Spanish authorities have banned doctors from prescribing a common painkiller to UK tourists, after the drug was linked to the deaths of ten Britons.
Nolotil, a painkiller not licensed for use in the UK, is prescribed for mild pain, such as toothaches and muscular discomfort, and a very rare side effect of the drug is blood poisoning.
However, Spanish investigators found fatal blood poisoning caused by Nolotil to be more frequent among British patients, due to an undefined ‘genetic peculiarity’.
Bad medicine: Spanish doctors have been told to no longer prescribe Nolotil to British tourists as it’s been linked to several deaths by blood poisoning
The Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices (AEMPS) has now updated its guidelines for Nolotil, telling doctors not to prescribe it to ‘those visiting Spain for a short time’, The Local reports.
An investigation by AEMPS was able to confirm ten deaths by British patients who had been prescribed Nolotil while visiting Spain.
WHERE IS NOLOTIL PRESCRIBED? AND WHERE IS IT BANNED?
Nolotil can be prescribed for mild pain relief in:
It is banned in:
- The UK
- The US
- Most of the EU
It is available over-the-counter in:
All ten cases confirmed by AEMPS involved patients contracting agranulocytosis, a very rare side effect which investigators said may be more common in Britons.
Agranulocytosis is defined as severely low white blood cell counts, which are involved in the immune system, and can lead to sepsis: blood poisoning.
While the ‘genetic peculiarity’ cited by AEMPS has not been specified, it has previously been reported that people with fair skin are more likely to be affected.
Some of the reported British deaths include the parents of Gary Robson, 59, from Romford, Essex, who believes both his mother and father died as a result of taking Nolotil.
His mother Gloria, 81, was prescribed Nolotil for back pain while in Spain earlier this year, and later suffered a fatal brain bleed, and his father Alan, 82, died while taking the drug in 2017.
The manufacturer of Nolotil, Boehringer Ingelheim, told the Local that ‘the drug is available in many generic forms in Spain and other European countries and there is no scientific evidence that specific populations are prone to develop side effects.’
Tragedies: Gary Robson, 59, from Romford, Essex, claims both his parents Gloria, left, and Alan, right, died after being prescribed Nolotil by Spanish doctors
WHAT IS THE DRUG NOLOTIL? AND WHY IS IT CONTROVERSIAL?
Nolotil, which is available on prescription in Spain and Portugal, is given out for mild pain, such as toothaches and muscular discomfort.
Its main side effect is hypersensitivity, which can lead to people suffering from agranulocytosis. This is defined as severely low white blood cell counts, which are involved in the immune system.
Assuming that 300 million people take Nolotil once a month, between 50 and 500 deaths would occur as a result of the medication over a year. People with fair skin are thought to be more affected.
After its mass production in 1922, Nolotil was first banned in Sweden in 1974, followed by the US in 1979 and subsequently most of the EU. Many countries still use Nolotil for veterinary use.
It is available over-the-counter in Russia, with reports suggesting it makes up around 80 per cent of the region’s painkiller market. Nolotil is also readily available to the public in Mexico, India and Brazil.
Some argue Nolotil causes less cardiovascular, kidney and gastrointestinal side effects than other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin.