British expat 'lucky to be alive' after treatment
BRITISH expat Joan Judge considers herself “lucky to be alive” after a “catastrophic reaction” to controversial painkiller metamizole and having her fingers and toes amputated.
Now aged 67, she was prescribed the analgesic in June 2013 for a kidney complaint, but developed severe side effects after taking just three single tablets.
Historically, the drug – frequently available as Nolotil in Spain – has always been seen as a safe treatment and it was first thought Joan was suffering from leukaemia. However, her medical notes recorded a “catastrophic reaction” to the drug.
And she developed sepsis, a lifethreatening infection, and necrosis, the death of cells through a lack of blood supply and commonly known as gangrene.
Costa Blanca campaigner Cristina Garcia del Campo is working with the powerful Madrid-based Agencia Espanola de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (AEMPS) to investigate the potentially fatal side effects of metamizole.
Health chiefs at AEMPS have already promised to take action to protect patients; it has been discovered Anglo Saxons and Scandinavians are amongst groups particularly “at risk”.
They are potentially more likely to develop agranulocytosis – a sudden and dangerous drop in white blood cells which can trigger a serious infection.
Joan, who lives in Andalucia, responded to Crisitina’s appeal for information about people who suffered side effects from taking metamizole.
Initially she agreed to be interviewed by CBNews. However, she decided reliving her “nightmare” would be too upsetting but authorised Cristina, a professional medical translator, to tell her story and release photographs.
“She only took three single tablets but suddenly couldn’t speak and couldn’t make any sense – it was all gobbledegook,” said Cristina. “At first they thought she had developed leukaemia.
“Her medical notes read ‘a catastrophic reaction to Nolotil’; she developed sepsis and necrosis. Her fingers, toes, nose and her ears – the extremities of her body – all turned black.
“She was lying there in hospital and asking what the smell was, the smell of something rotting, and couldn’t realise it was her. They amputated part of her feet and some of her fingers – they managed to save the other affected parts.”
And Cristina said when Joan was finally released from hospital she had to learn to walk again and was now registered as disabled.
“She did want to be interviewed at first but said she could not go through with it although she is very happy for her story to be told – there are people who still say they cannot talk about it because of their nightmares.”
Cristina added: “She is really, really grateful to the doctors who saved her life. She has always asked me to say she was very happy with the treatment she received – she said she is lucky to be alive and very grateful.”
She said AEMPS needed precise details. “People have been absolutely amazing in helping; I am convinced there is an adverse connection to this drug and AEMPS has been analysing all the information they have been sent but sometime they want more details.”
And Cristina said lawyers had contacted her about the possibility of a class action on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis and she would pass on any details if people wanted to be involved.
“The law recognises the right to sue for compensation,” she said. “There may be people who have been affected and feel very strongly they should receive help after life-changing experiences – we don’t want to get doctors in trouble because they haven’t done anything wrong.”
Cristina can be contacted at email@example.com or on Facebook at Cristina Research Information.