6 Apr, 2024 @ 07:33
2 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: Major private hospital groups across Spain vow to crackdown on ‘lethal’ painkiller Nolotil being administered to Brits


THREE major private hospital groups have vowed to stop handing out Nolotil to at-risk patients after being contacted by the Olive Press. 

Grupo Ribera on the Costa Blanca, plus HCB and the Helicopteros Sanitarios group all told this paper they were committed to banning the drug for northern European and American patients.

The companies said they were following important central government advice issued in 2018, which came about after medical campaigner Cristina del Campo took the issue to the national courts. 

News of their re-commitment comes after we launched a campaign in February to stop handing out the lethal painkiller – also known as Metamizole – to expats and tourists.

The drug – which is banned in around 40 countries – is believed to be behind at least 100 deaths of foreigners in Spain.

The majority died after their white blood cell count plummeted due to side effects from the drug, manufactured in Germany.

Grupo Ribera, which has many facilities on the Costa Blanca, made a similar promise, saying: “We advise against the prescription of Nolotil given that a significant part of the (local) population is foreign and is therefore at risk  of these complications.”

And despite the Olive Press receiving a number of reports that patients have received Nolotil in HCB hospitals, the Costa Blanca group assured us this week they are now ‘following’ Madrid’s recommendations.

“We are very aware of the recommendation not to prescribe Nolotil to foreign patients,” insisted the spokesman.

A spokesman for Helicopteros told the Olive Press: “Due to our geographical location on the Costa del Sol our patients come from all over the world and so we are particularly aware of the side effects that Metamizole can have.

“For this reason, our medical staff are committed not to administer this medication to our patients.”

Other hospitals, including Grupo HLA, declined to comment.   

The positive steps come two months after we launched a second campaign to have the dangerous drug banned for tourists and expat foreigners.

Our first campaign in 2017 ended when AEMPS (The Spanish Agency for Medicines) ruled in 2018 that Nolotil must only be used by patients for short periods of time.

The ‘informative note’ meant they should be monitored and have regular blood tests to detect any severe reaction.

It further ruled the drug should also NOT be given to tourists and others ‘who would not have access to such controls and monitoring’.

It must also be available by prescription only and on a case-by-case basis, with a patient’s medical history and risk factors also taken into consideration. 

Despite the advice, deaths however have continued to happen, most recently with 42-year-old British expat Mark Brooks who was prescribed Nolotil in December 2023. 

When we discovered others had also died following prescription, we felt we needed to act again.

After nearly 700 people signed our petition urging health facilities to follow the rules, we began asking hospitals and local health authorities for their commitment. 

So far, we have received eight responses, with five pledging to follow AEMPs advice. 

Most notably, the Junta de Andalucia stated that ‘knowing the risk of agranulocytosis (low white blood cell count) associated with metamizole’, its hospitals now follow the official health advice. 

The Junta added it should only be used for short periods of time, ideally no longer than a week and that any patients given the drug should be closely monitored using blood tests. 

Sensationally, a spokesman also revealed to us there had been 141 reports of agranulocytosis at the hands of Metamizole in Andalucia, 11 of which were fatal. 

Other local authorities, including Cantabria and Castilla-La Mancha, also claimed to be following AEMPS advice, while Madrid refused to comment. 

The drug has already been banned outright in Catalunya, while it is also outlawed in many countries including Sweden, America and the UK.

Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email [email protected]

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