GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla - The nation's entire supply of coral snake antivenin may no longer exist. In a few short weeks, the life saving drug is set to expire.
Last December, six-year-old Zachary Mazzocchi survived a coral snake bite. But, his parents say, if it weren't for antivenin, he would be dead.
After Mazzocchi was bit by the snake, his dad drove him to NCH in North Naples, but they didn't have any antivenin. He was then airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital and is only alive today because of the life saving drug.
Zachary Mazzocchi knows he's lucky to be alive. Ten months ago a coral snake bit him outside his Golden Gate Estates home. His body instantly reacted to the poison and doctors knew his only chance of survival was airlifting him to Miami where vials of antivenin were waiting.
"I can't even put it into words," says Michelle Mazzocchi, Zachary's mother. "To see your child like that is one of the most painful things."
Looking at him now, you wouldn't know the seven year olds heart stopped beating not once, but twice. Doctors brought him back and gave the young boy ten vials of antivenin, wiping out the entire supply at Miami Children's Hospital.
"It saved his life," says Louis Mazzocchi, Zachary's father. "That was the only thing that did because when we first got to NCH they said they didn't have any antivenin and he's got to go or he's going to die."
In 2003, the pharmaceutical company Wyeth stopped making coral snake antivenin.
Josef Thundiyil, M.D., a medical toxicologist at Orlando Regional Medical Center says, "it became not profitable. There are not enough of these snake bites nationally to justify the production of it."
Wyeth made a five year supply set to expire in 2008. Each year since, the FDA has extended the expiration date, but on October 31, 2012, the last batch will expire.
"What'd we see without antivenin is a more severe reaction and a more prolonged course," says Dr. Thundiyil.
While the FDA could come out and find a way to extend the batch, it's not a guarantee leaving children like Zachary vulnerable with no line of defense.
There is talk of another coral snake antivenin being produced, but that could take years. The FDA is also investigating whether antivenin used in other parts of the world are safe enough to be used in the United States.