Healthcare Workers Share the Rarest Medications They’ve Ever Had to Use and Why

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Being a healthcare worker is tough…especially over the last several months.

I can’t imagine the pressure that they face every single day during this crisis.

Heck, I can’t even imagine the pressure during a REGULAR day for them.

So that’s why we should always show healthcare workers the utmost respect and praise them.

But on to the stories you’re about to read. Healthcare professionals were asked what is the rarest medication they’ve ever used and the story behind it.

Here’s what folks had to say on AskReddit.

1. Don’t drop it!

“Activated Protein C.

Can’t remember exactly but it was about £50k a dose. Used in severe last ditch sepsis treatment.

Not a vial you want to drop.”

2. Only twice…

“In 15 years of hospital pharmacy, I’ve twice had occasion to dispense Thalidomide.

It’s used as an end-stage anti-nausea med, and comes very carefully packed, with all sorts of warnings about not coming near it if pregnant, and even has little pictures of Thalidomide babies.”

3. Whoa…

“I had a woman who was on Ziconotide, which is an analgesic derived from Cone Snail venom.

If it isn’t administered correctly (through the spine), it causes hallucinations.”

4. Yuck!


We use them to keep blood flowing if you get a finger or ear or something cut off and sewn back on.”

5. Never heard of that.

“Vodka, because of methanol poisoning.”

6. Very expensive.

“Some metabolic diseases are extremely rare, but can be treated by replacing whatever enzyme is missing

I’ve prescribed idursulfase for Hunter syndrome. It was something like $250k per month and was covered by the state.”

7. Oh, my…

“A poop/fecal transplantation.

At my first internship during nursing school, there was a patient with a bowel infection caused by clostridium difficile. A few months before he got treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics for a pneumonia, which caused the infection.

They tried other treatments to cure the infection, but nothing worked. Eventually, the patient got accepted in a clinic trial for a fecal transplant.

One of his kids was the poop donor. After the transplantation the infection actually cleared up!”

8. Extremely rare.

“NICU nurse here.

Ammonul, I’ve had to give it to two different patients. It’s a medication to help with really high blood ammonia levels with kids who have certain metabolic conditions.

The medication is extremely expensive!”

9. Bright blue.

“Methylene blue.

I gave it to a girl who tried overdosing on Orajel. The active ingredient is benzocaine which caused her to develop a methemoglobinemia, treated with the blue drug.

It truly is an artificial looking bright blue and I gave it to her in her IV.”

10. Gross.


We had a drug addict come in who had let an infection go so long in his arm from repeated needle usage that all our attempts to clean it failed. We ended up using maggots to eat away the dead tissue, while leaving the healthy tissue intact.

Dude just had an open wound full of maggots loosely covered in some gauze for like… several days.

The worst part is always having to collect them afterward.

The medication most people are shocked by is cocaine hydrochloride. Yep. Cocaine. It’s a good vasoconstriction agent, and topical anesthetic.”

11. Drug cocktail.

“It was many years ago and I was working with end-stage cancer patients.

This one woman, who began her treatment outside of the United States, was given a mixture of cocaine, heroin, alcohol, morphine, phenothyazine and some other antiemetics.

It was specially made into a liquid and imported from somewhere in Europe. I remember this med so vividly because it’s not everyday you give someone heroin. I think it was called something like Bromton Cocktail and the lengths that were gone to to check out and administer a dose of that stuff – we’re talking who’s got the nuclear codes type of system.

I have to admit though, it worked like magic.”

12. Arsenic???

“I’ve seen arsenic trioxide prescribed once for a patient with acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

I think another arsenic compound is used to treat sleeping sickness but that’s about the only diseases it’s used for these days.

Once upon a time it was the best treatment we had for syphilis.”

13. Crazy.

“Synthetic blood. Melbourne, Australia, and I think it was a world first at the time.

We had a trauma patient who required a blood transfusion. She couldn’t accept blood products however due to her religious beliefs, so synthetic blood was shipped in from the US, ended up saving her life.

We hadn’t heard of synthetic blood, so it was kinda bizarre. This was a few years ago, so I’m not sure if it’s more widely used now but I’ve not seen it since.”

14. Honey, we have to talk…

“I had a wealthy patient who paid $70,000 on his Amex Platinum card for a one month supply of Harvoni (Hep C) for him and his wife.

That was not even enough for full treatment. That was the cost every month for 3 months. He told me he had gotten Hep C from an escort. That is one expensive romp he had!”

15. Nebulized morphine.

“Respiratory therapist.

I gave nebulized morphine to a sweet old lady who was dying very painfully in front of her family. There were about 12 of us in the room including me, the PA for to pulmonary group that was covering the icu for the weekend that ordered it and her family.

12 of us in a tiny room. I didn’t think about it at the time because I was very concerned about it being out of my scope of practice and because it was the weekend I didn’t have a chain of command to really ask.

But you know nebulizing an OPIATE in a tiny room with a lot of people…. when the PA and I came out after 4 minutes and the treatment was finished I said I felt kind of funny and the PA laughed kind of weakly then sat down.

My pupils were pinpoint. We also used to nebulize vodka for pulmonary edema although I’ve never done it so can’t vouch for it.”

Now we want to hear from other healthcare workers out there.

What’s the rarest medication you’ve ever had to use?

Talk to us in the comments!

We look forward to hearing from you!