As one would suspect, Momona hits the nail on the head. Kudos!
And last time I looked at this issue, various trivalent arsenic-containing medications were commonly used as tonics, even by such otherwise great physicians as Sir William Osler who taught at the Johns Hopkins and was the father of the modern bedside teaching of medicine.
I think there is still a trivalent arsenic medicine available called Trisenox(R) which appears to have some efficacy in treating a rather rare form of leukemia.
Certainly, the largest naturally-occuring toxic environmental disaster in the world in thec chronic arsenic poisoning of huge populations in West Bengal India and Bangladesh from tube wells drilled (unknowingly) into what turns out to be a geological formation that has some of the highest natural concentrations of arsenic in the world. A colleague of mine has travelled there and brought back heart-breaking photos of a sinlge survivor, himelf with numersous skin cancers, while enitre rest of his family has died from chronic arsenic poisoning.
I once was asked to peer review an article, I believe it was for the New England Journal of Medicine, in which the author alleged strongly that a father, a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin, who had a museum of natural history, deliberately poisoned his son by insisting he do taxidermy of various animals using an arsenical preparation as a preservative.
A fascinating field, and if old ladies wearing lace and offering you tea and biscuits come to your attention, I'd sugget you look elsewhere for sustenance! Arsenic was commonly used by deliberate poisoners in the past because in many forms it is tasetless, odorless, and colorless. Arsine gas is a quite different animal. Usual treatment for arsenic pooisoning does not seem to be efficacious and the main clinical issue is intravascular hemolysis with the red blood cell debris clogging up the kidneys resulting is acute renal failure.
Then there was a patient who injected both cyanide and arsenic intravenously once that came to my attention.
Most arsenicals are not all that well absorbed through the skin, although there was an old herbicidal prepation used in Italy which did cause a rare form off liver cancer in vinyard workers. And I certain;y saw cases of arsenic poisoning, mostly from inhalation exposure, when I was a company OccDoc for a lead, cadmium, and antimony smelter where the ore contained quite a bit of arsenic and selenium.
I did review much of this in the following publications, if anyone is interested:
Hall AH. Arsenic and Arsine, in: Haddad LM,Wwinchester JF, Shannon MW (eds). Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdoe, 3rd ed. WB suanders Co, Philadelphia, PA, pp 899-905.
Hall AH. Chronic arsenic poisoning. Toxicol Lett 2002; 128-69-72.
Alan H. Hall, M.D.
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