Unregistered drug can help ‘mercury’ man
DAVE CHAMBERS | 2017-02-20 08:51:41.0
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Doctors at a hospital in Boksburg have reported the unusual case of a man who tried to kill himself by injecting mercury into his arms.
The 29-year-old arrived at Tambo Memorial Hospital on June 10 last year, weeks after a suicide attempt, and X-rays showed the silvery heavy metal in his arms, lungs, abdomen and pelvis.
Writing in the SA Medical Journal, Dr Greg Yudelowitz said the man, who was experiencing loss of appetite, fatigue and occasional diarrhoea, was admitted with “acute kidney injury”.
“After discussion with the nephrology departments of Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg and Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, it was decided that no benefit would be derived from dialysis,” said Yudelowitz.
Instead, the man faces lifelong treatment with an unregistered drug, penicillamine, which attracts heavy metals such as mercury and flushes them away in urine.
Yudelowitz said an application had been made to the Medicines Control Council for permission to treat the man with the drug.
The mercury injections were the third suicide attempt by the man, who has bipolar disorder. They followed the loss of his job, an accident in his car and severe illness endured by his father.
“He described a history of panic attacks since the age of 20.
“Further stressors included an experience of date rape at the age of 22,” said Yudelowitz.