Hydroxocobalamin: improved public health readiness for cyanide disasters

Ann Emerg Med. 2001 Jun;37(6):635-41. doi: 10.1067/mem.2001.114315.


The United States is under the constant threat of a mass casualty cyanide disaster from industrial accidents, hazardous material transportation incidents, and deliberate terrorist attacks. The current readiness for cyanide disaster by the emergency medical system in the United States is abysmal. We, as a nation, are simply not prepared for a significant cyanide-related event. The standard of care for cyanide intoxication is the cyanide antidote kit, which is based on the use of nitrites to induce methemoglobinemia. This kit is both expensive and ill suited for out-of-hospital use. It also has its own inherent toxicity that prevents rapid administration. Furthermore, our hospitals frequently fail to stock this life-saving antidote or decline to stock more than one. Hydroxocobalamin is well recognized as an efficacious, safe, and easily administered cyanide antidote. Because of its extremely low adverse effect profile, it is ideal for out-of-hospital use in suspected cyanide intoxication. To effectively prepare for a cyanide disaster, the United States must investigate, adopt, manufacture, and stockpile hydroxocobalamin to prevent needless morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Amyl Nitrite / therapeutic use
  • Antidotes / supply & distribution
  • Antidotes / therapeutic use*
  • Chemical Warfare
  • Cyanides / poisoning*
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Emergency Treatment / standards
  • Hazardous Substances / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Hydroxocobalamin / supply & distribution
  • Hydroxocobalamin / therapeutic use*
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration
  • Poisoning / drug therapy
  • Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Poisoning / etiology
  • Public Health Practice* / standards
  • Sodium Nitrite / therapeutic use
  • Terrorism
  • Thiosulfates / therapeutic use
  • Transportation
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antidotes
  • Cyanides
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Thiosulfates
  • Amyl Nitrite
  • Sodium Nitrite
  • Hydroxocobalamin