An advanced guide to arsenic trioxide

What is arsenic trioxide?

Arsenic trioxide is an inorganic compound commonly used in medication. It is most popularly sold under the brand name Trisenox. Arsenic trioxide is classified into the general group of medicines called antineoplastics; used to cure blood cancer. It is also used as a medicine for cough, pain, swelling, and asthma. Historically, arsenic has been used in many therapeutic applications to combat infectious diseases for many years.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that occurs in the environment without being destroyed. The arsenic combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulphur forms the inorganic arsenic compounds while that combines with carbon and hydrogen forms the organic arsenic compounds. Arsenic trioxide is formed when metallic arsenides are roasted in air, or when arsenic-containing coal is burnt.

The current global arsenic trioxide market size is of $24 million which is estimated to reach $26 million by 2026, increasing at a CAGR of 1.9% during 2021-2026.

Key players in the arsenic trioxide market:

  • Managem Mining Group
  • Umicore
  • China National Gold Group Corporation
  • Hunan Gold Group
  • Chenzhuo Tangtao Environmental
  • Jiangxi Copper Corporation
  • Yunnan Tin Company Group
  • Zhuzhou Ante New Material

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What is the chemical structure of arsenic trioxide?

Arsenic trioxide is the chemical compound with the formula As2O3. It is also known as arsenic (III) oxide, arseneous oxide, white arsenic, arsenic sesquioxide, and arseneous anhydride. The chemical structure of arsenic trioxide can be depicted as:

The common chemical properties include:

Molar mass197.840 g·mol−1
Density3.74 g/cm3
Melting point312.2 °C (594.0 °F)
Boiling point465 °C (869 °F)

What are the uses of arsenic trioxide?

Despite the toxicity of arsenic, arsenic trioxide finds a wide range of uses in industrial, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and medicinal applications. Some of the common uses include:

  • Used as an anti-cancer drug
  • Used in the manufacturing of wood preservatives, pesticides, and glass
  • Used in the manufacturing of electronics
  • It acts as a precursor to elemental arsenic, arsenic alloys, and arsenide semiconductors
  • It is used in the manufacture of arsenic-based compounds sodium cacodylate and sodium arsenite
  • Arsenic trioxide, known as pi-shuang, is used in traditional Chinese medicine
  • It finds use in homeopathy, and known as arsenicum album

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Medical uses of arsenic trioxide?

Arsenic trioxide is popularly used in the treatment of a type of leukemia (blood cancer), acute promyelocytic leukemia-APL. Arsenic trioxide is used in the people who din’t get much help from other types of chemotherapy; it works by reducing or stopping the growth of cancer cells.

The medication is used as arsenic trioxide vial which is injected into the vein by the doctor. It is usually injected slowly over two hours in normal cases, but may further be slowed down to even four hours if the person experiences side-effects such as fast heartbeat, flushing, or dizziness.

The duration of the injection, treatment schedule, and dosage is decided by the doctor based on the patient’s age, weight, medical conditions, and response to the medicine.

How does arsenic trioxide work?

Arsenic trioxide, which is slowly injected intravenously, works by rapidly killing the leukemia cells and encouraging the development of normal blood cells. Arsenic trioxide does this by utilizing certain proteins within the cell.

Arsenic trioxide is administered in the blood every day until there is no sign of leukemia in the bone marrow, this may take up to 50 – 60 days. The dosage starts with 20 – 25 doses depending on the diagnosis, while the dosage reduces to 5 days a week over time.

Arsenic trioxide side effects

The medication of arsenic trioxide is associated with the list of side-effects given below. It is unlikely to get all of them, but the person might experience a few of them, all at the same time.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained fever and chills
  • Cough, cold, and sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Eye irritation or blurred vision
  • Swelling of the face, hands, feet or legs
  • Difficulty sleeping (Insomnia)
  • Rapid heartbeat and changes in heart rhythm
  • Increase in the number of white blood cells in the blood

Lesser common side-effects include:

  • Constipation
  • High/low blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Poor appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Dyspepsia
  • Dizziness
  • Bruised and bleeding nose
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Extremely dry skin
  • Sinusitis
  • Weight gain
  • Blood count abnormalities
  • Risk of anemia due to low blood count

By keeping the doctor informed about the side-effects and being monitored by them regulars will help reduce the risk. For severe side-effects like chest pain, irregular heartbeat, or muscle weakness get medical help without any delay. Consult the doctor for any clarification and follow the instructions carefully.

Where to buy arsenic trioxide in India?

Arsenic trioxide for medicinal purposes can be purchased from any drug store in India. Due to the risk of higher levels of arsenic, it is sold only with a doctor’s prescription and in the prescribed dosage. However, the bulk quantity of arsenic trioxide for industrial and pharmaceutical use can be bought from any chemical manufacturer, supplier, or third-party dealer. The purchase of chemicals directly from the manufacturer, supplier, or dealer is a long-held trend in the chemical industry with many buyers preferring this means even today. But with the wave of digitization hitting the chemical industry, among the others, the current trend is slowly changing. Also, with the increase in the number of millennials in the industry, chemical procurement is slowly moving to digital platforms to suit the requirements of the new-age demands.

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