Britons die after taking painkiller still prescribed in Portugal
As many as 100 British tourists and expats have died in Spain after taking one of the country’s most popular painkillers “banned in the UK and Ireland” but still prescribed in many European countries, including Portugal.
Concerns over the safety of Nolotil, main component of which is Metamizol, rose two years ago when UK tabloids ran a “Say No to Nolotil” warning.
The drug appears to affect predominantly British and Scandinavian patients, as well as Americans.
Devastating consequences range from death to amputations.
Said one Briton who lives in Marbella and lost his wife allegedly to the effects of Nolotil: “The evidence is overwhelming of British people poisoned by this drug”.
This weekend the Sunday Times says that Spain’s medicines regulator has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into concerns that northern Europeans “may be more at risk of side effects” than others.
Here, Portuguese medicines regulator Infarmed continues to list Nolotil as an approved medicine.
A “recent case” of the drug’s alleged side effects came last month when a British man was prescribed Nolotil after falling from a boat in the Costa del Sol. He was admitted to hospital four days later, diagnosed with blood poisoning.
Over the weekend, the Sunday Times says “he was fighting for his life in intensive care”
Studies have shown a varying risk of agranulocytosis (a decline of infection suppressant white blood cells) from Metamizole, the generic drug name of Nolotil, explains the paper.
“A study in 2013 found the proportion of patients affected had varied geographically from study to study and that a genetic component might be a factor”.
A former clinical assessor at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency admits: “We have known for a long time that because of genetic differences people from particular ethnic groups can have a higher probability of risk or benefit from certain medicines.
“The regulators therefore require analysis of safety and efficacy by population, by gender and age”.
This is all very well if regulators are dealing with single-nationality populations. But in southern European countries these days there are more and more foreign expats, thus the heightened concerns that vulnerable patients could ‘fall through the cracks’.
Says the ST, Spanish authorities are now busily gathering “more evidence on the cases”.
Meantime, Spanish medical and legal translator Cristina Garcia del Campo, 53, warns: “British people must not take this drug. Some people are okay with it but the risk is too high”.