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Cal J Emerg Med. 2003 Jan-Mar; 4(1): 3–9.
PMCID: PMC2906954

The Effects of the FDA Warning on the Use of Droperidol by U.S. Emergency Physicians



To determine if emergency physicians’ (EP) use of droperidol has changed since the United States Food and Drag Administration (FDA) warning of December 2001 concerning QT interval prolongation, torsade de pointes, and sudden death; and to query EP opinions regarding droperidol before and after the FDA warning and regarding potential alternative drugs.


An internet-based survey was designed with questions regarding droperidol use in the emergency department (ED). Data collected included EP demographics, use of droperidol before and after the FDA warning, use of alternative drugs, and incidence of arrhythmias. A representative sample of EPs were contacted by e-mail and asked to complete the survey.


A total of 2,000 e-mails resulted in 506 (25%) completed surveys. There was no second mailing. Responders’ average years practicing was 12.6 ± 9.2. EP responders worked in private/community (n=278, 55%), academic/county (n=187, 37%), and HMO (n=41, 8%) hospitals. The. majority (n=455, 90%) used droperidol and were aware of the FDA warning (n=460, 91%). Droperidol was no longer available at 122 (24%) of the respondents’ EDs as a result of the FDA warning. Prior to the FDA warning, EPs who had used droperidol used it as an antiemetic (n=408, 90%), for control of agitation (n=330, 73%), for treatment of headache (n=247, 54%), and for treatment of vertigo (n=106, 23%). After the FDA warning, 387 (85%) of EPs reported their use of droperidol had decreased or ceased altogether, and 68 (15%) always obtained an electrocardiogram prior to administration. Of those who used droperidol for agitation, 137 (42%) felt there were no other drugs with greater efficacy. Haloperidol was the most cited alternative agent (n=260, 79%) followed by benzodiazepines (n=223, 68%). Of those who used droperidol for antiemesis, 116 (28%) felt there were no other drugs with greater efficacy than droperidol; promethazine was the most cited alternative agent (n=260, 64%). Two (0.4%) EPs reported arrhythmias in patients who received droperidol. Only 37 (8%) EPs reported they were unconcerned with potential loss of droperidol from the market.


Based on this survey, EP use of droperidol has decreased dramatically as a result of the FDA warning. However, EPs believe that there are few or no alternative antiemetic drugs that have an improved adverse effect profile.

Keywords: droperidol, Inapsine, emergency medicine, FDA warning

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Articles from The California Journal of Emergency Medicine are provided here courtesy of The University of California, Irvine