Pharmacists seen as invaluable in chemical weapons attack

Pharmacists are an invaluable resource in the event of a chemical weapons attack due to their extensive knowledge of toxic agents, according to an article published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice.
Peter D. Anderson, a clinical pharmacist and forensic pharmacologist, said that pharmacists must work in their hospitals to prepare emergency plans and in their communities to stock for potential chemical accidents or attacks. Anderson emphasizes that pharmacists can also be a strong resource during biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.
Chemical weapons act on victims through a number of mechanisms and include nerve agents, blood agents, choking agents, chemicals that cause blistering, riot control agents and toxic industrial chemicals. Due to an extensive knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, toxicology and therapeutics, pharmacists are an important asset to health care facilities and government agencies planning for a terrorist attack with chemical weapons.
"Potential chemical weapons are in no way limited to the traditional agents that we think of as chemical weapons," Anderson said.
In the article, Anderson detailed the clinical effects of chemical weapons and their treatment. Nerve agents work similarly to pesticides by blocking the actions of acetyl cholinesterase and include tabun, VX, cyclosarin, sarin and soman. Blistering agents, called vesicants, include sulfur mustard and can damage the upper airways. Choking agents cause fluid to build up in the lungs and include chlorine and phosgene gas.