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HASLAM REJECTS OFFICIAL APOLOGY
March 26, 2007
by JANICE BARKER
A HEALTH minister has apologised to tranquilliser campaigner Barry Haslam for causing him distress with her letter.
Rosie Winterton has written to Mr Haslam, of Uppermill, after pressure from Oldham West MP Michael Meacher.
She caused offence in December when he asked her for nationwide services for people addicted to legally prescribed drugs such as benzodiazepines.
In reply, Miss Winterton wrote: "As is the case for those people who misuse drugs such as heroin and cocaine, we would expect those who misuse benzodiazepines to have access to a range of services."
Mr Haslam, organiser of the Beat the Benzos campaign group, was addicted to the prescribed drug Ativan for ten years, before he weaned himself off.
And he said it was a disgrace for the minister to compare people addicted to drugs prescribed by their doctors with heroin addicts.
Now Miss Winterton has told Mr Meacher: "I would like to apologise for any distress in the wording of my letter."
She says benzodiazepine addiction is taken very seriously, and that there is clear guidance about short-term prescribing.
Instalment prescribing has also been introduced for safety, and the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions has fallen from 14,027,000 in 1995 to 11,252,000 in 2005.
However, Mr Haslam has refused to accept her apology and said: "Her reply is too trite. Prescription figures have dropped but only because GPs are more aware of the dangers.
"They are now prescribing other similar drugs like Zopiclone which are running at four million annually.
"Overall prescription of mind-altering drugs has increased not decreased."
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