Expatica news

Probe into Belgian painkiller after UK fears

1 February 2005

BRUSSELS – Belgium’s health department has announced an inquiry into whether a popular painkiller should be withdrawn from the market.

The move comes after the UK announced it is to stop sales of similar drugs.

British health experts are worried about the side-effects suffered by people who take a slightly larger dose of the drug than recommended and they also fear it is often used in suicide attempts.

In Belgium, Algophene – a mixture of paracetamol and dextropropoxyphene – is regularly prescribed as a painkiller, though it not as big a seller as in the UK, where it is known as co-proxamol.

On Monday, Belgium’s drug supervision centre announced it too would be investigating such products.

“In the light of the results of the new English study, we are going to check if this medicine still has a place in the treatment of pain,” said a spokesperson.

The British study concluded co-proxamol could be to blame for 18 percent of deaths caused by medicine and 5 percent of the total number of suicides.

In 2003, the Belgian drug supervision centre warned Algophene “can create a dependency” and carries a risk of breathing problems if an overdose is taken.

It said it had recorded three deaths due to significant overdoses of the drug. A fourth suicide was notified in 2004.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Rudy Demotte said Algophene could be withdrawn from the market.

“Everything will depend on the conclusions of our experts,” he explained.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news