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Ann Emerg Med. 1985 Jun;14(6):568-72.

Concomitant use of activated charcoal and N-acetylcysteine.


Activated charcoal is a safe, effective, inexpensive adjunct in the management of most toxic ingestions. It has the ability to adsorb a wide variety of drugs and chemicals, one of which is acetaminophen. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is the specific antidote available for serious overdoses of acetaminophen. Current management of acetaminophen overdose, however, does not recommend the concomitant oral administration of these two useful agents because adsorption and inactivation of NAC by charcoal is believed to occur. Our study was designed to help evaluate the effect of activated charcoal on N-acetylcysteine absorption. Ten healthy male volunteers were each given in the first, or control, phase of the study an oral dose of 140 mg/kg NAC, and venous blood samples were obtained. In the second phase, after a washout period, each subject received 60 g activated charcoal orally followed immediately by 140 mg/kg NAC. NAC serum levels were measured using gas-liquid chromatography, and levels were compared with and without the concomitant administration of charcoal. Although only a small number of the subjects completed the study, the results showed that in both phases there were no significant differences in the peak NAC levels, the plasma half-life of NAC, or the calculated area under the curve. We recommend that NAC and activated charcoal not be used clinically until further studies are completed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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