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Valium Father to sue
Mail on Sunday,
June 22, 1997
A FATHER who became hooked on Valium has been granted legal aid to sue the doctors who prescribed it to him.
If he wins, it could mean compensation for thousands of others who have suffered side-effects from tranquillisers but thought they were ineligible to make a claim.
Four years ago the Legal Aid Board stopped a lawsuit - brought against drug manufacturers by 5,000 people who claimed tranquillisers had made them ill - on the grounds that the allegations would be difficult to prove in court.
But now Mark Morris, 33, has won backing to take up the case. The father of three from Oldham, Lancashire, says he was kept on Valium for six years from 1991 despite a Committee on Safety of Medicines warning in 1988 that patients should not take tranquillisers for more than a month.
Mr Morris was first given a tranquilliser at Royal Oldham Hospital after suffering a panic attack when his father died.
His then GP continued the prescription for nearly six years.
Mr Morris has since had 70 electrocardiograms for chest pains.
He says: "I can't sleep, I am constantly sweating. I can't go out, I can't associate with people properly. My new GP says I should not have been given any at all - a bereavement counsellor would have helped."
"Now when I do get off these drugs I have still got to learn to cope with the death of my dad. All the tablets have done is suppress the grieving."
"I am not suing for the money. I want to stop doctors over-prescribing to people who might end up the way I have. They don't realise what they are doing to people."
Pam Armstrong, of the tranquilliser help group CITA, said she knew of hundreds of patients who had been put on the drugs for months and years despite the 1988 warning.
She said: "It seems to have made little difference to many doctors. The problem is the Committee has no teeth. Maybe if a few cases get to court doctors will take it seriously. Lives are being devastated."
Solicitor Graham Ross, who is investigating the case, said: "It seems many doctors have gone back to their old ways, particularly since the group action ended."
The Royal Oldham would not comment on Mr Morris' case but said the CSM guidelines were for advice only. Doctors were free to make clinical decisions.
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