Human exposures to veterinary pharmaceutical products reported to Australia’s largest poison information centre

Aim: To describe the epidemiology of veterinary pharmaceutical-related exposures based on telephone calls to Australia’s largest poisons information centre.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of exposures to pharmaceutical products intended for animal use, managed by the New South Wales Poison Information Centre (NSWPIC, Australia’s largest poisons information centre) from 2014 to 2016 inclusive, was conducted. Case narratives were reviewed and coded for exposure-related circumstances and intended species. Descriptive statistics were generated and forest plots were produced to visualise the perceived severity of products.

Results: From 2014 through 2016 NSWPIC received 2655 calls regarding exposure to veterinary pharmaceutical products: 11.72 human exposures to veterinary pharmaceuticals per 1000 PIC initial contact exposure calls (CI: 10.95–12.49) per year. The vast majority of exposures were with products intended for companion animals, particularly of the class “antiparasitic products, insecticides and repellents”, with the most common individual specified product being pimobendan, a phosphodiesterase inhibitor used as a cardiac inotrope and vasodilator in dogs. Immunologicals presented the greatest perceived severity, with livestock vaccinations eliciting substantial proportions of symptomatic exposures and those receiving hospitalisation. Exploratory behaviour, such as accessing packaging, was a common source of exposure within toddlers and children in particular.

Conclusions: This overview of all exposures to veterinary pharmaceutical products has identified high-risk groups to target interventions to reduce the incidence of future exposures. The pet-owning population and those personnel administering immunologicals to livestock represent a substantial cohort of individuals at risk of harm during, and in the immediate time following, administration of veterinary pharmaceutical products to animals. It is important to review risk management plans for veterinary pharmaceutical products to ensure product safety is as stringent as human equivalents. The legislative requirements concerning child-resistant packaging and the scheduling of livestock vaccines require reconsideration.