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As an active member of APPGITA, I had a great admiration for Jim and members of his family who worked alongside him. He campaigned for many years in Parliament on the vital issue of prescribed drug addiction, a terrible and widespread affliction of which my wife Caroline and I have some personal experience. It must not be forgotten that he himself paid tribute to the work of Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University last October and prompted the Prime Minister to recognise the importance of her work, which still continues. I am sure he would agree that one of the memorials to him should be the continuation of this campaign and of the group inside Parliament working on its behalf.
Earl of Sandwich
Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction
The Boston Globe – “When withdrawal is the hardest part” The dangers of long-term benzodiazepine use
BMJ – Long-term benzodiazepine use may cause up to a 50% increased risk of Alzheimer’s. “Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.”
email to Jane Ellison, Public Health Minister 10 September 2014
Dear Jane Ellison,
Following on from my email to you yesterday providing evidence that the coalition drug policy on addiction to medicines has failed with local authorities not treating involuntary tranquilliser addiction, I wish to draw your attention to the following study published in the BMJ yesterday, (link -http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5205)
This study concludes that long-term use of tranquillisers may raise the probability of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50% and contains the following warning in its conclusion:
“Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern”.
Abundant evidence has already been presented to the Department of Health and the Royal Colleges regarding the damage caused to patients through no fault of their own by mis-prescribed tranquillisers.
What action will you be taking based upon this new evidence which surely must include enforcement of the 1988 CSM 2 -4 week tranquilliser prescribing guidelines ignored by doctors ever since?
Also, what action will be taken to address those patients who have already been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s who in fact are suffering from the effects of long-term benzodiazepine use?
email to Jane Ellison, Public Health Minister 9 September 2014
Dear Jane Ellison,
My MP, Eric Ollerenshaw asked the following PQ on 4 September 2014:
“Eric Ollerenshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department has taken since 2009 to review policy on addiction to prescription medication; and what the total identifiable costs have been of this review process. ”
Part of your response to this PQ was “The Department has been reviewing policy on addiction to prescription medicine over this period, and the Government’s Drug Strategy, published in December 2010, highlights our commitment to reduce dependence on prescription and over the counter medicines.”
However, the “Drug Strategy 2010 Reducing demand, restricting supply, building the recovery: Supporting people to live a drug free life” is a 25 page policy document on substance misuse with only one sentence referring to prescription drug addiction in the introduction which reads as follows:
“It will consider dependence on all drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.”
Would you please tell me which page of the Drug Strategy 2010 refers to such a commitment?
Secondly, it is clear that the handful of specialist tranquilliser withdrawal charities established since the 1980s (such as the Council for Information on Tranquillisers Antidepressants and Painkillers (CITA) and the Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project) are still the only organisations successfully treating significant numbers of involuntary tranquilliser addicts (ITAs).
Wigan is a classic example of this:
When CITA had the contract for providing specialist tranquilliser withdrawal services in Wigan and Leigh:
- 371 involuntary tranquilliser addicts were enrolled with CITA between July 2011 and December 2012
- CITA achieved 217 drug-free outcomes by the end of 2012.
At significantly less than £1000 per patient CITA provided cost effective treatment.
CITA then lost the contract and the Wigan drug and alcohol contracts for 2013 awarded to Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and Addaction costing £3.6 million per annum.
Since April 2013:
- Wigan has only had 11 involuntary tranquilliser referrals
- Only 7 involuntary tranquilliser addicts are currently in treatment
- Only 1 involuntary tranquilliser addict has successfully completed treatment drug-free in the last 18 months.
CITA has now run out of funding and runs a reduced service but still including a much needed national telephone help-line based on the goodwill of less than half a dozen volunteers often working from their own homes using their own telephones. Unless CITA receives funding the national help-line will be lost by next March.
Wigan was one of the six pilot Payment by Results drug and alcohol services cited by Anne Milton MP, then Public Health Minister, as a solution to addiction to medicines when questioned by John Waite on BBC Radio 4 “Face the Facts” broadcast in July 2012.
In a letter dated 10 July 2014 to the late Jim Dobbin MP you said:
“We expect local authorities to commission local services that meet the needs of those people who are addicted to medicines, such as benzodiazepines.”
Not only is this not happening but in fact local authorities are not treating involuntary tranquilliser addicts at all.
Would you please explain how you have allowed this situation to occur and what action you intend to take to rectify it?
4 Sep 2014 : Column 337W
Prescription Drugs: Misuse
Eric Ollerenshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department has taken since 2009 to review policy on addiction to prescription medication; and what the total identifiable costs have been of this review process. 
Jane Ellison: The Department has been reviewing policy on addiction to prescription medicine over this period, and the Government’s Drug Strategy, published in December 2010, highlights our commitment to reduce dependence on prescription and over the counter medicines.
In 2009, the Department identified a lack of information on this important subject. The Department commissioned a literature review from the National Addiction Centre and a report from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) which interrogated data on specialist treatment and surveyed local commissioners and specialist treatment providers. These reports were peer reviewed and published in May 2011. The cost to the Department for the National Addiction Centre literature review was £9,750 and the cost for the NTA review was £80,000.
The reports informed the discussions of roundtable meetings of expert stakeholders which were convened by the Minister for Public Health to agree action to tackle addiction to medicines. The roundtable produced a consensus statement, endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other organisations which was published in January 2013. The only direct cost to the Department concerning the roundtables, and other meetings, was £1,928.09 in travel expenses for non-departmental staff.
Public Health England (PHE) organised a seminar in February 2013 to improve the commissioning of services to treat addiction to medicine, and following the seminar, in June 2013 published a guide for the national health service and local authorities on commissioning treatment for dependence on prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency published in March 2013 a learning module on benzodiazepines which includes advice for prescribers on preventing and treating dependence on these medicines.
In July 2014, with the approval of the Department and the devolved Administrations, PHE launched a public consultation on whether there should be an update to the 2007 United Kingdom clinical guidelines on drug misuse and dependence. The guidelines include advice on treating dependence on benzodiazepines.
Jim Dobbin MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction, sadly died yesterday whilst on a parliamentary committee trip to Poland.