MADRID – At least 17 children in Spain develop a form of werewolf syndrome after being given medicines intended to treat acids that are actually used to stop hair loss.
Children taking incorrectly labeled drugs, some babies, began to grow hair all over their bodies, a rare condition known as hypertrichosis, the Spanish Health Minister said on Wednesday.
Minister Maria Louisa Carsedo stated that a Spanish laboratory, Farmaquimica Sur, had misappropriated pharmacists minoxidil, a drug that helps fight baldness, which is labeled omeprazole, a medicine that treats acid reflux.
Eventually, the laboratory was shut down and the drug was withdrawn from the market. Officials have opened an investigation.
Mrs. Corsetse, the health minister, told reporters that no pharmacy in Spain still has the omeprazole incorrectly labeled.
"We immobilized all lots," she said.
A Farmaquimica Sur employee called by telephone who refused to give her name, saying that company executives were meeting with lawyers to review the situation.
The acid medication is usually prepared by a pharmacist who mixes compounds that are distributed in bulk.
The Ministry of Health stated that the affected 17 children had so far been in three regions of the country: Cantabria in the north, Andalusia in the south and Valencia in the east. Cantabria's prosecutor has opened an investigation and some families have filed criminal cases against Farmaquimica Sur.
The Spanish Dermatology Association stated that unwanted hair should start to fall out about three months after children stop taking the medicine.
But the mother of a 26-month-old girl told El Mundo that although her daughter stopped taking the medicine in May, the girl was still covered in unwanted hair.
The woman, identified only by her first name, Amaya, said she had taken the baby to a doctor as it began to grow facial hair, which then spread to other parts of the body. The woman said her daughter was given about seven milliliters of syrup considered to be omeprazole.
For minoxidil, the recommended dose is about two milliliters per day. The drug is designed to help reduce hypertension, but it has also been used to treat baldness since the 1980s.
The mother tells El Mundo that she believes that the Spanish authorities minimize the importance of the health scandal.
"Thank God the symptom was as noticeable as excess hair," she said. "If it was a latent thing that was gradually affecting the internal organs, it would surely continue to take" the wrong medicine.