At least 17 children in Spain have been been diagnosed with “werewolf syndrome” after their parents gave them over-the-counter medication for heartburn that contained a drug that is used to treat hair loss.
The Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices confirmed an outbreak of “werewolf syndrome,” otherwise known as hypertrichosis, Spanish news outlet El Pais reported on Wednesday.
Parents gave their children omeprazole, in hopes to treat their heartburn. What they did not know, and what was later discovered by an internal investigation by the agency, known as AEMPS, was that an “internal error” at a pharmaceutical company resulted in a vasodilator used to treat hair loss being “accidentally sold” as a drug used to treat heartburn.
An investigation revealed that there was “serious confusion” at the Farma-Química Sur when it began to break down shipments of omeprazole into smaller batches. Somewhere in the process, the drug was mixed with minoxidil, a drug used to treat hair loss.
Hypertrichosis is known as “werewolf syndrome” because it causes an abnormal amount of hair growth all over the body.
Ángela Selles, from Granada, said she didn’t know what was going on after her 6-month-old son’s body began to change.
“My son’s forehead, cheeks, arms and legs, hands became covered in hair … He had the eyebrows of an adult. It was very scary,” she said, per El Pais.
Another Granada mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was distressing “going from one doctor to another” when her 3-month-old son began to show signs of the condition.
“We went to the pediatrician and they told us it could be something genetic or to do with his metabolism. We had to start going to specialists to rule out several syndromes and rare conditions,” she said.
Understandably, the parents of children who have developed the condition are angry and concerned for their children’s health.
Selles said her son drank two bottles of the medication before her doctor told her about the mix-up.
“They have done several tests and for now the liver is the only thing that is not great, but they have told us that it is not serious and that it will regenerate,” she added.
The unnamed mother said her son drank two vials of the medication. The boy, who underwent testing, was said to be fine medically, but he will have to visit a cardiologist in September.
El Pais reported that the hair on the babies had begun to fall out. The two mothers said that doctors told them it could take months for all of the hair to fall off.
Four families have begun criminal proceedings against Farma-Química Sur.