Edinburgh Clinical Toxicology

A world-leading clinical toxicology research team based at Edinburgh BioQuarter.

Edinburgh Clinical Toxicology is made up of the Scottish Poisons Unit’s toxicology ward and National Poisons Information Service - Edinburgh Unit, alongside University research groups led by Professors James Dear and Michael Eddleston. We provide clinical care and lead impactful research on paracetamol poisoning, drug-induced liver injury, pesticide self-poisoning, and more.

Initiatives like the Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention, NIHR RIGHT4 Acute Poisoning project and the South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration underscore our commitment to global health.

Recognised for our impact, we've been featured in three University of Edinburgh Impact Case Reports for the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise. Explore our comprehensive approach to toxicology research and patient care, aimed at improving outcomes and saving lives.

Scottish Poisons Unit

The Scottish Poisons Unit’s toxicology ward and National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) unit are located at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh teaching hospital, next door to the University of Edinburgh's medical research facilities. This co-location enables collaboration between Edinburgh Clinical Toxicology clinicians and scientists.

The toxicology ward is the only dedicated clinical toxicology unit in Scotland. Our clinical service treats over 1,200 in-patients every year and is involved in the care of many other patients in the hospital's emergency department and critical care units. 

The NPIS Edinburgh unit is currently one of the four poisons units that make up the UK’s National Poisons Information Service. It hosts TOXBASE, the NPIS online clinical toxicology advice database. This database was set up in Edinburgh during the 1980s and is now the primary source of information on toxicology for doctors and nurses in the UK. NPIS Edinburgh also hosts the NPIS UK-wide Pesticide Surveillance Scheme for the UK's Health & Safety Executive.


Research Projects & Initiatives

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Treatment of Paracetamol Overdose

The University of Edinburgh has been actively involved in the management of paracetamol poisoning since the first cases of paracetamol-induced liver failure were reported from the city. In the 1970s, a team of researchers and clinicians developed the first effective and tolerable antidote, acetylcysteine. 

We have since looked at novel treatments and are now looking at the potential value of higher dose acetylcysteine regimens for patients with large overdoses and macrophage infusions to speed liver recovery. We are also developing biomarkers for liver injury, in particular paracetamol induced injury.



Preventing Deaths from Pesticide Self-poisoning

For the last 25 years, we have worked in South Asia to prevent deaths from pesticide self-poisoning, one of the three most important global means of suicide.

Our research has shown that pesticide regulation is the most effective approach to preventing deaths – an approach now recognised and promoted by the World Health Organization. In 2017, we set up the Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention as a philanthropic initiative of the University, with the aim of supporting effective pesticide regulation worldwide.

Our work also includes hospital-based clinical studies trials, aimed at improving treatment, and studies to assess community level public health interventions, such as training pesticide vendors to become gatekeepers.



Preventing Deaths from Acute Poisoning in Low-and Middle-Income Countries

Acute poisoning is a long-neglected issue that results in thousands of unnecessary deaths every year. Our work aims to improve the clinical care of acute poisoning in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), substantially expand LMIC research and poison information centres capacity, and create a global focus for research on acute poisoning in LMIC.



Addressing Drug-Related Harm in Scotland and the UK

We work to address the epidemic of drug deaths in Scotland, and the wider UK, from both a medical and public health perspective.

We are currently assessing the safety and efficacy of intramuscular flumazenil administration for benzodiazepine overdoses and how contacts with the ambulance service and emergency departments can be used to identify and support high-risk individuals. 

With colleagues in the School of Health in Social Science, we convene the Drugs Research Network Scotland, offering a focus for education and networking on the issue across Scotland.



Our Impact Case Reports

Other Research Collaborations


Prof Michael Eddleston

Professor of Clinical Toxicology

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Prof James Dear

Personal Chair of Clinical Pharmacology

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Dr Melissa Pearson

Research Fellow

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Dr Lisa Schölin

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

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Dr Chris Humphries

Clinical Research Fellow

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