Supply of antivenin for coral snake bites is dwindling

TAMPA, Fla. - "My first reaction was, 'Okay, I got bit by a poisonous snake'," recalled Tim Cashman.

Cashman was clearing brush on his property in Wimauma when he lifted a piece of wood and was bit on the finger by a venomous Coral snake. He knew what he needed to do.

"Basically, I need to get to the hospital and stay calm," he remembers.

The hospital closest to where Tim lives didn't have the antivenin necessary to treat a coral snake bite.  So he was transported to Tampa General Hospital where he was given the opportunity to take an antivenin that's not yet approved by the FDA.

That's because the only FDA approved antivenin for coral snake bites is no longer being produced by the pharmaceutical company that was making it.

"Of course, when you have a limited amount, it tends to dwindle in supply and that's what happened," said Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger of the Florida Poison Information Center of Tampa.

In fact, the current batch expires at the end of October, with just one lot of antivenin remaining.  But the clinical trial of antivenin that Tim Cashman said yes to, appears to have worked.  

Tampa General is taking part in the trial that is being developed at the University of Arizona; a trial that Dr. Younger feels could provide a solution for the future.  

"I'm both cautiously hopeful that we will have a solution, a good solution to the problem.  And I'm also concerned that no one else will do this," said Younger.

Tim Cashman is glad he took the alternative option.

"I'm really happy they're doing it because if we've got a shortage of the FDA-approved one, and if they can this FDA approved through the research one then I think that'll be a better alternative," Cashman said.

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