Patients from Malwani battling for life at various hospitals are being infused with steady measures of whiskey that contains around 40% of ethyl alcohol, which is the best known antidote for methanol poisoning. This is besides hemodialysis and other forms of supportive treatment.
Relatives of several patients who bore the brunt in Malwani’s hooch tragedy were left perplexed when they found doctors at BYL Nair Hospital using alcohol to treat alcohol poisoning. “It is a standard protocol the world over. Ethyl alcohol neutralizes the effects of methanol. Both are alcohol variants, one good and another deadly,” said dean of Nair Hospital Dr Ramesh Bharmal. There are 19 critically ill patients at the hospital.
Explaining the role of ethyl alcohol in treatment, head of medicine at Sion Hospital Dr N D Moulick, said it is used to prevent further metabolism of methanol in the blood. “We then use hemodialysis (process to purify blood) to remove unmetabolized methanol. It immediately stabilizes blood pressure and other vital parameters,” she said.
Whiskey is often the preferred variety in civic hospitals due to its high alcohol content. “We do not stock it for obvious reasons. An emergency local purchase is made whenever such cases arise. It is administered in a diluted form through ryles tube several times in a day,” said a KEM Hospital doctor, adding that it is probably the only situation where alcohol is life-saving. “Methanol poisoning is a huge medical emergency where it can cause acidosis affecting heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, and even death in a span of minutes to hours,” the doctor said.
At KEM, two patients are serious and have been kept in the ICU. Two out of three patients at Sion hospital are said to be stable though. Around ten patients have taken discharge from civic hospitals and gone to private hospitals. Kin of patients have also alleged that the patients were not given treatment on time, which the civic authorities contested.