British patients advised to check they’re not given common painkiller that doctors have been told to stop prescribing to certain genetic groups

The Spanish Health Department has asked health professionals to restrict the prescription and use of drugs containing metamizol, a component of painkillers like the frequently-prescribed Nolotil, because its known potential for adverse reactions, especially agranulocytosis, is heightened in people of certain genetic groups like the British. Agranulocytosis, an acute reduction in white blood cell count, is perhaps the most serious of the range of dangers presented to such groups by the drug, and after seeing a rise in reactions attributed to the doubling of use in the past decade, Sanidad’s Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (Spanish Agency of Medicines and Health Products) has advised doctors and pharmacists to be aware of the risks and restrict prescribing the drug, especially to tourists and the elderly, and particularly to British patients.

AEMPS says that not everyone has a reaction, let alone the particularly dangerous ones, which are considered to occur only to a small percentage of patients, but obviously the risks are too great to take at all. As such, any British residents or visitors here should be aware of the situation in case they are mistakenly or unwittingly prescribed the drug, which despite reports has not actually been “banned”. The key words British patients need to be aware of are the name of the usually-prescribed painkiller, Nolotil, and its principal active ingredient, metamizol. Anyone who has been supplied these could have been given them in error, ignorance or by mistake, so do check all painkiller tablet labels to ensure they don’t bear either of these words.


  1. Unfortunately , when the ambulance came they took us to Hospiten Sur – I was reasonably aware at the time that it was probably a broken hip and eventual re-patriation so EHIC wasn’t at front of my thoughts since I had adequate holiday cover.
    I don’t think Mojon would do that surgery and my wife would be transferred to Candelaria . Quiro is just round the corner from us !
    The disappointing aspect is that after surgery and admission to ward I saw her medication, checked the pain killer and alerted the nurse & PR rep of the issue as it was banned in UK, USA etc. when I asked to speak to Doctor he was incredibly aggressive when I aske for a change & increase in pain relief – my daughter is a nurse and she was appalled at their approach to pain relief ! the PR rep is only there to protect the Hospital not the patient .
    My Insurer advised me to complain to hospital but were unaware of formal sytem you mentioned (I was aware of it )
    It’s in the past now but I’m shocked they are still dispensing this Nolotil so commonly in many places !

  2. My wife was in Green Hospital last year for 3 weeks with fractured hip and was being given this despite my strong objections and pointing out the dangers . The Doctor became very confrontational and the In-House PR were no help at all , I had to complain to my Insurer who said they couldn’t over-ride Clinical Decisions – after a few days of confrontation they finally moved her onto Tramadol & Paracetamol . When the UK paramedics came to transport her home ,they were shocked at the treatment and overdosing she had received as well as the complete lack of Physiotherapy – the place is only a money machine to them for tourists. Post operative treatment was disgraceful.
    They will not accept a complaint , you have to write to head company in Mexico , fat chance of getting a response from that !

    1. Author

      It’s a personal opinion, but I would always advise any private patient to go to the Quiron Costa Adeje or for those with EHICs or on the Spanish state system to go to El Mojón hospital. Both have excellent reputations and there is no question or “confusion” over whether the patient is private or state-funded. Having said that, however, any patient in any hospital here can make a formal complaint, and it is out of a hospital’s control because it’s not a complaint submitted through them. Anyone reading this comment who needs to complain, please see HERE for how to do it.

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