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RCVS warns against donating propofol anaesthetic to NHS

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has warned against donating the anesthetic propofol to the NHS amid the ongoing pandemic. 

Propofol Plus (Zoetis) contains propofol 10 mg/ml with benzyl alcohol 20 mg/ml as a preservative and should not be given to the NHS for use in humans. The preservative can be toxic to human patients under certain circumstances.

Two RCVS Specialists in Veterinary Anaesthesia, Dr Georgina Beaumont and Joanne Michou, have now advised that veterinary practices should avoid donating veterinary formulations of the anaesthetic propofol.

In an email sent to colleagues, which was shared with the RCVS, they said: “We understand that some colleagues are being asked to release stock to the NHS, which potentially could include propofol. 

“It is extremely important to understand that drugs can be formulated in different ways and contain excipients that in different species can cause toxicity and/or death.”

In humans, parenterally administered benzyl alcohol has been associated with a fatal toxic syndrome in neonates.

It is essential, therefore, that before any propofol is released to the NHS, a safety checklist is followed. 

Vets must confirm it is a preservative-free formulation, ensure the product can be double checked and the transfer logged by a procurement team, and give a copy of the data sheet to your NHS contact when the propofol is transferred.

The RCVS said: “We would like to thank Georgina and Joanne for making colleagues aware of this issue and to Professor John Innes for passing their email on to the RCVS so that we could share it with the entire profession.

“We are grateful to the many veterinary practices who have been kindly offering to donate ventilators and anaesthetic equipment/gases to help their medical colleagues in the NHS who are working on the frontline against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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