Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update March 2024

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update March 2024

Further Developments in the Nolotil Scandal

Spain’s High Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by campaigners on behalf of families bereaved by the controversial analgesic Nolotil. We’ve reported on this extensively in recent months, following the deaths of a number of British and Irish expats.

At the end of last year, a lawsuit was brought against the Spanish Ministry of Health and the Medicines Agency (AEMPS) by the Association for Drug Affected People (ADAF), a non-profit organisation formed to assist those who have been adversely affected by pharmaceutical medication. The suit is based on the claim that the Spanish health authorities have failed to regulate the drug properly and have also failed to protect patients against its effects.

Campaigner Cristina del Campo told the press:

“We’re not looking for money or damages. I want to make them stop giving Nolotil to British people. I want them to revise and modify regulations and investigate cases properly. They need to act because it keeps being given without a prescription. People’s lives are at stake.” 

ADAF says that it is first seeking prohibition, so that the drug can no longer be sold, followed by justice and accountability, and finally awareness. Although the primary focus of the ADAF is currently Nolotil, it is also looking into the effects of a drug prescribed for androgenic (male) alopecia, Finasteride, which also appears to have deleterious side effects.

Spain Subsidises Holidays for the Elderly

The Spanish government is expanding a €300 million scheme run by the Institute for the Elderly and Social Services (IMSERSO) to offer subsidised holidays for the elderly – and this includes expats resident in Spain. IMSERSO says that the aim of this is not only to benefit regions economically, by increasing their footfall in the quieter seasons, but to improve the health and wellbeing of Spain’s pensioners. For instance, a mini-break inland in the low season will cost around €115, whereas for around €455 you can enjoy a 10-day break in the Canaries or Balearics. This includes transport, accommodation and meals, and you can bring a relative or spouse, even if they themselves would not qualify under the scheme as individuals.

The scheme started in 2021 and has been growing ever since: there are 886,269 places available for this current year of the scheme, which includes a group insurance policy and cultural tours.

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To be eligible for the scheme you must:

  • be retired and in receipt of a Spanish public pension
  • be aged 55 or older and in receipt of a widow/widower’s pension
  • be aged 60 or older and in receipt of unemployment benefits or subsidies
  • be aged 60 or older and a beneficiary of Spain’s Social Security System

IMSERSO says that

“The IMSERSO tourism programme contributes to active ageing and the promotion of an active lifestyle…”

Applying for the scheme does not automatically guarantee acceptance but some groups, such as disabled pensioners or those who are financially disadvantaged, will be given priority. If you’re interested in applying, you can do so with the use of your identity card on the Turismo Social website.

Medical Tourism Ramps Up in Shanghai

Shanghai hospitals are preparing to become a major hub for medical tourism in the wake of the mutual visa exemptions signed between China and several other nations, including Singapore. Dr Li Zhiping, CEO of IHH Healthcare China, which owns Parkway hospital among others, says that there will be an increased number of flights between the two cities to cope with demand.

20 private medical facilities and 13 public hospitals in Shanghai have been involved in recent medical tourism trials in preparation for the new visa-free policy. Some of these are bilingual in English and are anticipating demand from English language speakers.

Expat Mother Dies After Denial of C-Section in Spanish Hospital

The family of Kelsey Brown, a British expat in Spain, are continuing to demand answers from the Spanish medical authorities after her death in 2021. Brown was allegedly refused a Caesarean section while in labour at Ceram hospital in Marbella: a scan showed that her child had died but she was encouraged to give birth normally, a medical decision which evidently killed her.

The Liverpool and Wirral coroner, Andre Rubello, told the BBC that crucial medical documents were not provided by the Spanish authorities, thus significantly delaying the enquiry. Rubello says that he has been obliged to enter an open verdict due to the lack of information; Brown’s post-mortem results were ‘with-held’ by the Spanish medical authorities.

Is Melbourne the Allergy Capital of the World?

Assaulted by a bad case of hay fever earlier this winter (which is, of course, Australia’s summer), British expat Georgia Davies did some research and went to the press with her findings. She found that Melbourne holds the little-coveted title of allergy capital of the world – but it’s not alone in being bad for allergies. The Australian city is the thunderstorm asthma capital of the world, having had four recorded epidemics between the 1980s and 2016, when nine people died.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America published its 2023 report, which found that Wichita, Kansas, was the top-ranking place last year for worse-than-average scores for all pollen, allergy medicine use, and availability of allergy specialists. It was followed by Dallas and Scranton, although the latter city’s ranking stems more from its low take-up of allergy medication rather than its pollen scores, which are average.

Worst in Europe is London, but the British capital ranks only fourth on the internal UK rankings, with Blackpool coming lowest on the chart. In Asia, Dhaka scores very badly when it comes to allergies, due to its high levels of pollution and toxic smog. So although Melbourne certainly isn’t good if you suffer from allergies, it’s also evident that it has some stiff competition around the globe.