Law kills Rotary Club project to give out life-saving aspirin

A charity project to help save the lives of heart attack victims has instead left the organisers heart broken.

Rotary Clubs were selling fundraising key rings containing a single aspirin, which can be given as emergency lifeline to anyone who's suspected of suffering a heart attack, but it's hit a legal hurdle.

Murray Martin was working at home last June when he suffered a heart attack.

"I rang 111 and as soon as I mentioned heart they said to me, 'Have you got any aspirin in the house?' And I thought to myself, 'God, I haven't.' Then I thought, 'Oh, course I have - in my pocket.'"

He'd bought a Save a Life key ring from the Rotary Club, containing a single 300mg aspirin.

He says without it he might not be here. By the time the ambulance arrived he was unconscious.

"I was very lucky I had it. It may have saved my life. At the very least it saved severe damage to the heart."

The aspirin thins your blood to help prevent clots and improve blood flow to the heart.

Rotary Clubs have sold more than 40,000 of the key rings. They're thought to have already helped save scores of lives.

"We've had something over 70 instances where people have reported that if they hadn't had the aspirin they may well not be alive today, and that's pretty special for us," says Dave Woodhouse of the Tauranga Sunrise Rotary.

They thought they were on to a winner.

"And then we hit a spanner in the works," says Mr Woodhouse.

They had a call from Medsafe, saying they were breaking the Medicines Act by cutting up packs of aspirins and selling them singly.

When you buy a full packet of aspirin it comes with warning information and an expiry date. The problem is, when you cut it down to a single tablet, all of that information is lost.

They're devastated.

"One of the reasons we took it on was because aspirins are readily available in the supermarket and petrol stations, so we never ever thought for a moment that we were doing anything illegal by selling them, but it turns out we are," says Ron Fyfe of Tauranga Sunrise Rotary.

They've had to stop selling them altogether, and that's left them stuck with thousands of key rings and aspirin they can't sell.

The organisers are in talks with Medsafe and hope they'll somehow find a legal way to carry on their lifesaving project.