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Children with ‘werewolf syndrome’ after taking contaminated medication in Spain rises to 17

Number of children with ‘werewolf syndrome’ after being given contaminated medication in Spain rises to 17

  • Number of babies diagnosed with ‘werewolf syndrome’ rises from 16 to 17
  • The newborn babies took medication tainted with minoxidil, an alopecia remedy
  • A Malaga-based pharmaceutical company had its licence suspended in July
  • Minoxidil found its way into omeprazole, which is used to treat indigestion
  • Health officials are advising parents to check batch numbers with pharmacies 

Spanish health officials have confirmed 17 newborn babies have been diagnosed with so-called ‘werewolf syndrome’ after taking contaminated medication. 

The children have hypertrichosis, which causes hair growth throughout their bodies, after taking a formula tainted with minoxidil – an alopecia remedy. 

Sixteen infants were initially diagnosed on Monday with ‘werewolf syndrome’ after taking the contaminated medicine across Spain.

But a new case was discovered yesterday, bringing the total number of babies with the condition to 17. 

Ten babies have been affected in Cantabria, four in Andalusia and three in the Valencian region. 

A Mexican man with the condition (file photo)

File photo of an Indian schoolboy with hypertrichosis (left) and a file photo of a Mexican man with the same condition (right). Seventeen patients have been diagnosed in Spain

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products ordered that several batches from Farma-Química Sur SL, a Malaga-based pharmaceuticals company, be taken out of circulation on July 11.

The babies were given tainted omeprazole, used to treat acid reflux and indigestion, as part of a formula. 

Angela Selles, a mother from Granada said her son, Uriel, was diagnosed at six-months old and was left with the ‘eyebrows of a grown man’. 

She told Spanish newspaper El Pais: ‘Suddenly my son started growing hair on his forehead, his cheeks, his arms and his legs, even his hands and he developed the eyebrows of a grown man. 

‘It was scary because we didn’t know what was happening to him.’

The Spanish chemical company Farma-Quimica Sur SL's plant in Malaga, southern Spain, where the contaminated alopecia medication was produced

The Spanish chemical company Farma-Quimica Sur SL’s plant in Malaga, southern Spain, where the contaminated alopecia medication was produced 

Health sources told El Pais it was noted that when the children stopped taking the medicine their hair growth subsided.

Parents have been advised to seek medical help if their child has been given the formula and check with their pharmacy if they have purchased an affected lot. 

The Spanish agency pulled a first batch off the market last month when 13 cases were reported.

Another three reports were made at the start of this month and another batch of Farma-Química Sur’s medicine was pulled from pharmacy shelves.

Officials believe the contamination could have affected up to 30 Andalusian pharmacies and more than 50 batches of the drug.

Farma-Química Sur has had its licence suspended and cannot manufacture, import or distribute drugs.

The pharmaceuticals company has a supplier in India and it is reported by Granada Hoy, the contamination was made at source.

Spanish authorities say that the issue is isolated to the formulas for children and that adults taking omeprazole capsules should not worry about developing ‘werewolf syndrome.’

According to Global News, once children stop taking the contaminated medicine, they should see a reversal of any hypertrichosis symptoms.

What is ‘werewolf syndrome’?

Hypertrichosis is the term used for the growth of hair on any part of the body in excess of the amount usually present in persons of the same age, race, and sex.

It is a very rare condition which patients are either born with or develop later in life. 

It excludes excessive hair caused by abnormally high levels of male hormones.

Throughout history those afflicted have been a source of great interest and they have performed in travelling circuses and freak shows. 

A Nepalese mother and her children with hypertrichosis, also known as 'werewolf syndrome' (file photo)

A Nepalese mother and her children with hypertrichosis, also known as ‘werewolf syndrome’ (file photo)

Excessive hair may cause cosmetic embarrassment, resulting in a significant emotional burden.

Treatment options are limited, and the results of therapy not always satisfactory.

No single method of hair removal is appropriate for all body locations or patients, and the one adopted will depend on the character, area, and amount of hair growth, as well as on the age of the patient, and their personal preference.

Treatment methods include cosmetic procedures, bleaching, trimming, shaving, plucking, waxing, chemical depilatories, electrosurgical epilation, and hair removal using light sources and lasers.

Laser-assisted hair removal is the most efficient method of long-term hair removal currently available. 

Source: American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 


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