Painkiller con­tro­versy goes to the top

Anal­gesic is po­ten­tially fa­tal for cer­tain ex­pat groups - in­clud­ing Bri­tons

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jack Troughton

CAM­PAIGN­ERS hope pow­er­ful Span­ish medicine li­cens­ing body AEMPS will act to pre­vent the com­monly used anal­gesic metami­zole being taken by cer­tain ex­pat groups be­cause of poten- tially fa­tal side ef­fects.

Peo­ple of An­glo Saxon and Scan­di­na­vian her­itage tak­ing the pain-killer are at in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing agran­u­lo­cy­to­sis – a sud­den plunge in num­bers of disease-bust­ing white blood cells – which can trig­ger a highly-dan­ger­ous sep­sis.

Med­i­cal trans­la­tor Cristina Gar­cia del Campo (see photo) took up the fight to pro­tect the two ‘at risk’ groups af­ter the death of a client and friend last year – and be­gan re­search amongst the peo­ple she helps on the Ma­rina Alta, dis­cov­er­ing a prob­lem with a drug seen as very safe in Spain but banned in the UK, USA, Swe­den and other north European coun­tries.

She prompted Ma­rina Salúd – the area’s health author­ity – to is­sue an alert warn­ing doc­tors about the dan­gers of metami­zole, a generic name, and ad­vis­ing the con­sid­er­a­tion of a sub­sti­tute.

And now Cristina – al­ready being called the ‘Erin Brock­ovich of Jávea’ af­ter the famed Amer­i­can cam­paign­ing ac­tivist – has been in­vited to put her case to the Agencia Es­pañola de Medica­men­tos y Pro­duc­tos San­i­tar­ios (AEMPS); the reg­u­la­tory body which ad­vises the Min­istry of Health.

She ex­pects to travel to Madrid to give ev­i­dence to a meet­ing of AEMPS later this month and hopes to per­suade the reg­u­la­tor for medicines and health prod­ucts to act and hopes more ex­pats will share their ex­pe­ri­ences of any side ef­fects be­fore a crit­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion.

Ma­rina Salúd is al­ready in­ves­ti­gat­ing 100,000 cases in­volv­ing the use of the drug and recorded ill­nesses or fa­tal­i­ties over the last five years.

Pre­cau­tion

In a state­ment is­sued last month, it said: “Ma­rina Salúd is aware of the pre­cau­tions in the United States, the United King­dom and Scan­di­navia re­gard­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the generic medicine metami­zole, and being aware of the el­e­vated per­cent­age of Bri­tish and Scan­di­na­vian res­i­dents in the Ma­rina Alta, a warn­ing has been cre­ated – not a pro­hi­bi­tion – to make avail­able, if pre­ferred, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of another com­mon anal­gesic to this group of peo­ple as a sub­sti­tute to metami­zole.”

Metami­zole has a num­ber of brand names. In Spain, it is com­monly avail­able as Nolotil, but the names in­clude: Dipry­one, Anal­gin, No­val­gin, and Dipirona – and is seen as ef­fec­tive and safe.

Cristina said the medicine was seen in Spain as a ‘go to’ drug. “Most Span­ish homes will have it in the medicine cup­board.”

She has at­tempted to con­tact health au­thor­i­ties and hos­pi­tals across Spain; some med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers were “hor­ri­fied” and oth­ers knew of the risk – but her mis­sion was to raise aware­ness of the dan­ger with all med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers.

“We have to tar­get the whole of Spain; hos­pi­tals, doc­tors and chemists. That is why I need peo­ple to tell me where they were pre­scribed it,” added Cristina.

“Some­times I feel I am hit­ting my head against a brick wall and re­ally need help. So far, we have done well in mak­ing peo­ple in some ar­eas aware of the prob­lem – I have a map of Spain and mark lo­ca­tions off.

“Peo­ple have writ­ten to me and say their hus­bands, wives, sons and daugh­ters have been given it but they have not taken it (be­cause of the pub­lic­ity)... a lot of lives might have been saved be­cause of this raised aware­ness.”

Cru­cial

How­ever, Cristina be­lieves any ac­tion by AEMPS was cru­cial and the author­ity would be helped in tak­ing any ac­tion by as many sto­ries as she could sub­mit as ev­i­dence.

“It is the high­est author­ity in the land and di­rectly comes un­der the min­istry of health; they are the only ones who de­cide what medicine they au­tho­rise or not, or they ban. They have the power; there is noth­ing higher than them.”

Af­ter six months of re­search and writ­ing to the med­i­cal world across Spain, she is de­ter­mined to keep fight­ing to pro­tect peo­ple. “I will not give up.”

Cristina added, “If I miss this op­por­tu­nity with AEMPS, there will not be any other op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause there is no one higher; this is as high as it gets.

“Some peo­ple think it is just peo­ple from Bri­tain and Scan­di­navia mak­ing a noise be­cause they do not have it in their coun­tries and be­cause in Spain it is seen as very safe, noth­ing safer than this medicine.

“I want AEMPS to ban it; to take steps to keep ev­ery­one safe. Other­wise you can never be sure you will not be given it.”

Any­one wish­ing to pro­vide de­tails of their own ex­pe­ri­ences with the drug is asked to con­tact Cristina via Face­book at www.face­book.com/Cristi­naRe­search-In­for­ma­tion or by email to cristi­nadru­gre­search@gmail.com.

De­nia Hos­pi­tal is­sued a warn­ing

Metami­zole is the com­po­nent of fre­quently pre­scribed painkiller Nolotil

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