A woman was left throwing up coffee-coloured bile after accidentally taking a fatal dose of paracetamol by drinking too much Lemsip.
Joan Ita Bergin, 58, from Lostock Hall, Lancashire, was rushed to hospital on Christmas Day and ended up dying 13 days later from liver failure.
She had been suffering with a cough and bad chest for around a week in December of last year and had been drinking Lemsip sachets to manage the symptoms.
Her son Matthew called an ambulance on Christmas after noticing his mum’s condition had deteriorated.
She was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital and tests revealed she had ‘significantly elevated’ liver enzymes and low oxygen levels.
New Zealand-born Mrs Bergin was eventually transferred to the Intensive Care Unit but she worsened and was diagnosed with liver failure.
Specialist doctors at Leeds General Infirmary were consulted who advised that no additional treatment options were available.
Mrs Bergin continued to deteriorate and she died at 3.25pm on Friday January 7 of this year.
An inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court on Thursday heard that Mrs Bergin also had a background of excessive alcohol use.
Her son Matthew said in a statement that she would drink three to four cans of cider each day before work and up to 10 cans at weekends.
Assistant Coroner Kate Bisset said: ‘He says his mum was in good health normally but she rarely ate much, one full meal per week, and otherwise she would snack on things such as marmalade on toast. She drank plenty of water but had on occasions fainted due to lack of food.’
The inquest heard that Mrs Bergin was drinking a sachet of Lemsip every four hours but also told doctors she had taken more than the recommended amount of paracetamol at times.
A spokeswoman for Lemsip manufacturer Reckitt said:
‘We are very saddened to hear about Joan [Ita] Bergin’s case. We send our deepest sympathies to her family.
‘At Reckitt, consumer safety is our top priority. We work closely with the MHRA and PAGB, alongside other relevant associations, to ensure all safety and packaging requirements are met for Over-The-Counter products that contain paracetamol, such as Lemsip.
‘The safety information and instructions for use are always reflected on the packaging and information leaflets.
‘As with any medication, we would remind consumers and their caregivers to carefully read and follow the instructions provided on the packaging and patient information leaflet of all our medicinal products.
‘In respect of Lemsip Max Sachets we would like to remind consumers to not exceed more than 4 sachets in 24 hours, to leave at least 4-6 hours between doses, if symptoms persist for more than three days or worsen to consult a pharmacist and to call a doctor immediately if they take too much.
‘If our consumers have any additional concerns, we recommend that they speak to their healthcare professional.’
The recommended maximum dose of Lemsip is one sachet, containing 1,000mg of paracetamol, every four to six hours.
During her time in hospital, Mrs Bergin was given Parvolex, an antidote to paracetamol overdose, but she continued to have episodes of vomiting blood, the inquest heard.
On January 4, Dr Liam Morris noted worsening liver enzymes and diagnosed Mrs Bergin with acute liver failure – three days before she died.
Her cause of death was given as multiple organ failure, pneumonia and acute liver failure secondary to unintentional paracetamol overdose.
Contributory factors were cited as alcohol-related liver disease and esophageal ulceration.
The coroner concluded that she had died as a result of misadventure, meaning her death was caused by unintentional consequences of an unintended act.
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