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Oldham Chronicle
June 16, 2004

Barry Haslam

Oldham drugs campaigner Barry Haslam's fight to highlight the misery of tranquilliser addiction has today scored a huge victory - as MPs promised to investigate the problem.

Barry, founder of pressure group Beat the Benzos, backed by Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas, has persuaded Parliamentís influential health select committee to study the scandal.

MPs are set to probe allegations that pharmaceutical companies and GPs ignored evidence and guidelines showing highly-addictive tranquillisers were being over-prescribed.

Over 5,000 people in Oldham and 1.2 million people in Britain are thought to be addicted to anxiety-suppressing drugs like Valium, Seroxat, Temazepam and Librium.

Health select committee chairman David Hinchliffe is expected to announce the inquiry tomorrow.

Today Mr Haslam said: "This is brilliant news. It is like getting my day in court. Iím looking forward to it.

"I really hope this shakes up the whole pharmaceutical business.

"I will put in my own submission and hope to be called to give evidence. We will also be putting details on the website, and get as many people as possible to write in so MPs can see the scale of the problem."

Mr Woolas, the deputy leader of the House of Commons, described the inquiry as the campaign's biggest breakthrough.

He told the Chronicle: "The committee is expected to look at the whole remit of alleged cover-up of evidence of over-prescribing these drugs and the damage they have done to people. It should also look at the treatment on offer to people who are addicted."

Mr Woolas added: "Only the tip of the iceberg has been uncovered. The over-prescription of these drugs has caused enormous damage to people. I hope the select committee will point the finger at those responsible and point the way forward."

Mr Haslam, of Uppermill, claims 10 years of his life were ruined by addiction to prescription drug Ativan. He is demanding new Europe-wide guidelines to address the problem, and claims British doctors were misled by the drug manufacturers during the 1970s and 1980s into believing tranquillisers were safe for widespread use.

The Department of Health has pledged to act to minimise excessive doses of tranquillisers being prescribed.

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