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BARRY'S DRUGS GUINEA PIGS FIGHT
July 22, 2004
Drugs companies will be accused of using patients as human guinea pigs when MPs examine the influence of the pharmaceutical industry this autumn.
Local benzodiazepine campaigner Barry Haslam has forwarded his evidence to the Commons' Health Select Committee, an influential group of MPs led by David Hinchliffe.
Mr Haslam, from Uppermill, successfully campaigned, with his Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas, to get a hearing before the committee. He has already reported on tranquillisers for the European Commission, and successfully campaigned for a benzodiazepine withdrawal service for Oldham's 5,200 addicts.
Mr Haslam, who suffered neurological damage after he was addicted to tranquillisers for 10 years, is also hoping to be called in person to give evidence.
He will tell MPs that medical research into benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium, Ativan and others), was for use for only few weeks, yet companies actively promoted their long term prescription.
He says: "In essence, patients became human guinea pigs, both in terms of the length of enforced addiction and in excessive recommended dosage."
He points out that UK tablets sizes were 50 per cent stronger than those available in the USA, while UK experts believed only half strength or even lower doses should be made available.
Data sheets in the USA also carried warnings about addiction from 1971, yet the first UK warning came in 1984, he adds.
And he will tell the committee: "I could take members to Oldham people who have been benzo addicts for 20 to 40 years.
"The only reason they are still taking their drugs is to keep withdrawal symptoms to a minimum."
He will call for a public inquiry into mind altering prescribed drugs, a change to the UK's drug regulatory authorities and investigations into companies which produce the drugs.
Detoxification clinics and withdrawal support are needed and a no fault compensation scheme should be set up, similar to one in New Zealand, possibly paid for by a windfall tax on the manufacturers, he says.
The committee is due to hear evidence in September.
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