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Prescribing Valium Tops GPs

Healthy Options Magazine
New Zealand
August 2002

A court victory against a long-term prescription by two GPs of tranquilliser drug has created a landmark legal case. For 14 years Raymond Nimmo was prescribed Valium by his doctors Now the 50-year-old has become the first patient to win a financial settlement in recognition of the GPs' clinical negligence in over-prescribing addictive medication that destroyed his life. No doubt his 40,000 payout will start a flurry of other cases.

An estimated one and half million people in Britain are addicted to the tranquilliser drugs also known as benzodiazepines. For Raymond, his 1984 consultation with his GP over a dental infection, ended in a prescription for antibiotics. An allergic reaction to the prescribed medications gave him abdominal pains. He was told his pain was caused by muscle spasms and received a prescription for the powerful and addictive benzodiazepine drug. The pain persisted and Raymond was prescribed a series of different tranquillisers until 1985, when high doses of diazepam created a condition which the doctors called "incurably anxious and incurably chronically depressed" and an even more sinister cocktail of drugs was prescribed.

He gave up his high profile job, lived on benefits and withdrew into a 14-year nightmare believing he was depressed and mentally unstable. Finally, in 1998 a surgeon told him that all his problems were related to being on diazepam. He was shocked into stopping the drug nightmare and reviewing his prescribed drug programme.

The consequent court action was not easy to achieve in a medically dominated society, but his solicitor felt strongly about the issue. After all it was not just the GPs' fault - a share of the responsibility lies with those who market the drugs, the pharmaceutical companies and the Government for not taking action. Around 17 million prescriptions are issued for benzodiazepines in Britain each year.

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