Activated Charcoal

Prescribing Information (Research Brand)

Indications

Diarrhoea & poisoning due to foods, heavy meals & drugs. Flatulence due to diet & other factors.

Therapeutic Class

Anti-diarrhoeal, Antidote preparations

Description

Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is a medication used to treat poisonings that occurred by mouth. To be effective it must be used within a short time of the poisoning occurring, typically an hour. It does not work for poisonings by cyanide, corrosive agents, iron, lithium, alcohols, or malathion. It may be taken by mouth or given by a nasogastric tube. Other uses include inside hemoperfusion machines.

Pharmacology

Active charcoal binds the poison and prevents its absorption by the gastrointestinal tract. In cases of suspected poisoning, medical personnel administer activated carbon on the scene or at a hospital's emergency department. In rare situations, it may also be used in a hemoperfusion system to remove toxins from the blood stream of poisoned patients. Activated carbon has become the treatment of choice for many poisonings, and other decontamination methods such as ipecac-induced emesis or stomach pumping are now used rarely. It interrupts the enterohepatic and enteroenteric circulation of some drugs/toxins and their metabolites.

Dosage & Administration

Diarrhoea:
  • Adult: 2-4 tab tds-qds.
  • Children: ½ adult dose.
Poisoning:
  • Adult: 2-4 tab/kg body weight
  • children: 3-4 tab/kg body weight
Flatulence:
  • Adult: Disintegrate 1-2 tab. Repeat every 2 hr.

Interaction

Ultracarbon should not be administered together with other drugs because their efficacy can be reduced.

Contraindications

Febrile diarrhoea. Medicinal charcoal should not be taken in the case of intoxication with corrosive substances (strong acids and alkalis) as this would complicate diagnostic measures eg, oesophagoscopy and gastroscopy.

Side Effects

As most undesirable effects are based on post-marketing spontaneous reporting, precise frequency estimation is not possible. No adverse reactions to Ultracarbon are known to occur if taken in the recommended dosage to treat the diarrhoea. After very high doses as those taken in intoxications, constipation and intestinal obstruction (mechanical ileus) may occur in individual cases; this can be prevented by administering saline laxatives (eg, sodium sulfate). As medicinal charcoal is excreted in unchanged form, the stools turn black (discoloured faeces) after intake of Ultracarbon tablets.

Pregnancy & Lactation

No data found

Precautions

Several poisons and drugs require different or additional measures. Medicinal charcoal is not effective in intoxications with organic and inorganic salts as well as solvents eg, for instance, lithium, thallium, cyanide, iron salts, methanol, ethanol and ethylene glycol. Different measures are in these cases indicated to eliminate the poison (eg, gastric lavage). 

In many intoxications, a specific antidote must be administered additionally to medicinal charcoal (eg, acetylcysteine in paracetamol poisoning).

To avoid aspiration in unconscious patients, a physician should administer the suspension of Ultracarbon tablets in water by gastric tube.

In patients undergoing multiple dose, activated charcoal therapy after intoxication, gastrointestinal sounds should be monitored frequently to assess peristaltic action.

Ultracarbon should not be used in cases of poisoning with pesticides.

Overdose Effects

Activated charcoal is well tolerated and due to its lack of toxicity, overdose requiring treatment is unlikely. Should symptoms of overdose like constipation and intestinal obstruction (mechanical ileus) occur, a saline laxative may be administered to enhance the elimination of Ultracarbon tablets.

Storage Conditions

Do not store above 30°C.