Phoenix man makes medical history as rattlesnake bite patient

Mar 7, 2019, 4:02 AM | Updated: 9:06 am
(Pixabay Photo)...
(Pixabay Photo)
(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – A Phoenix man made medical history in a painful way after he was bitten by a rattlesnake Sunday.

Samuel Evans became the first patient treated with a new antivenom since its recent approval.

Evans was trying to move the rattler from a hiking trail in the White Tank Mountains, but the snake didn’t cooperate.

“There were other people in the area, and he was trying to protect them, and the snake bit … his right thumb,” Dr. Ayrn O’Connor, toxicologist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

Evans started the standard treatment with CroFab antivenom at Banner Del E Webb Medical Center in Sun City West before being transferred to O’Connor’s facility, which specializes in poisonous bites.

However, he started having an allergic reaction to the medication, which can happen during a second CroFab treatment.

That’s right, Evans had been bitten by a rattler once before, around 14 years ago — and treated by O’Connor.

Since 2000, CroFab had been the only medicine approved for rattlesnake bite treatment, according to the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.

But last year, the FDA approved an alternative called Anavip.

As fate would have it, Evans became the first patient to be treated with the new product outside of clinical trials, O’Connor said.

And it worked.

“He had no allergic reaction, and it controlled his signs of envenomation, and he’s tolerated that treatment very well,” O’Connor said.

In addition to providing an option when CroFab causes an allergic reaction, Anavip also could be effective in preventing the delayed bleeding that can occur after rattlesnake bites, O’Connor said.

“We’re excited to have another treatment option, and this one in particular has great promise,” she said.

Anavip isn’t cheap. Each vial costs $1,220, and the average dosage is expected to be around 16 vials.

That total of around $20,000 might not sound so bad when it means saving a limb or even a life.

“That’s actually a lot less expensive than the older product,” O’Connor said. “Antivenoms in general are very expensive.”

O’Connor said her hospital, as a toxicology referral center, sees 50-75 rattlesnake bite patients annually. She said 5-10 people die from the bites each year in the U.S.

“We just encourage people to not try to do any treatments in the field, just try to get to health care as soon as possible if they are bitten,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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Phoenix man makes medical history as rattlesnake bite patient