FDA approves new scorpion antivenom tested at UA
The Food and Drug Administration approved a scorpion antivenom medication that was tested at the University of Arizona and produced in Mexico to treat people stung by the insect commonly found in the desert, UA researchers announced Wednesday.
"This is an historic event," said Leslie Boyer, director of the UA's Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response Institute at the College of Medicine and lead investigator on the clinical trials.
"This is the first-ever drug approved for this use by the FDA. The first-ever drug that we are aware of being developed fully in Latin America and subsequently approved by the FDA; the first-ever scorpion antivenom proved effective under controlled clinical trials; and the first-ever antivenom with so few allergic reactions,” Boyer said at a press conference Wednesday.
The drug, called Anascorp, was approved after a near 12-year collaboration between researchers and pharmaceutical businesses from both sides of the border, according to a UA press release.
Arizona has the highest concentration of dangerous bark scorpions in the United States. About 8,000 scorpion stings occur in the state each year, and several hundred of those require medical treatment, especially among young children.
Previously, Arizonans had access to an antivenom produced at Arizona State University, but in 1999 production was halted. No known replacement existed, and the critical need for antivenom was crucial, the press release said.
While scorpion stings are not always serious and usually do not need special medical attention, they often cause a tremendous pain. Some stings can cause life-threatening reactions.
The effects can vary from a couple of minutes to a couple of days. Numbness could last a number of hours to several days, according to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.
A serious scorpion sting can cause drooling, uncontrollable eye movements, uncontrollable jerking and difficulty breathing, because the central nervous system is affected, said Dr. Mazda Shirazi, medical director of the poison center, in June.
Over 1,000 scorpion stings have been recorded so far this year by the center, which serves the state outside Maricopa County.
The center advises that those stung should call (800) 222-1222 and tell the poison specialists about their symptoms.