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Tranquilliser campaigner claims:
'I've been gagged'

Oldham Evening Chronicle,
Thursday, January 10, 2002
by Janice Barker

A Saddleworth man is to complain to the Parliamentary Ombudsman after his letter-writing campaign was "gagged" by senior civil servants.

Mr Barry Haslam, of Uppermill, is fighting to get a better deal for involuntary tranquilliser addicts.

But he has been told by the Government's Medicines Control Agency (MCA) that his letters are vexatious and abusive. And after Dr June Raine, of the MCA, reviewed all the correspondence, she ruled that civil servants acted properly.

Consequently, the MCA will not be replying to his future letters.

The ruling has angered Mr Haslam, who was addicted to Ativan for 10 years before he weaned himself off the prescribed benzodiazepine drug.

He suffers long-term health problems and brain damage as a result and gets a disabled living allowance.

He said: "The real reason for the banning is because I'm getting too near the truth on benzodiazepine drugs for the MCA to cope with.

"I will be asking my MP Phil Woolas to make an official complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, on my behalf, after discussing this with him."

Mr Haslam has researched the known effects of the drug and prescribing practices over many years.

He believes there was a massive delay between drug companies acknowledging research which showed how addictive the drugs were and prescribing practices and drug advisory sheets being changed.

This delay led to many more people being prescribed the drugs to which they subsequently also became addicted, he says.

He has also campaigned to get the drugs reclassified from Class C to Class A, because of the number of deaths they cause, according to Home Office statistics.

Junior Health Minister Hazel Blears said the Home Office classified drugs according to misuse by addicts, not according to legitimate prescribed use by doctors. But new legislation was planned to control the import, export and possession of 33 benzodiazepines and eight other substances.

She added: "The volume of benzodiazepines prescribed in the UK has fallen by over a third since its peak in 1979, and we are hopeful it will continue to fall in the context of changes in knowledge and guidance."

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