Wednesday October 3 10:30 AM ET

Many Hispanics Use Pain Reliever Banned in US

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A potentially dangerous drug that is banned in the US but available in Mexico is used by more than one third of Hispanics living in southern California, study findings suggest.

According to the report, 38% of 200 Hispanic parents said they used dipyrone for themselves or a family member in the past.

Dipyrone, available in Mexico under the name Neo-melubrina, is used to treat fever and pain. The drug is sold in Europe and Latin America but was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) in 1977 because it is associated with agranulocytosis, a dangerous depletion in white blood cells that can lead to a potentially fatal infection.

And of 535 healthcare providers surveyed, more than 70% could not identify side effects associated with the drug, Dr. Lori Taylor and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, report in the September issue of the Western Journal of Medicine.

Healthcare workers who trained closer to the US-Mexico border and those who treated mostly Hispanic patients were more likely to recognize adverse symptoms.

``Neo-melubrina has been used by a substantial percentage of Hispanic patients in the community clinics surveyed. Many San Diego healthcare providers are unaware of this medication and may, therefore, miss opportunities to educate patients about safer alternatives,'' Taylor's team reports.

They note some non-Hispanic patients may also be at risk, since medications in Mexico may be easier to obtain and cheaper.

``Providers must be aware of commonly used foreign medications so that they can appropriately counsel patients and identify side effects,'' Taylor and colleagues write. ``An awareness of foreign medications should not be limited to cities bordering other countries,'' they conclude.

SOURCE: Western Journal of Medicine 2001;175:159-163.