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UK safety agency rules starch drips too risky

Hospital bosses have been ordered to stop using a type of fluid that is put directly into patients’ veins after it has been linked to hundreds of unnecessary deaths.

A recent study concluded that administering hydroxyethyl starch through an intravenous (IV) drip increases a patient’s risk of dying. The authors estimated that the drips could be causing around 250 unnecessary deaths in the UK every year.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) suspended the use of such starch drips because “their benefits no longer outweigh the risk”.

The drips are used for treatment and prevention of low blood volume, a steep drop in blood pressure, as well as for maintenance of circulation during surgical procedures.

Burn and trauma victims, and patients who are undergoing surgical procedures are among those who are given the fluid.

But the MHRA said they should no longer be used.

Dr Sarah Branch, deputy director of the MHRA’s vigilance and risk management of medicines division, said: “The use of these types of drips has fallen in the last year because of published evidence which shows that there is an increased risk associated with the use of hydroxyethyl starch products compared with simple salt solutions (crystalloids).

“Having considered the available evidence, and taken advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, we have decided to suspend their use in the UK.”

An MHRA spokesman said officials are writing to hospital bosses to inform them of the decision and plans for the recall of the product.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • michael stone

    “their benefits no longer outweigh the risk”.

    No - their benefits, compared to 'simple salt solutions', presumably NEVER DID outweight the risks: what has changed, is that the medics have now discovered this. Or at least, now believe it to be true.

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