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Woolas seeks action over tranquillisers

MP backs sufferer's campaign

Oldham Chronicle
July 26, 1999
by our lobby correspondent

Health Secretary Frank Dobson was today being urged to act over claims that tranquillisers have ruined the lives of addicts in Oldham.

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas wants Mr Dobson to issue new guidelines to GPs who prescribe benzodiazepines. And he is demanding that the Government funds the first large-scale study into 20 years of health problems blamed on the pills.

The move follows the publicity surrounding the case of Oldham man Barry Haslam, who set up the largest support group for addicts anywhere in the country.

The 30-strong TRANX Group - which meets every fortnight in Coldhurst Community Centre - has built up links with other groups in Britain.

Now Mr Woolas, who has been working with Mr Haslam for two years, has tabled 14 questions at the Commons about the controversy. The Labour MP hopes to add to pressure on Mr Dobson to take action on behalf of an estimated one million people with problems linked to tranquillisers.

That pressure is expected to reach its height in the autumn when the Commons' Health Select Committee issues a report. Mr Woolas wants Mr Dobson to set up detoxification units, cut the illegal trade in the drugs and investigate damage to children whose mothers were prescribed them.

The MP also wants an inquiry into claims that members of the committee on medicine safety are paid by drug companies involved in medicine. And he wants the Government to consider charges of corporate manslaughter against any manufacturers who withheld evidence about the harmful effects of tranquillisers.

Mr Woolas said: "Chronicle readers will be aware of the awful suffering of Barry Haslam as a result of tranquilliser addiction. "I hope I can highlight the injustice suffered by people who were taking legally-prescribed drugs which, it later transpired, were harmful. The Health Select Committee report and the answers to the questions I have tabled should help to persuade the Government that action needs to be taken."

The Committee on the Review on Medicines (CRM) in 1980 recommended that benzodiazepines should not be prescribed for more than four months and in 1988 the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) recommended that the prescription of benzodiazepines be restricted to 2-4 weeks only.

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