Pharmacists May Be Invaluable Resource In Chemical Weapons Attack

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Terrorist attacks have always been feared because of it devastating effects, like loss of human lives, destruction to properties and economic detriments. Moreover, presently with the advancement of technology and necessary human resources, terrorist attacks with chemical weapons can be truly possible. This was in line with the study published by SAGE and can be seen in the online open access Journal of Pharmacy Practice. The terrorists may capitalize on the pharmacists’ broad knowledge of toxic chemicals and treatment remedies for those who were exposed.

Chemical weapons can be utilized in various forms, like nerve agents, vesicants (chemicals that cause blistering), choking agents, riot control agents, blood agents, incapacitating agents, and toxic industrial chemicals. Pharmacists can be deemed as an advantage for agencies and health care facilities that plan for a terrorist attack using chemical weapons.

Moreover, Peter D. Anderson, a clinical pharmacist and forensic pharmacologist, noted in his article the clinical impact of chemical weapons, as well as their treatment. Nerve agents, like sarin, soman, tabun, VX and cyclosarin, halt the action of acetyl cholinesterase. Vesicants cause blisters and can cause upper airway damage ( i.e. sulfur mustard, lewisite).

Furthermore, choking agents like phosgene and chlorine gas can lead to fluid buildup in the lungs. In addition, incapacitating agents, which are temporary and non-lethal, include adamsite and fentanyl. Blood agents stops oxidative phosphorylation in the body; cyanide is an example. Formaldehyde, hydrofluoric acid and ammonia are examples of toxic industrial chemicals.

Even in the distant past, the danger of chemical attack is already imminent. Solon of Athens used the purgative hellebore roots to cause contamination of the Pleistrus River around 590 BC. Also, German soldiers during the World War I released 150 tons of chlorine gas near Ypres, Belgium. In the World War II, choking and blood agents, vesicants and nerve gas were added to the list of chemical weapons.

Importantly, potential antidotes that can save lives are present. It is very necessary for pharmacists to collaborate with their hospitals in order to prepare emergency plans. Moreover, they should coordinate with the pharmacy and therapeutic committees in working out a stock of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies or equipment, which can be readily available in case of terrorist attack or chemical accident.

In 1993, 130 countries, excluding North Korea and Iraq participated in the Chemical Weapons Convention. It finalized the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons; it further stipulated the destruction of weapons.  In this era, preventing these attacks is still a collaborative effort not just of governments, but of responsible individuals who are thinking of the society’s welfare.




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