A research article detailing a central Illinois poison outbreak involving synthetic cannabinoids earlier this year and the therapy provided is featured in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

A study involving 34 patients at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center between March and April of 2018 were identified as having synthetic cannabinoid-associated bleeding disorders. Of those patients tested, superwarfarin, a lethal class of toxins, and more specifically, brodifacoum, commonly used to kill rats, was confirmed present in all. Symptoms were controlled with vitamin K replacement therapy. One patient in the series report died from complications of spontaneous brain hemorrhage. While the study reported on 34 patients, over 100 cases were reported in the Peoria/Pekin area.

“Our hope is that health care providers who read this will be better prepared to identify symptoms of superwarfarin poisoning and be able to appropriately manage it,” said Dr. Michael Tarantino, a Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, the Director of the Bleeding and Clotting Disorders Institute, and a co-author of the series case study.

At least four people died and more than 150 people reportedly were sickened across Illinois after using synthetic cannabinoids believed to be laced with rat poison. Synthetic cannabinoids, commonly referred to or sold under names such as “spice” or “K2” is a class of drug created in a lab and designed to induce calm while stimulating euphoria.

Of the 34 patients in the Peoria study, 75 percent had multiple bleeding symptoms and more than half had blood present in their urine. Most also complained of having abdominal or flank pain.