Preliminary assessment of antivenom availability and management in the public health system of Costa Rica: An analysis based on a survey to pharmacists in public health facilities
Availability and accessibility of safe and effective antivenoms are key elements for the successful treatment of snakebite envenoming (SBE). This study provides a preliminary analysis on the way antivenoms are managed by the public health system in Costa Rica and on the role played by pharmacists in the overall management of antivenoms. This was an observational, cross-sectional study based on an online survey sent to pharmacists working at Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Costa Rican Social Security System; CCSS) in different locations in Costa Rica. Characteristics and location of health facilities, as well as antivenom availability and management details, were analyzed. Responses from a total of 96 pharmacists, corresponding to 55 different healthcare facilities, were included in this study. Most respondents worked at pharmacies located in urban communities (69.0%) and in the secondary level of care, which includes clinics, and regional and peripheral hospitals (55.2%). Overall, participants reported antivenom availability at all levels of care and in centers having various operating schedules, although they were not available in some facilities in regions where SBE is uncommon or do not attend SBE cases because of the proximity of more complex health centers. On average, the stocks of anticoral and polyvalent antivenoms per health facility were compatible with the dose of antivenom required for treating a SBE case. More than half of participants reported knowing the availability of protocols for the management of SBE and the correct use of antivenom at their healthcare facilities. Of the total respondents, 49% agreed on possessing all the resources needed for the correct management of these medicines at their facilities, and 65.6% indicated that they know the procedures for antivenom storage and management. Our findings provide a first description of the availability of antivenoms in the public health system of Costa Rica, including the primary care level. Results also underscore the perceived role of participating pharmacists in the management of these life-saving drugs and the need to improve their knowledge on this topic.