SAMARIUM – The Good and The Bad

In the past I’ve blogged about lethal radioactive chemicals (here and here) as possiblebosch_image murder weapons to use in your murder mysteries and thrillers. There is another rather dramatic radioactive agent—a beneficial medication at that—which could take center stage in the development of your next lethal plot.

Samarium is a radioisotope drug used to treat the pain associated with bone cancer. The treatment is more palliative than curative—that is, it increases a patient’s comfort level by decreasing the pain associated with metastatic bone cancer but does not cure the disease. The drug is often one of several treatments used for patients with lung, prostate and breast cancers—as well as those with osteosarcoma.

The chemical, named samarium Sm 153 lexidronam, has an interesting molecular structure such that the body treats the chemical like calcium and selectively uptakes the 642x361_Natural_Home_Remedies_for_Knee_Paindrug into the body’s skeletal structure like it would calcium. Once administered, the drug is distributed throughout the body before it is absorbed into bones, where it remains.

What makes this pharmaceutical such a great murder weapon is that it’s given intravenously in a clinical setting such as a hospital, and therefore it’s relatively easy to obtain for the creative villain. There are more than 10,000 hospitals worldwide that use radioisotopes in medical treatments. Therefore, it’s a good bet that a hospital clinic that treats metastatic bone cancer would have samarium-153 on hand.

The drug emits both radioactive beta particles (the therapeutic part) and gamma rays (which make it easier to locate in the body). As with other radioactive chemicals, larger than therapeutic doses can be lethal. In one of the episodes of the television drama Law and Order Criminal Intent, a person is murdered by unknowingly ingesting three vials of samarium-153.

Samarium is available as a preservative-free solution that is clear, colorless to slight amber4_2_3_7_001 RadioPharmaVial in color, and comes in 10-ml vials that must remain frozen until used. The drug expires (technically, its therapeutic half life) within 48 hours after being removed from the freezer.

The side effects of an overdose can be dramatic. The initial symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, joint aches, fever, chills, cough and a sore throat—in other words, flu-like symptoms occur early on that can mask the detection of a victim being poisoned until it’s too late. The symptoms progress to noticeable heart rhythm abnormalities, breathing difficulties, tingling or numbness of the extremities, excessive nosebleeds and internal bleeding that can exhibit as blood in the urine.

Certainly, this prescription drug is of great benefit to the medical community, but it can also be an exceptionally useful tool for the murder mystery writer with a creative, and possibly devious, mind.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Chemical Poisons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Designer Poisons Used For Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Poisoning, Drugs Used For Murder, Drugs Used to Murder, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Radioactive Agents, Misuse of Drugs, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Drugs, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Overdose of Samarium, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Radioactive Drugs Used for Murder, Radioactive Pharmaceuticals and Murder, Samarium, Samarium and Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Weapons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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