The epidemiologic and economic burden of illness of methanol and ethylene glycol poisoning in British Columbia

Methanol and ethylene glycol are the principle ingredients in automotive antifreeze products. When ingested, the result is organ failure and death unless treatment is initiated within hours of exposure. Survivors are at risk for blindness from methanol, or severe kidney damage from ethylene glycol, which can require weeks of dialysis. Treatment of methanol and ethylene glycol poisoning includes antidote therapy and use of dialysis to remove the poison. There are currently two antidotes available: ethanol and fomepizole. Ethanol is inexpensive but difficult to administer and causes many adverse effects. A new antidote, fomepizole, is relatively free of adverse effects, easy to use, and may prevent the need for dialysis in some patients, but it is very expensive. Katherine Lepik, a pharmacist with the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre, is researching the incidence, severity, mortality, and cost of methanol and ethylene glycol poisoning in BC. She is examining which age groups are at greatest risk for poisoning, why people are poisoned, and how to use health databases to monitor rates and severity of methanol and ethylene glycol poisoning. Her goal is to help prevent poisonings and ensure hospital staff have the resources and training to appropriately treat patients.