Letter from Jim Dobbin to Sir John Savil, Chief Executive, Medical Research Council (02 November 2010)

Sir John Savill                                                                                     Jim Dobbin MP
Chief Executive                                                                                  House of Commons
Medical Research Council                                                                 London SW1A 0AA
20 Park Crescent
London W1B 1AL

2nd November 2010

Dear Sir John,

I am writing to you as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction. I have been forwarded information regarding the benzodiazepine group of drugs which was provided by the MRC in response to a recent Freedom of Information request.

On 6th January 1982 Professor Malcolm Lader forwarded the results of CAT scans performed on 14 long term benzodiazepine patients to MRC member Professor R H Crawley. Professor Cawley was the Chairman of a special ad hoc MRC committee on benzodiazepines. Professor Cawley presented Professor Lader’s results to a meeting of the MRC Neurosciences Board on 12th January 1982.I have attached the data provided. Professor Lader’s results showed 7/14 benzodiazepine patients had brain abnormalities, in particular brain atrophy, in 2/14 patients those brain abnormalities were significant. Professor Lader commented that,

a) A more refined technique might reveal further problems.

b) The amount of abnormality is probably an underestimate.

c) Some of the patients had been off for quite some time.

Please can you tell me what action the MRC took as a result of Professor Lader’s results and specifically:

1. What research did the MRC commission to investigate the issue scientifically? I understand that research involving MRI studies would have been appropriate.

2. Who was informed by the MRC of the possible danger to public health, for example the Committee of Safety of Medicines, the Department of Health, the manufacturer’s Roche Products and John Wyeth etc?

As you may know many patients complain that they have suffered cognitive impairment and neurological damage as a result of benzodiazepine ingestion. For your information the Public Health Minister Anne Milton MP is currently conducting a review of Department of Health Policy on addiction to prescribed tranquillisers. I regard this as a serious public health issue and I would be grateful if you would deal with this matter urgently,

Yours sincerely

Jim Dobbin MP
Chair APPGITA

Cc  Anne Milton MP
Earl Sandwich
Phil Woolas MP
Bill Cash MP
Kelvin Hopkins MP

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