Lee Memorial pharmacist working to keep antivenin available

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The staff at a local hospital is working to make sure lifesaving antivenin will be available for years to come.

Pharmacist Edward Newton spent nearly a year working to bring a clinical study to Lee Memorial Hospital so they could help test a new antivenin.

“The current antivenin that’s available, unfortunately, a lot of it is expired, and the FDA keeps extending the expiration dates on it because (companies) have ceased manufacturing of this antivenin. … We will get to the point where there is none if someone doesn’t decide to make any or start making it again,” Newton explained.

That’s why the Viper Institute based out of Arizona is spearheading the tests. The institute is running the study and supplies hospitals across the country, like Lee Memorial, with the antivenin. If a patient with a coral snake bite comes in, hospital staff will ask the patient if they are willing to have the new antivenin administered.

“We’ve only had one case so far this year, but it’s been so far a success,” said emergency doctor Doug Lee.

Without the antivenin, Lee said, “There’s really not much else you can do besides supporting the patient’s ventilations because the venom will cause paralysis of the patient’s breathing muscles.”

Michelle Mazzochi knows how important this drug is. Her now 11-year-old son Zach was bitten by a coral snake in December 2011.

“It (the coral snake) was in the backyard, only a couple feet from the porch. He was on the ground, sunbathing right by a bush,” Zach remembered.

The snake bit Zach on the hand, and he was rushed to the hospital and soon flown to Miami to be given antivenin.

“I feel very fortunate because he died twice. There’s really no medical reason for him to be here; they couldn’t believe it,” Michelle said.

Michelle said without that antivenin, her little boy would have died. Zach showed us the scars from the bite and said after the first year his hand would tingle, but today he is doing great.

His mom is grateful for the work that the the staff at Lee Memorial is doing to make sure that antivenin is still available.

“Please don’t stop,” she said. “Please keep going. It’s going to save somebody’s baby. Somebody’s going to be alive because of him.”

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