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Risk labelling required as benzodiazepine
prescriptions explode

Press Release, May 29, 2001

Sue Kedgley MP
Green Party of New Zealand
Health Spokesperson
Transport Spokesperson

Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley today said legislation was required to introduce labelling so that consumers were informed about the impacts and risk of prescription pharmaceuticals.

Ms Kedgley called for full labelling information inside every prescription as figures released today show that prescriptions for benzodiazepine drugs – addictive anti-depressants, sleeping pills and tranquillisers – have increased by 37 per cent between 1992 and 2000.

In response to a written question from Ms Kedgley (see below), Health Minister Annette King confirmed that in 1992 there were 267,770 benzodiazepine prescriptions and by 2000 that number had increased to 463,312.

"The prescription of these drugs which are used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia has exploded over the last eight years, despite their addictiveness and their classification in 1999 as a Class C controlled drug.

"I have been contacted by people who received no warning from their doctors about the dangers of benzodiazepines and who, as a result, have become fully addicted to them," said Ms Kedgley.

Ms Kedgley said she was extremely concerned at the huge increase in the prescription of benzodiazepines over the last eight years and wanted to know why doctors' prescription habits had not changed.

"I want to know why the use of these drugs is going through the roof and I want to know what impact these prescriptions are having on New Zealanders who are being routinely prescribed them month after month without being warned of the risks," she said.

Ms Kedgley said there was a clear need for pharmaceutical companies to provide clear and accurate consumer information and this should no longer be voluntary.

"I would like to see legislation introduced to make this consumer information compulsory so that consumers are made fully aware of any risks and potential impacts associated with using the drug."

There are a range of serious adverse reactions – other than addiction – which can be experienced while taking these drugs including depression, confusion, vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, heart palpitations and hypertension. Benzodiazepines are psychotropic – or mind altering – drugs. "I am also concerned that these drugs can cross the placenta and come through in breast milk affecting both unborn and born babies. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not be prescribed them".

Sue Kedgley: +64 4 470 6728 or 025 270 9088
email: Sue.Kedgley@parliament.govt.nz

29 MAR 2001

Question for Written Answer

Reply due 29 March 2001

No 002612 Sue Kedgley to the MINISTER OF HEALTH:

How many prescriptions for Benzodiazepine drugs have been given each year, since 1980 or since records are available?


1992   –   267,770
1993   –   507,801
1994   –   513,591
1995   –   514,640
1996   –   503,184
1997   –   491,921
1998   –   469,583
1999   –   476,508
2000   –   463,312

signed: Annette King


28 MAR 2001


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