Dear Earl Howe,
I am writing to you as it has come to my attention that in all communications including correspondence and debates, neither you or Anne Milton MP or the DH has used the term involuntary tranquilliser addiction but instead have used the term benzodiazepine addiction.
Would you please clarify why the DH does not accept the concept of involuntary tranquilliser addiction?
By involuntary tranquilliser addiction I mean people who have, through no fault of their own, become addicted to tranquillisers prescribed to them by their doctors, who have taken them under their doctor’s guidance, and have not abused these prescribed tranquillisers or any other substances.
By tranquilliser, I mean prescribed medication containing benzodiazepines and also z drugs such as zopiclone, zolpidem, zaleplon and eszopiclone. Communications from you and Anne Milton MP and the DH have also often excluded z drugs. Z drugs have the same addiction and withdrawal problems as benzodiazepines and over 6 million prescriptions were issued for z drugs in 2010/11.
May I bring to your attention, regarding prescription statistics, that clonazepam is often prescribed off licence and should be included in total annual tranquilliser prescriptions when discussing ITA. When you add these 854,300 off licence prescriptions, the 6.08 million z drugs and the 10.49 million benzos this produces an annual total of 17.32 million tranquilliser prescriptions for 2010/11, which is an increase on the previous year.
I hope that I have now clarified the term tranquilliser and the term involuntary for future purposes.
I wish to point out that the DH policy review on addiction to medicine has been a review on substance misuse and has not included involuntary tranquilliser addiction. The term involuntary tranquilliser addiction (ITA) has never been used in the policy review by the DH.
Virtually no data, statistics or information have been collected by the DH on ITA and it was not mentioned in the terms of reference for the NAC or the NTA reviews.
The DH will have been only too aware that all previous correspondence, Parliamentary Questions and debates related to ITA, yet the DH have responded ignoring this term and given answers in the context of substance misuse.
The way the DH has dealt with ITA is to pretend that it does not exist.
Furthermore, anyone claiming that ITA does exist has been disempowered and excluded from the policy review process, including Professor Ashton, expert patients like myself, Barry Haslam, Ray Nimmo and also the APPGITA.
Also, the high withdrawal success rate of the withdrawal charities which treat ITA has not been acknowledged by the DH.
The pretence that ITA does not exist has extended into the debate on services.
One of many obstacles to the campaign for services has been the assertion made by the DH and also you in several debates that services exist in most local areas.
In the debate in the House of Lords (30 November 2011) Amendment 203 moved by The Earl of Sandwich, you said:
“There is access to support and treatment services for addiction to medicines in most local areas but some local areas are woefully short of such services. My department has commissioned evidence-gathering reports looking at the problem of addiction to prescription and over-the-counter medicines. We published a report on that in May which found that support is provided from a variety of services across primary care, community care and the voluntary sector. However, it also found such patchiness of provision.”
According to Anne Milton’s recent letter to Jim Dobbin MP, the source of information supporting your response is the NTA review. However, the NTA were asked by the DH to produce a review on misuse.
The information that you provided in the House of Lords relates to services for misuse.
This is clearly evident in the NTA review itself on Page 6 where it states “Subsequently, the DH commissioned a literature review from the NAC, and asked the NTA to investigate the extent of misuse of prescription-only-medicines and over-the-counter medicines”.
Also, on Page 3 it states “make it well placed (NTA) to investigate the potential extent of misuse of both prescription-only-medicines (POM) and over-the-counter medicines (OTC), and the current availability of services to help people addicted to them”
It is clear then that the DH requested a review on substance misuse from the NTA, and as such that review is a completely inappropriate source of information for you to use as an evidence base to answer questions on ITA.
The consequence of this pretence is discrimination on the basis of a disability created by the healthcare system and the repercussions are enormous, including:
- Sufferers of ITA will continue to be excluded from appropriate treatment.
- There is no protection against future involuntary tranquilliser addiction.
- Post withdrawal syndromes will continue to be untreated and unrecognised.
- No research will be forthcoming regarding long-term tranquilliser damage.
- ITA will continue to be unrecognised by the DWP.
- Lack of back to work support or rehabilitation will continue.
When is the DH going to do a policy review on ITA and take appropriate action?
I request your early and personal response to this in order to inform the next APPGITA meeting with Anne Milton MP and yourself on 19 June 2012 which my MP Eric Ollerenshaw will attend.