The medication in question, Metamizole, also known as Nolotil, is prohibited in the UK, the US, and most European countries due to its potential severe side effects. However, it remains one of the most widely used painkillers in Spain. Nolotil is prescribed to alleviate any type of pain or reduce fever. It is prescribed for almost everything in all hospitals and medical centres: headaches, toothaches, knee pain, back pain, before or after surgical procedures, and more.
A patients group called the Association of Drug Affected Patients (ADAF) has launched legal action against the Spanish government over the potentially fatal side effects of the painkiller. The drug can cause agranulocytosis. This is a condition that reduces white blood cells and increases the risk of fatal infection. Furthermore, intake has been associated with cases of amputations, anaphylactic shocks, sepsis and even deaths.
Suspected cases after metamizole intake
The ADAF has identified about 350 suspected cases of agranulocytosis between 1996 and 2023. These include 170 Britons who live in Spain or were on holiday there. The group is demanding an investigation into the drug and new control to prevent further harm.
The ADAF is currently investigating over 40 cases of suspicious deaths. The organisation believes that the drug could have caused or contributed to these deaths. According to the patients group, some case reports, including a study from 2009, are indicating that the British population might be more prone to the adverse effects of this drug. However, this hypothesis has not yet been verified by independent scientific research.
Differing medical standards across borders
Metamizole’s adverse reactions can be severe, leading to conditions that some patients initially mistook for cancer. This situation has raised significant concerns among patient groups and health advocates. The drug’s use in Spain contrasts starkly with its ban in other countries. Consequently, underlining the differing medical standards and regulations across borders.
Metamizole was first produced in Germany in 1922. It was was available worldwide until it was found there was a risk of it causing agranulocytosis. Consequenly, it was withdrawn in aroun 30 countries. However, it is still widely available across the EU.