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Oldham Chronicle
November 9, 2004

Barry Haslam

MPs investigating the pharmaceutical industry will be told how benzodiazepine tranquillisers have been classed as "potentially fatal" in Canada

Uppermill benzodiazepine campaigner Barry Haslam wants the tranquilliser Ativan withdrawn after being sent a data sheet about the drug with new warnings on it.

Mr Haslam, who was addicted to benzodiazepines including Ativan for 10 years, says this shows that the risks associated with Ativan far outweigh any benefits.

Mr Haslam and Mr Mike Behan, founders of the Beat the Benzo's pressure group, have both submitted written evidence to the Commons Health Select Committee.

But after it was submitted, they received a 2004 Canadian data sheet for Ativan, which goes under the generic name lorazepam.

The sheet, produced by the Canadian Pharmacists' Association, warns that lorazepam will produce excessive sedation at standard doses, so no-one taking it should drive or use heavy machinery.

It also warns specifically that Ativan should not be used initially for more than a week, prescriptions should not be automatically renewed, and withdrawal symptoms can appear after as little as a week.

The sheet adds: "Use of benzodiazepines, including lorazepam, may lead to potentially fatal respiratory depression."

And in the light of the Canadian warning, both men have written to MP Phil Woolas, who will be speaking for them at the Select Committee on November 25.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP is one of the witnesses appearing in person at the hearings into the pharmaceutical industry.

Mr Haslam said: "This drug should be banned. I want Mr Woolas to ask why this Canadian information is not shared with other countries. There should be universal information about such drugs.

"Why haven't the regulatory authorities in the UK been notified? They should be investigating."

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