Adverse reaction to atropine and the treatment of organophosphate intoxication

Isr Med Assoc J. 2002 Jul;4(7):535-9.


Atropine is the drug of choice for treatment of organophosphate nerve agent and insecticide intoxication and has been used for this indication for several decades. Adverse reactions to atropine may occur, and are of two types: toxic and allergic. Toxic reaction, the most common form, results from the anti-muscarinic effects of the drug. Since it is most probably related to interpersonal variation in sensitivity to atropine, toxic effects may appear at the usual therapeutic doses. The second type, allergic reaction, includes local manifestations, usually after the administration of eyedrops, and systemic reaction in the form of anaphylaxis. Since most patients manifest only a mild reaction, allergy testing is not performed and the prevalence of allergy to atropine is therefore not known. Severe allergic reaction to atropine is rare, as evidenced by the small number of case reports in the literature despite the drug's extensive use. Alternative anti-muscarinic drugs recommended for OP poisoning include glycopyrrolate and scopolamine. Glycopyrrolate is a peripheral anti-muscarinic drug that has been studied in comparison to atropine for many clinical indications, while scopolamine is an anti-muscarinic drug with both peripheral and central effects. An acceptable alternative regimen for patients with proven allergy to atropine is a combination of glycopyrrolate with centrally active drugs such as benzodiazepines or scopolamine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atropine / adverse effects*
  • Atropine / therapeutic use
  • Drug Hypersensitivity
  • Glycopyrrolate / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Organophosphate Poisoning*
  • Scopolamine / therapeutic use


  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Atropine
  • Scopolamine
  • Glycopyrrolate