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New drug trialled at PAH helps keep paramedics safe

3 May 2018

A new sedative, trialled by Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) and the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), is helping Queensland paramedics to quickly and safely calm violent patients fuelled by alcohol and drugs.  

Emergency Physician and Clinical Toxicologist Dr Colin Page said the research confirmed droperidol was safer and more effective in a prehospital setting

“The days of repeated doses of midazolam [the industry standard sedative] being given by paramedics are over, it just takes too long to sedate patients using this drug and it is more dangerous,” Dr Page said.

“We’re now pushing for paramedics and clinicians to inject droperidol straight into the muscle, as there is no need for people to use it intravenously, and to stop mixing different sedatives.”

The world-first trial found droperidol sedated patients approximately 70 per cent quicker, was three times safer and significantly fewer patients needed additional sedation either in the ambulance or once in hospital.

QAS Executive Manager Clinical Policy Development Lachlan Parker ASM said Queensland paramedics were leading the world by introducing the new drug.

“There are some amazing stories of how quickly it works to calm really aggressive and violent patients,” he said.

“It’s also simple to administer, there are much fewer side-effects, it rarely over-sedates and patients wake up much nicer. We’re so happy to finally have a safe drug to use.

“We can now demonstrate to other paramedics just how effective the drug is for us. I believe we’ll see droperidol embedded extensively in ambulance services around the world.”

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the project paved the way for positive change across the healthcare system.

“Sadly, there are thousands of incidents each year where frontline healthcare workers are subject to violent outbursts, mostly as a result of alcohol and drug abuse,” he said.

“It’s fantastic to see Queensland research making a positive impact in protecting our first responders and emergency department clinicians. Projects like this highlight the importance of investing in medical research and finding new, more effective and more efficient ways of providing vital health services to Queenslanders.”

The Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) Australasia provided support for the study. The QAS research comparing droperidol with midazolam is available in the 2018 March edition of the Journal of Prehospital Emergency Care.

Last updated 21 May 2018
Last reviewed 3 May 2018

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