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'Valium ruined my life' claimant wins
40,000 damages from ex-GP

Yorkshire Post
June 27, 2002
Mike Waites
Health Correspondent

A FORMER company director who says his life was ruined after he became addicted to Valium has become one of the first people in the country to win damages claiming he was negligently over-prescribed the drug.

The powerful tranquilliser, which was initially used to combat stomach pain, left Raymond Nimmo with severe side-effects including suicidal depression and panic attacks, forcing him to give up work in a nightmare which lasted more than a decade.

It was only 14 years after he was first given the medication when the married father-of-one from Scunthorpe was warned by another doctor about the effect of the drugs that he discovered what was happening.

He was put on a three-month programme to wean him off Valium and now has won 40,000 in damages from his former GP.

His legal team says the case represents a milestone for patients fighting for increased awareness about the problems caused by benzodiazepines - a group of drugs used to treat anxiety and aid relaxation - amid concern over the dosage and length of time patients are prescribed them. More than a million people in the country are believed to be dependent on benzodiazepines.

Mr Nimmo, now 50, went to his GP in 1984 about a toothache but suffered an allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was given which gave him severe abdominal pains.

He was told the pain was caused by a muscle spasm and was prescribed a benzodiazepine as a muscle relaxant.

The pain persisted and he was given a variety of tranquillisers until within a year he was taking high doses of Valium, leaving him severely anxious and depressed.

He was then given anti-depressants to deal with side-effects of the drug and was forced to give up work as a company director at a scaffolding firm and live on benefits.

"I was suicidally depressed, agoraphobic, wouldn't answer the telephone or the door. I was locked in this cocoon. It just turned me into a zombie and all I could think about was committing suicide.

"I thought that was it and my life was over."

In 1998 he changed his GP and went on a three-month detoxification programme to rid him of his addiction.

Mr Nimmo still suffers from symptoms as a result of the drugs but is no longer dependent on them and has set up a support group for other people in the same plight. "There are thousands of people like me...It's completely ruined my life. I have just been wiped out by these drugs."

His solicitor, Caroline Moore of Sheffield-based Medical Solicitors, said the case represented real progress for those fighting for increased awareness of benzodiazepines. Mr Nimmo's former GP, Dr Shambhulingappa, said last night he did not want to comment.

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