British press furious over ongoing marketing of drug Nolotil

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The controversy surrounding Nolotil, a brand under which the painkiller metamizol is marketed, has resurfaced. The British press has once again accused Spanish health authorities of endangering British lives.

An article published in The Telegraph has reignited the controversy over the use of Nolotil in Spain. The paper quotes a British patient who suffered from agranulocytosis—a condition marked by a significant decrease in white blood cells—after two months of treatment with the drug. “It’s like playing Russian roulette with patients,” the patient stated.

Further complaints

The article also cites the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) to explain the incidence of these cases, which ranges between one and ten cases per million. It notes that AEMPS recommends doctors consider the patient’s origin when prescribing the drug and advises against its use for tourists.

The piece has sparked again controversy on social media, with several users reposting the news on X, which added a contextual note to the posts.

Metamizol Classified as an analgesic and antipyretic by AEMPS, metamizol’s primary functions are to relieve pain and reduce fever. Its use is restricted to prescription-only in many European Union countries.

Cogesa Expats

In other nations, including France, Ireland, and Sweden, the sale of Nolotil/Metamizol is prohibited, and it is not available in the UK. Spain remains among the group of countries requiring a medical prescription for its dispensation, although its usage has increased in recent years.

The risk of agranulocytosis

The obvious question concerns the risks behind these restrictions and controversies. The answer lies in agranulocytosis, a deficiency of granulocytes, a type of white blood cell. This condition is one of the potential side effects of the treatment.

Genetic concern

Nolotil is among many treatments with potential adverse side effects. Notably, there is a possibility—a “potential problem” according to some studies—that a genetic factor present in Northern European populations may make some individuals more susceptible to developing these side effects. Researchers are still exploring the precise biochemical mechanisms involved.

This ongoing controversy is not entirely new. In November last year, a lawsuit by the Association of People Affected by Drugs (ADAF) triggered the controversy. On that occasion, The Guardian emphasised the risks associated with the drug’s use. As long as Spain does not join the group of countries that have definitively ended the dispensation of this medication, the controversy will likely persist. Meanwhile, monitoring by health authorities will be necessary, and patients need to be aware of the potential problems.

Also read: Death of British tourist in Spain raises the alarm over use of Nolotil

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