After recent news that ten British holidaymakers’ deaths have been associated with taking prescribed medication abroad, the Spanish Health Ministry has banned the drug Nolotil (also known as metamizole) from being given to British holidaymakers.
The drug Nolotil is often prescribed for mild pains such as toothaches, headaches and muscle aches. However, an investigation by the Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (AEMPS), the Spanish Medical Agency, has linked the medication prescribed to the ten deaths.
Nolotil is known to have a rare, yet life-threatening side effect known as agranulocytosis or agranulosis – which can damage white blood cells and cause blood poisoning.
It has been reported that the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk of developing agranulocytosis if prescribed Nolotil. It is assumed that almost 300 million people take Nolotil at least once a month, and of this number only 50 to 500 people are affected by agranulocytosis every year. It is unclear why British citizens are so susceptible.
As a result of the dangers and side effects, the drug is not licensed for use in the UK, USA or Japan. However, travellers visiting countries such as Russia, Mexico, India and Brazil should be aware that Nolotil is available to purchase over-the-counter and is used as an everyday painkiller.
You should always be careful when taking medication abroad and also be aware of the risks of taking your own prescribed medication to another country, as many countries ban some British prescriptions and over-the-counter medication. There is lots more advice on travelling with medication available here.