Comparative antidotal efficacy of activated charcoal tablets, capsules and suspension in healthy volunteers


The efficacy of several formulations of activated charcoal (AC) was compared by measuring the intestinal absorption of a solution of 1 g paracetamol administered 2 min before administration of 5 g AC as suspension (200 ml), tablets (40 of 125 mg) or capsules (25 of 200 mg). The suspension medium without AC was used as the control treatment. Based on the results of a pilot experiment, an 8 subject panel was used in a two 4×4 Latin square design.

All treatments with AC resulted in a statistically significant decrease in paracetamol absorption compared to the control treatment. The suspension was considerably and significantly more effective than the tablets or capsules. Treatment with tablets was slightly but significantly more effective than capsules. The intake of large numbers of tablets and capsules was difficult.

In the hospital AC suspensions are available. For first aid elsewhere, at home, at the working place or in the general practitioner's surgery a preservable and easily redispersible AC formulation would be preferable to the present solid forms.

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The study was carried out at the request of the Dutch Committee for Evaluation of Medicines, Rijswijk, the Netherlands.

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Remmert, H.P., Olling, M., Slob, W. et al. Comparative antidotal efficacy of activated charcoal tablets, capsules and suspension in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 39, 501–505 (1990).

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Key words

  • activated charcoal
  • antidotal efficacy
  • healthy volunteers
  • formulation
  • paracetamol