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May 14, 1938


JAMA. 1938;110(20):1656-1658. doi:10.1001/jama.1938.02790200024008

We have shown in a previous paper1 that the activated charcoal of the U. S. P. XI has a definite adsorbent action for phenolphthalein, while the non-activated charcoal, such as would have been official according to the specifications of the U. S. P. X, is almost devoid of this effect. We have also shown that activated charcoal given in five times the dose is capable of antagonizing the cathartic action of phenolphthalein in the cat. In the human being we found that a considerably larger excess of charcoal is required but that when such an excess is given the cathartic effect is inhibited.

As there is no well defined plan of treatment available in the literature suitable for the treatment of an overdose of phenolphthalein it seemed worth while to test the practical value of charcoal for this purpose by means of an experimental study. Having found it impossible to kill animals—daphnia, worms, mice, cats, dogs, pigs, monkeys—with phenolphthalein administered in any dose, we were forced to study this question on human beings. We therefore administered a fairly large dose of phenolphthalein to volunteers and checked results by noting the degree of cathartic effect as well as the influence on the elimination of phenolphthalein in the urine.