Brit expats in Spain warned about killer drug

Published:  18 Aug at 6 PM
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A toxic painkiller banned in the USA and most of Europe is being pushed by Spanish doctors over safer drugs in spite of protests from informed expat patients.

The dangerous painkiller, known as Nolotil or Metamizole, has been banned in Europe and the USA but is a favourite with Spanish GPs who prescribe it for a variety of painful ailments ranging from headaches through stomach pains to fevers. Doctors all over Spain are telling their patients it’s Nolitil or nothing, even when they’re told of the numerous deaths proven to have been caused by the medication.

The results of research drawn from patient experiences is scary, to say the least, with the drug affecting those with fair skin, destroying white blood cells and leaving its victims vulnerable to sepsis and resulting death. It seems the gene responsible for pale skin in Britons and Scandinavians also makes the two races far more vulnerable to the extreme side effects of the drug.

One British victim living in Torrevieja was given a five-day course of Nolotil last February, and visited another doctor to get more of his usual medication in April. Tests revealed a dangerously low white blood cell count caused by toxic poisoning in his bone marrow and attributed to the drug. As a result, the victim developed sepsis along with necrotizing fascaiitis requiring radical surgery. He died from septic shock two days later.

Another Briton, having read an expose of the drug’s effects in the Olive Press English language newspaper, decided not to take the five-day course he’d just been given by his local doctor in La Cala and wrote to the paper thanking it for possibly saving his life by publishing the warning. Another British pensioner, also aware of the deadly effects of the medication, had pleaded with his doctor to prescribe an alternative painkiller for his severe abdominal pain. Even after he’d shown the doctor the article describing the drug’s toxic effects, he was told he could have Nolotil or nothing. He left with nothing.

One of the drug’s victims, Ursula Barry, was given a double injection of Nolotil to treat her nerve pain by a doctor in Portugal. She immediately went into septic shock, then developed pneumonia and was hospitalised in intensive care for two weeks. She was ill for months more, but considers herself lucky to be alive. Another reader of the Olive Press expose simply wrote to say the drug had killed her father.

To date, the silence on the subject from Spanish health authorities is deafening. The newspaper has set up a bilingual petition at, in the hope of having Nolotil banned in Spain, and is urging the many who’ve been affected or who know someone who has lost their life due to the drug to sign up and give details. Nolotil is manufactured by international pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim, with the company as yet ignoring the paper’s request for comments.
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