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Praise for experts who break ranks

Oldham Chronicle
February 14, 2002

A tranquilliser campaigner has praised medical experts for breaking ranks and criticising misleading advice about a new generation of drugs.

Mr Barry Haslam, of Uppermill, who weaned himself off benzodiazepines after ten years of addiction welcomed the journal 'Health Which?' report on selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

These drugs are being prescribed as anti-depressants, but the journal says patients are being given misleading advice on safety and a possible increased suicide risk.


They cost the NHS 310 million a year, and more than 22 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants in 2000, compared to nine million in 1991.

A senior lecturer in psychiatry and behavioural sciences, Dr Joanna Moncrieff, told the journal that the difference in response rates between anti-depressants and a placebo or dummy drug may be only 10 per cent.

The mental health charity MIND also fears people are being wrongly told there is no dependency problem with the drugs.

Dr David Healy honorary consultant psychiatrist in North Wales, said: "Some published trials show patients taking SSRIs are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.

Mr Haslam said: "They are breaking ranks but we need a lot more people to do this.

"Experts are terrified of public inquiries and the truth being known. That is why there is this cosying up between the Government and drug manufacturers.

"SSRIs such as Seroxat and Prozac are now being prescribed as replacements for benzodiazepines and exactly the same thing is happening all over again - not enough information and misleading information."

Mr Haslam has campaigned for years for inquiries into why benzodiazepines continued to be prescribed long term, encouraging dependency when guidelines recommend they should only be used for two to four weeks.

He also advises on safe withdrawal from the drugs.

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