RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Effect of ethanol and pH on the adsorption of acetaminophen (paracetamol) to high surface activated charcoal, in vitro studies.

BACKGROUND: Paracetamol (acetaminophen) intoxication often in combination with ethanol, is seen commonly in overdose cases. Doses of several grams might be close to the maximum adsorption capacity of the standard treatment dose (50g) of activated charcoal. The aim of this study was to determine the maximum adsorption capacity for paracetamol for two types of high surface-activated charcoal [Carbomix and Norit Ready-To-Use (not yet registered trademark in Denmark) both from Norit Cosmara, Amersfoort, The Netherlands] in simulated in vivo environments: At pH 1.2 (gastric environment), at pH 7.2 (intestinal environment), and with and without 10% ethanol.

METHODS: Activated charcoal, at both gastric or intestinal pHs, and paracetamol were mixed, resulting in activated charcoal-paracetamol ratios from 10:] to 1:1. In trials with ethanol, some of the gastric or intestinal fluid was replaced with an equivalent volume of ethanol, resulting in an ethanol concentration of 10% v/v. After incubation, the concentration of unabsorbed paracetamol was analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. The maximum adsorption capacity of paracetamol to activated charcoal was calculated as mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal, using Langmuir's isotherm.

RESULTS: Carbomix [95% confidence limits are shown in square brackets]: 623.7 [612.8;634.5] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 1.2), 626.2 [611.6;640.9] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 7.2); Norit Ready-To-Use: 693.6 [676.8;710.5] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 1.2), 722.6 [687.4;757.9] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 7.2). For experiments with ethanol (10% v/v) the results with Carbomix were 465.7 [449.2;482.2] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 1.2), 498.6 [481.8;515.6] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 7.2); with Norit Ready-To-Use: 617.2 [606.6;627.7] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 1.2), 640.6 [624.9;656.4] mg paracetamol adsorbed/g activated charcoal (pH 7.2).

CONCLUSION: Under conditions simulating immediate treatment with charcoal, a standard dose of 50 g of either of the two tested activated charcoals adsorbed a sufficient amount of paracetamol to be beneficial in the treatment of the majority of overdoses of this drug. For both types of activated charcoal, with or without ethanol, there was no significant difference in the adsorption of paracetamol at pH 1.2 and 7.2. Norit Ready-To-Use had a larger maximum adsorption capacity than Carbomix, and was not as sensitive as Carbomix to environmental changes (pH and ethanol). The presence of 10% ethanol lowered the adsorption capacity of the two tested activated charcoal preparations by an amount that might be clinically relevant in cases of intoxications by high-gram doses.

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