Shirley Mardar
Shirley Mardar
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The condition of Shirley Mardar, who was hospitalized in critical condition after prolonged use of the painkiller Nurofen, improved yesterday, physicians at Petah Tikva's Beilinson Hospital said, adding that at this point she may not need a liver transplant.

Mardar, 27, was taken off artificial ventilation yesterday, and gradually regained consciousness. Her doctors said she was responding to her name and to simple commands.

The improvement was seen after Mardar underwent a blood-cleansing treatment in preparation for a scheduled liver transplant. The physicians determined that the transplant was no longer necessary, at least for the moment, and the liver allocated to Mardar was given to another patient.

But according Beilinson's director, Dr. Boaz Tadmor, her condition still remains critical and may deteriorate yet.

Mardar was hospitalized on March 22 with liver dysfunction after taking Nurofen pills every four hours, for five days straight, to alleviate the pain from an extracted wisdom tooth. After two days at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Mardar was relocated to the intensive care unit at Beilinson, where doctors ruled out the possibility of liver infection or disease and agreed her condition was probably caused by overuse of the popular painkiller.

On Monday, after six days of hospitalization, Mardar was driven in an ambulance to Ben-Gurion Airport, to be flown to France, where she was to be put at the top of the waiting list for a liver transplant. Miraculously, just as the airplane was preparing for takeoff, a liver was found from a donor who had passed away a short time earlier.

The physicians decided to risk the transplant, despite the fact that the blood types did not match. Mardar was taken back to Beilinson, where the pre-operation treatment improved her condition.

Liver damage is considered a very rare side effect of painkillers, and is more often caused by those containing paracetamol, like Acamol and Dexamol, than by those containing Ibuprofen - such as Nurofen, Advil and Adex.

Four years ago, a Health Ministry committee recommended that Ibuprofen-based painkillers be designated once again as over-the-counter pharmacy-only drugs, as opposed to their current categorization, by which they are licensed for OTC sale in places other than pharmacies. The recommendation was rejected by the ministry.

Senior toxicologist Prof. Yona Amitai, who chaired that committee, said this week that the incident involving Mardar, while it is regrettable, "will not change the practices and recommendations used in Israel with regard to Nurofen and other pain killers."

"There are more poisoning reports on paracetamol-based drugs," he said.

Reckitt Benckiser, which markets Nurofen in Israel, said that it wishes Mardar a speedy recovery. The pharmaceutical company pointed out that while it does not know anything on Mardar's condition beyond information made public in the media, this is an extremely rare complication.

Ibuprofen is safe and effective, the company said.