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April 5, 1971

Fatal Hypocalcemia From Phosphate Absorption From Laxative Preparation

JAMA. 1971;216(1):147-148. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03180270109034

To the Editor.—  Proprietary laxative preparations are generally considered safe self-therapy for those "... hard... to move." Sodium phosphate compounds are among the most popular laxatives in this country. For example, one company in 1969 sold 100,000 gal of a mixture of sodium biphosphate and sodium phosphate (Phospho-Soda).An unintentional fatal overdose with this common laxative product is reported.

Report of a Case.—  A 48-year-old housewife, because of chronic constipation, ingested this preparation "daily," in "huge" doses. Two days before admission, severe constipation, pain, and distention led to consumption of "large amounts," until she was found semicomatose at home. She previously had been in good health.The blood pressure was 72/40 mm Hg; pulse rate, 110 beats per minute; respirations, 44 per minute; and temperature, 38 C. She responded poorly to deep pain, was semicomatose with abdominal distention, tympanites, absence of bowel sounds, and a few rhonchi. Muscle tone was decreased

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