • Attention to the special problems of the elderly, along with the important contributions of pharmacists in reducing adverse reactions in this population, deserves attention as an aspect of development of poison control centers.

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