Historic view of antimony drugs

Arsenic, antimony and bismuth in group 15 have been used for medicinal purposes for several centuries.15 17 Anti-parasitic effects of antimony compounds

Table 23.2 Use of antimony compounds for the treatment of various diseases

Antimony compounds

Medical treatment

Ancient antimony compounds

Inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and vagina, fever, arthritic conditions lupus, syphilis, internal tumors

'The Universal Medicine' Tropical disease, fever Pneumonia, experimental anti-cancer drugs

Cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis Cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis

Antimony cups (antimony wine) Potassium antimony tartrate (Tartar emetic®)

Sodium stibogluconate (Pentosam®) Meglumine antimonate (Glucantime®)

were known for a long time before they came into common use for the treatment of several parasitic diseases including leishmaniasis.2 In the sixteenth century, antimony was first introduced into medicinal treatment and won widespread popularity due to its emetic effect. Antimony compounds were also used for the treatment of ulcers. Wine allowed to stand in antimony goblets acquired emetic properties, as the tartaric acid in wine interacts with the metal to form tartar emetic.18

Although antimony was a popular drug in the sixteenth century, its use was later abandoned due to its toxicity and lack of specific medicinal properties. However, interest in the use of antimony in medicine revived in the early twentieth century after it was discovered to have specific antiparasitic effects against trypanosomiasis. The use of antimony compounds for the treatment of various diseases is summarized in Table 23.2.

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