Pi News –
British migrants have revealed how they almost died after being given a ‘lethal’ painkiller in Spain – with more tolls emerging following the recent death of father-of-one Mark Brooks.
Doreen Hughes, 78, was given Nolotil after knee replacement surgery in September 2022, despite a nationwide directive against giving the drug to patients from the UK.
Nolotil, a form of metamizole, has been banned in the UK, US, Australia and more than 30 other countries due to serious side effects in northern Europeans.
In some, it can cause a rapid depletion of white blood cells, making them more susceptible to deadly infections such as sepsis.
Doringa was given the drug after knee surgery at a private hospital in Alberic (Valencia).
“I sat in the hospital bed to feed, and then all of a sudden I had a funny turn and just started shaking violently,” she recalled this week.
“My husband, Clifford, called for help and the doctors looked at each other calmly, and then I was sent to the ICU.”
Doreen was sent home after doctors blamed her reaction on “low potassium and iron” – and incredibly, she was prescribed Nolotil pills to treat her pain.
Within a day, he turned again and was taken back to the ICU by ambulance.
He added: “I was in ICU for over a week with total organ failure, pulmonary embolism, sepsis and zero white blood count.
“He was in the hospital for a few more weeks before he was allowed home.
“It was very touch and go, Clifford was very upset and I was told there was a 50/50 chance.
“Good thing I’m a tough old bird and I did, but now I know not to touch Nolotil again.”
Doreen said she was never given any advice or warning before being prescribed the medication.
In December 2018, Spain introduced national guidelines for health centers, hospitals and pharmacies throughout the country.
They state that Nolotil should only be used by patients for short periods of time and that patients should be monitored and blood tests performed to detect any severe reactions.
Medicines should also not be given to tourists and other people who cannot benefit from such supervision and monitoring.
And it should be available only by prescription and in each case, taking into account the patient’s medical history and risk factors.
However, despite the guidelines, several health centers across the country seem to continue to ignore them.
I was sitting in my bed at the hospital to eat, and then suddenly I had a funny turn and just started shaking violently.
Mark Brooks, 42, was injected with Nolotil at a Costa Blanca medical clinic after injuring his shoulder while playing golf.
A few hours later, the handyman and gardener was taken to hospital, where doctors said he had a low white blood cell count, was suffering from sepsis and organ failure. He died four days later.
Her partner Summer Moses, 38, who has to raise her four-year-old daughter Aurora alone, told the Observer: ‘It’s all a blur, like a bad dream.
“How did this happen? No one should die from golf shoulder pain. This is ridiculous.”
Campaigners have linked the drug to more than 40 deaths in Spain alone.
But the true extent of the scandal may yet be revealed as more families speak out about their experiences.
Another migrant, Steven Burke, 65, said he had to relearn how to walk in July 2011 after taking Nolotil for back pain.
The Brit, from Wallsend-on-Tyne, had been married for just five months when she was admitted to a private hospital in Denia, Alicante, with severe back pain caused by a hip infection.
A migrant in Javea was given Nolotil and his condition quickly deteriorated.
She said: “I was in incredible pain.
“It was amazing that the more pain I had, the more Nolotil they gave, the more blood cells died, the more infection there was, the more pain there was. It got complicated. ”
As a result, Stephen, then 52, spent a week in intensive care suffering from “terrifying” hallucinations.
Stephen’s family also noticed “unsanitary practices” at the hospital, including nurses “leaving used needles on beds stained with blood.”
As a result, he decided to leave the hospital, which is now closed.
As soon as he walked through the front door, he received a quick call telling him to go to Denia Hospital “immediately”.
He arrived in “excruciating pain”, unable to stand still even on x-rays.
Stephen, a former ski instructor, said: ‘They had to hold me in for a scan.
“My wife had to console me. I think the staff thought it was funny.
“But when I didn’t stop and screamed all night, it stopped being funny.”
Britt’s immune system was compromised and she was exposed to many illnesses including sepsis and MRSA.
Paramedics quickly put him on morphine to control the pain and he slipped into a coma.
What is Nolotil?
NOLOTIL is a Spanish brand of the drug metamizole.
It is used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and treat fever, and can be taken as a pill, intravenously, intramuscularly, or rectally.
Metamizole is the most prescribed pain reliever in Germany and is widely used in Brazil and Spain.
However, it has been banned in 40 countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and France due to its negative effects.
These include skin reactions, dizziness and changes in blood pressure, and experts say it can also lead to agranulocytosis – a decrease in the level of white blood cells.
It is also said to increase the patient’s risk of sepsis and organ failure.
Some populations, including those in northern Europe, may be more susceptible, according to case reports published in medical journals.
The Association of Drug Patients (ADAF) identified 350 suspected cases of agranulocytosis between 1996 and 2023, including 170 Britons living or on holiday in Spain.
But AEMPS, Spain’s agency for medical and health products, says the risks are low and the benefits are greater.
Nolotil must only be sold with a prescription, but investigations have shown that it can be bought over-the-counter for less than four euros (£3.50).
The newlywed’s wife was at his bedside every day, fearing that he would become a widow.
During that time, he “died instantly of pneumonia,” he says.
“Because of Nolotil, I lost all my white blood cells and the doctors said my body just gave up, it was too tired to keep fighting,” he added.
Doctors were able to revive Stephen, although when he awoke from the coma, his arms and legs were missing.
He spent a grueling 10 days in intensive care and another two months in the hospital recovering from the experience.
But it will take the sports enthusiast more than a month and €1,000 (£850) of his own money to relearn how to walk with the help of a physiotherapist.
Shockingly, when she recovered, her insurance refused to pay and self-funded her stay at a private hospital, as well as expensive physiotherapy.
He argued that they considered his illness to be “not serious or an emergency” and that he was not eligible to claim because his illness occurred within the first six months of the policy.
He said: “They said it wasn’t life-threatening, but how life-threatening can it be?”
They reportedly canceled his policy at no charge.
Although he says the care at Denia’s public hospital was “excellent”, he says he “never informed me that there was a possibility that the victim was responsible”.
He said: “They were more concerned with keeping me alive than looking for a reason.”
Unfortunately, this left Stephen in the dark about the cause of his illness, and he took the fatal drug again in 2016.
Fortunately, Stephen’s wife “realized there was a problem, and the hospital, now better informed about Nolotil, handled it properly.”
Stephen immediately underwent a blood test, which revealed Nolotil as the culprit, leading doctors to link Stephen’s current illness and his brush with death in 2011.
He said: “I didn’t know the first time, but when it happened again, we understood.”
A lucky escape, this time he was in the hospital for only two weeks, without any complications.
Despite this, the once keen skier is suffering from nerve damage in his leg as a result of the incident.
A spokesman for Nolotil’s manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, said in a statement: “We take patient safety and public health seriously and work closely with regulators on product safety issues.
“We believe that current approved prescribing information is consistent with current knowledge of identified risks.”