Neo-Melubrina, commonly referred to as “Mexican aspirin”, is an over the counter pain and fever medication sold south of the border in pill and liquid form for adults and children. It is not uncommon for tourists in the region to wander into a local pharmacy looking for quick relief of pain, headache, or fever, and be handed a bottle of Neo-Melubrina.
While common in Mexico, Neo-Melubrina has been banned in the United States since 1977. It has been found to cause agranulocytosis, or a marked suppression of white blood cells. Granulocytes are a type of white blood cell that are responsible for digesting microorganisms. Theses white blood cells are necessary to fight illness, infection, and disease. If agranulocytosis is left untreated, the risk of dying can be high. Death results from sepsis (overwhelming bacterial infection in the blood). Although Neo-Melubrina is banned in the U.S., it continues to be sold and prescribed in Europe and Latin America.
While it is true that complications with the drug are rare, travelers abroad must understand the risks involved with what they are ingesting or distributing to fellow travelers. People who fear that they may have already ingested the drug, or any other drug they were not entirely familiar with, should see their doctor as soon as possible as a preventative measure. In fact, individuals who think that they may have ingested Neo-Melubrina or substances like it within the past 30 days should see their doctor as soon as possible. Use of Neo-Melubrina should be discontinued immediately if it hasn’t been already. Your doctor or pediatrician can order a complete blood count to ensure the white blood cell count is normal.
Symptoms of Neo-Melubrina complications include: the sudden onset of fever with a possibility of the chills, sudden onset of malaise, inflamed gums, oral ulcers or sores, and/or difficulty swallowing. The risk of Neo-Melubrina complications includes life threatening bacterial infections that could potentially overwhelm the body.
In Mexico this drug is marketed as Neo-Melubrina, but in other parts of the world where the drug is found it is referred to by different names. The drug is known as Novalgina in Brazil, Nolotil in Spain, Optalgin in Israel, Litalgin in Finland, Proalgin or Analgin in Bulgaria, and Novalcina in Venezuela.
When traveling abroad one is encouraged to take their own small supply of over the counter medications on their trip to avoid having to consume local medications that may not be entirely safe. One should also take a small supply of any prescription medications with proper documentation to show the drugs were actually prescribed to the person carrying them to avoid any trouble with customs. The supply should be enough for each day of the trip along with a little extra just in case the traveler has trouble getting home on schedule. If the trip is extended for longer than expected, the traveler should contact their physician back home for guidance on obtaining necessary medications.