Mercury is a protoplasmic poison. It precipitates protein. The clinical use in the form of the nonionizable compounds in the organic mercurial diuretics has become very extensive in the therapy of edema and the symptoms resulting from accumulations of fluids. This diuretic action is just as powerful in the ionizable inorganic mercury compounds as in the organic ionizable combinations.
The diuretic action represents the very early toxic action of mercury on the renal tubules. The positive mercury ion released in small amounts from the organic mercurial diuretic accounts for the renal and diuretic effects. Sollmann, Schreiber and Cole have demonstrated that ionizable inorganic compounds of mercury are more potent in diuretic action than nonionizable organic mercurials. Mercury has been known for its diuretic activity since the time of Paracelsus and was a constituent of the Guy's Hospital pill, which contained calomel, squill and digitalis.
The earliest reports of sudden death
VOLINI IF, LEVITT RO, MARTIN R. STUDIES ON MERCURIAL DIURESISV. SUDDEN DEATH FOLLOWING INTRAVENOUS INJECTION REPORT OF THREE CASES, WITH ELECTROCARDIOGRAPHIC STUDIES IN TWO. JAMA. 1945;128(1):12–17. doi:10.1001/jama.1945.02860180014004