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    Spain 'playing Russian roulette with people's lives' by refusing to ban painkillers

    Nolotil has been recalled in about 30 countries because it can weaken the human immune system. Photo: agsaz/Alamy Stock Photo < p>Spain has been accused of “playing Russian roulette” with the lives of emigrants by continuing to prescribe a painkiller said to have caused the deaths of at least 37 British and Irish emigrants.

    The campaign to distribute metamizole, sold under the brand name Nolotil, which is banned in the UK, US and Australia, has prompted prosecutors in Spain's national court to investigate why the deadly drug is still widely available.

    Nolotil is the best-selling drug in Spain, with 27.8 million tablets or blisters sold in 2022. However, it has been withdrawn from circulation in about 30 countries because it can lower a person's immune system to such an extent that otherwise common infections cause life-threatening illness or even death – a condition known as agranulocytosis.

    People from some countries are thought to be more susceptible to the drug's side effects, although it is unclear why.
    The campaign compiled a dossier of 400 people. such cases occur in Spain, mainly among the country's sizeable English-speaking diaspora. Of the 47 documented deaths, 37 were British and Irish.

    Isolation Bubble

    Becky Harris was one of the lucky ones. A 60-year-old woman from Cambridgeshire nearly died in Spain in 2014 after taking Nolotil for two months for arthritis-related back pain.

    She developed acute agranulocytosis and survived only because she was held in an isolation bubble at a hospital in Almeria, southern Spain.

    But Ms Harris has since suffered from severe fatigue, severe skin rashes, fibromyalgia and allergies to dozens of everyday substances. She was recently diagnosed with a rare thymus tumor.

    “I try to think I’m lucky I didn’t die, but it’s been 10 years of torture since then, to be honest. I wake up every day and don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she told The Telegraph.

    “It’s as if they were playing Russian roulette with the patients. I'm absolutely disgusted that they are still prescribing it to people.”

    Spanish medicines agency AEMPS told The Telegraph that the risk of agranulocytosis among patients taking metamizole was “very low, ranging from 1 to 10 cases per million.” users.”

    The statement said it advised doctors to check patients' medical records to identify risk factors for agranulocytosis and not prescribe it to the “floating population” of British and other northern European expats.

    German manufacturer Nolotil. Boehringer Ingelheim did not respond to requests for comment.

    The company told The Guardian last year that “Metamizole has been used by patients for almost 100 years with an established and well-known safety profile.< /p>

    “Current prescribing information describes agranulocytosis as a very rare adverse reaction. The side effect of agranulocytosis is described in the current product information.”

    Drug Effects

    The campaign to ban Nolotil is led by Cristina García del Campo, a translator and language teacher who began studying the drug's impact on the English-speaking Spanish expat community after the sudden death of a friend. -Irish.

    Cristina García del Campo found all the different names Nolotil is sold under in Spain as a painkiller

    “I wondered how someone could go from just getting infected to dying so quickly,” she told The Telegraph.

    “I started hearing about other people from the expat community around Alicante who had also died from sepsis, so I did some research and discovered one thing. general: they all took Nolotil.”

    Ms García del Campo said a study carried out by Spain's regional health official found that susceptibility to metamizole in patients of British or Irish origin was “80 to 120 times higher” than in the Spanish population.

    Research However, Spanish health authorities have not made this information public. The link has not been confirmed by independent scientific research.

    Ms García del Campo's campaign prompted the AEMPS in 2018 to advise against prescribing Nolotil to tourists, but the drug continues to be widely used in hospitals.

    The Telegraph could easily buy it in pharmacies without a prescription, even without a prescription.

    The health agency decided last year not to recall Nolotil, citing figures showing generally low levels. serious side effects from the drug nationwide.

    But these numbers only come from primary care, not from hospitals, where many people are prescribed or injected with Nolotil, Ms. Garcia said. del Campo. “They are deliberately looking in the wrong places.”

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