Poison Control Center

Abdus Salam Khan, MD FACP
May, 2018

Doctors working in emergency department across the world see patients with drug overdose or poisonings and at times feel inadequate in properly managing those patients. They sort out books or call colleagues to get a hint of what could be the safe way of managing these patients.  Where can they turn if all they come across such situations. In the industrialized world, they call there poison control centers.

What is poison. Poison is a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health. And the science of dealing with the effects, antidotes, detection and control of poisons is called toxicology.

A poison control center is the medical facility that is able to provide immediate, free, and expert treatment advice and assistance over the telephone in cases of exposure to poisonous and hazardous substance.

The world started realizing the value of providing right information at right time to the treating staff. In Europe special poison units were started in 1940’s. First such center was initiated in North America in 1950s. Since then numerous centers are there, but mostly in industrialized countries. The task of these centers were well defined and limited to poison and injury information and care.

In Pakistan National Poison and Drug information center was initiated in 2012 in JPMC as Public sector. The JPMC service is run by one doctor, one nurse and one Pharmacist in a shift pattern. There is another public sector poison center in Faisalabad. Now there are two private sector poison information services providing information, one in AKUH( Aga Khan University Hospital) and other by Pharma company by the name of Pharmassist.

Functions of PCC (Poison Control Center):

It is a specialized unit providing information regarding poisoning to the whole community. It acts to provide toxicological information and advice and manages poisoning cases depending on the capability. With proper data collection, it can provide analytical input as well as Pharmacovigilence. The center can also be very instrumental in providing training in prevention and treatment of poisoning. There is also a good role in contingency planning and responding to chemical disaster.

Need for the PCC (Poison control Center):

Because of the poisoning case load there is a need for early and right treatment of exposed patient. It includes providing right information to patients or their relatives with toxic or poison substance exposure. The data collected serves as Toxicovigilence for the whole community. These information given in right time and through good and sound information service can avoid expensive treatments by going to emergency departments unnecessarily.

PCC(Poison Control Center) or DPIC (Drug and Poison information center) can be initiated and run by either a hospital or university, or it can also be part of the public health service.


Poison control centers provide excellent service to the population. Poison control centers are needed for the surveillance, and recognition of the pattern of poisoning in society. A drug information service is necessary component of any health care system, as it tends to provide necessary information to the general public to keep them safe.


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