Taggart star’s Askit questions over mother’s death


Taggart star Alex Norton has begun a campaign to uncover the truth about his mother's death more than 50 years ago.

The former TV detective suspects Sarah Norton's death from liver failure at 39 was linked to her consumption of Askit.

The once popular over-the-counter powder, which is no longer available, was produced in Glasgow and mainly marketed to women as a painkiller.

Askit contained aspirin, caffeine, and – until 1966 – phenacetin which was later linked with kidney damage.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Kaye Adams Programme, the actor, who now stars as Eric Baird in Two Doors Down, said he was appealing for anyone whose parents took the powders and who has questions about their deaths to get in touch.

'Working class women'

He said: "As far as I know, no questions were asked at the time.

"My mother used to take them regularly, and when I say regularly, I mean about six a day at least I would think.

"When I was old enough, about seven or eight, she would send me to the shops to get a couple of Askit Powders and that would be three times a day."

The actor, who played DCI Matt Burke in Taggart, said advertisers used to market the medication specifically to women.

He said: "Askit targeted women like her, mainly working class women – it was the mother's little helper of its day.

"They gave you a buzz, a bit of a high. I suppose it was like drinking coffee or being addicted to coffee.

"But the ingredient that was doing that was a thing called phenacetin, which gave you the buzz and got you addicted and also destroyed your kidneys."

'Fights the miseries'

The formula for Askit Powders was originally developed in Sweden in the 1900s.

In 1917 a Scottish manufacturer took over production and Askit Powders were manufactured in Glasgow. They were sold as a headache remedy with the tag line "Askit fights the miseries".

Alex said: "From the 1950s it was known the effect of phenacetin and yet the Askit Powder company kept it in their formula and they must have known – I can't see how they couldn't have known and they did nothing about it.

"They put profits before people. They didn't take phenacetin out of the powders until 1966, which was the year after my mother died."

Alex said that his mother's death 53 years ago had a profound effect on the family.

He added: "It's hard to talk about it.

"I find myself getting very emotional even now because it brings it all back.

"Probably the easiest thing would be to forget about it and move on with my life, which is what I tried to do for most of my life, but I can't.

"I just feel there has been a great injustice, not just to my mum, but to a lot of other people's mums because of the effects of it.

"The family was shattered, we were all damaged and never really recovered. My brother was only five when she died, so he had to be brought up without a mother."

In a statement, Bayer Plc, which took over ownership of Askit Powders 12 years ago, said it was no longer selling the product.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "Bayer stopped supplying Askit Powders in 2012 in order to focus on other product priorities, having originally acquired the product from Roche in 2005."

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