Monday 26 August 2019

'He didn't get to grow old, his death was preventable' - Son of Irishman who died after taking painkillers in Spain

The late William Smyth with his son Derek
The late William Smyth with his son Derek
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

The heartbroken son of an Irishman who died after taking a common painkiller has said he is angry that his father's death could have been avoided.

William 'Billy' Smith, from Mullingar in Co Westmeath, was on holiday in Torrevieja in Spain in February 2016 when he was prescribed the painkiller Nolotil by a GP for shoulder pain.

Two months later Billy (66) returned to get a renewal for his normal medications and told his doctor that he wasn't able to shake cold-like symptoms.

It was then discovered that Nolotil - also known as Metamizole - had caused a toxic poisoning in his bone marrow and his white blood cell count was very low, so he was having trouble fighting infection.

He developed sepsis and necrotising fascitis, following surgery he fell into a coma and developed multiple organ failure, sadly he died on April 17 2016.

His son Derek (43) has spoken candidly to about how hard life has been since his father's death.

Derek, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, said: "I always knew losing my father would be hard but it had a far bigger impact on me than I could have ever imagined.

"Life goes on and I have kids and a job but it's hard.

Billy was a very active 66-year-old. He was a founding member of lakeside wheelers cycling club.
Billy was a very active 66-year-old. He was a founding member of lakeside wheelers cycling club.

"I think at first I was in such shock but as time passes it's sinking in that he didn't get to grow old or die naturally, it feels like he was killed, his death was preventable."

Read More: Irishman 'died from septic shock' after taking prescribed painkiller in Spain

Derek said that after his father's death he learned that Nolotil can be particularly problematic for people of Britain and Irish descent.

It's not available here or in places such as the UK, the US and most of Europe, but it's widely prescribed in Spain and Derek is backing a petition to have it banned there.

He said: "I've heard of many instances of people getting sick  after taking Nolotil.

"As a family we would rather than it wasn't out there.

"We understand that every medicine has possible side affects but this seems to be disproportionate.

"When my father got sick his doctor said that it's common knowledge not to prescribe this to Irish or English people."

Read More: ‘It was traumatising having my family say their goodbyes' - Man's 'soul-destroying' experience after taking 'deadly' painkiller

Derek is warning holidaymakers to be wary of the dangers of Nolotil.

He said: "There are a lot of people travelling to Spain at this time of year and I want to warn and educate them about Nolotil.

"It is prescribed commonly for issues such as headaches and tooth pain and I just want people to be aware of what they are taking."

A spokesperson for the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) told that Nolotil (Metamizole) has never been authorised for use in Ireland.

"In addition to Spain, metamizole has been authorised and marketed under various trade names in some other EU member states including Italy, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Luxembourg, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

"Metamizole is authorised in the above countries for the treatment of moderate or severe acute pain and high fever not responding to general therapeutic measures.

"It is known to be associated with a risk of blood disorders, including agranulocytosis (low white cell count)." has contacted the makers of Nolotil for a comment.

For more information or to view the petition please visit here.

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