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H O U S E   OF   C O M M O N S

APPGITA - All Party Parliamentary Group for
Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Letter from Jim Dobbin MP to
The Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
January 18, 2010

January 18, 2010

The Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
Home Secretary
Home Office
Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Dear Alan,

I am writing further to my previous correspondence regarding Professor Nutt and would like to congratulate you on your dismissal of him. On the 7 April 2003 the benzodiazepine campaign group, led by Phil Woolas MP, attended a meeting with the then Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth MP The outcome of the meeting was that the group were invited to make a submission to the ACMD on the misuse of benzodiazepines with the purpose of encouraging the ACMD to investigate the problem and thereby to consider rescheduling and/or reclassification of that group of drugs. This was the correct procedure according to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and we expected our submission to be given proper consideration.

On the advice of their Technical Committee, chaired by Professor Nutt, the ACMD concluded that reclassifying and/or rescheduling benzodiazepines would be likely to be ineffective. At the time there was concern that the submission was not given proper consideration. The ACMD and Technical Committee minutes later confirmed that the submission and attached evidence had not been discussed, none of the issues raised had been addressed and no evidence scientific or otherwise was produced to validate the decision.

It later emerged that Professor Nutt had a conflict of interest in that he had a financial arrangement with the benzodiazepine manufacturer John Wyeth and Bros Ltd. Professor Nutt failed to disclose that conflict of interest in his dealings with us. Amongst the issues raised by the submission were the frequency of benzo-related deaths, "benzo babies", the social cost of benzodiazepine addiction and the proposition that benzodiazepines had become a fully fledged drug of abuse.

In the light of your recent decision that you had no confidence in Professor Nutt's advice I would like to ask you to re-present the benzodiazepine submission to the ACMD for proper consideration on the grounds that there can be little confidence in any of Professor Nutt's previous advice and that the benzodiazepine decision in particular is tainted by the undeclared conflict of interest described above.

Professor Nutt has recently disclosed that he is involved in a scheme to replace alcohol with a benzodiazepine liquid. Professor Nutt claims that this liquid would be safe despite overwhelming scientific evidence that benzodiazepines are highly addictive and toxic.

I believe that Professor Nutt abused his position at the ACMD in several ways, he had no commitment to the objectives of the ACMD and operated as a campaigner for the pharmaceutical industry. Although he claims to be an independent scientist Professor Nutt has financial arrangements with numerous pharmaceutical companies. I have listed those arrangements in my submission to the Omand review and have enclosed a copy of that submission with this letter. Professor Nutt's objectives have been drug liberalization, deregulation and the normalization of recreational drug use. Professor Nutt is engaged in a grandiose scheme to capture the illegal drug market for the pharmaceutical industry, which requires the licensing of supposedly safe pharmacological alternatives to illegal drugs. Professor Nutt also supports the introduction of a range of new pharmaceutical products including "safe" recreational drugs, mood altering drugs and cognitive enhancers.

I believe that ACMD time and resources were diverted by Professor Nutt into his own campaigns and interests. In the meantime the proper work of the ACMD has been neglected. Part of that work should have been to control prescription drug misuse, consequently the problem of benzodiazepine misuse has increased.

A Home Office Statistical Bulletin (ISBN 978 1 84987 092 4) dated 29 October 2009 records that the most seized class C drugs in 2008/9 were benzodiazepines with 4,029 seizures an increase of 40% on the previous year and the fourth consecutive large yearly increase. The seizures totalled 1,800,000 doses of benzodiazepines. My understanding is that in order to estimate the illegal importation of a drug the U.K. Border Agency extrapolate from seizures, with seizures regarded as between 5% and 10% of the total volume.

Benzodiazepine abuse and prescription drug abuse in general is a huge and increasing problem worldwide. Other countries are waking up to the problem. The Department of Health and Children in Ireland formed a Benzodiazepine Committee in 2000 and produced a report in 2002. The Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee of the State of Victoria in Australia conducted an inquiry into the misuse/abuse of benzodiazepines and other pharmaceutical drugs and reported in 2007. In the USA prescription drug abuse now reportedly exceeds illegal drug abuse. Benzodiazepines have been implicated in several "celebrity deaths" in the USA recently, including Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy.

We would therefore like to re-present an updated version of the 2003 submission on benzodiazepines, to include updated information on the worsening situation, for proper consideration by the ACMD. I look forward to hearing your decision on my request.

Kind Regards,

Jim Dobbin MP

cc Phil Woolas MP

Email Jim Dobbin MP
Email Mick Behan

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