MPs and peers present case for national prescribed drug helpline to Public Health England

Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence (APPG for PDD) met at Westminster on 15 March in order to lobby Public Health England for a national 24 hour helpline to help patients withdraw from opioid painkillers, tranquilisers and antidepressants.  Parliamentarians who attended included Paul Flynn MP (chair), Sir Oliver Letwin MP, Lord Patel of Bradford, Baroness Masham and the Earl of Sandwich.  Representatives from the BMA were also present.

The meeting followed two years of work by the APPG for PDD and the BMA which culminated in a declaration of support for a prescribed drug helpline signed by key stakeholders, including the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as well as several charities and patient groups.

At the meeting the APPG for PDD presented recent work undertaken by researchers at the University of Roehampton which estimates for the first time the cost of unnecessary long-term antidepressant and tranquiliser prescribing.  Dr James Davies shared research estimating that there are approximately 770,000 long-term users of antidepressants who could be taking the drugs unnecessarily in England alone, costing the NHS £44m per year or £120,000 per day.  In addition, the research estimates that there are over 250,000 users taking benzodiazepines and/or z-drugs beyond six months (NICE guidance indicates use for a maximum of 2-4 weeks).  The cost of this unnecessary long-term tranquiliser prescribing in England alone is £15.2m per year or £43,000 per day.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director Alcohol, Drugs & Tobacco at Public Health England, attended the meeting and listened to the evidence presented by the APPG.  She subsequently agreed to consult with colleagues regarding the APPG’s proposal for a national helpline.

Paul Flynn MP, chair of the APPG for PDD, said: ‘Long-term users of antidepressants, tranquilisers and opioid painkillers can suffer devastating effects when they try to withdraw, often leading to years of unnecessary suffering and disability.  And yet – unlike illicit drugs – there are hardly any dedicated services to support them.  The cost of unnecessary antidepressant and tranquiliser prescribing is now estimated at £60m a year in England alone.  We therefore urge Public Health England to set up a national helpline to support individuals wishing to withdraw from these drugs, and to reduce the tremendous cost to patients’ lives and the public purse.’

6 Responses to MPs and peers present case for national prescribed drug helpline to Public Health England

  1. Greg White 28/03/2017 at 5:27 pm #

    Hi All,
    Congratulations! This is one great step in the establishment of a true health paradigm, one where the individual patients voice will be restored to the centrality of his or her living and breathing experience.

    In the anticipation of such developments and especially with Healthcare professionals in mind, I am presently teasing together an holistic integrative, mind,body detoxing template, including an MD, Primary Care Nurse, ,Nutritional Therapist, Mindfulness Practice ,Bio/Neurofeedback therapy,

    This is so since, statistically health professionals are addicted either/which/way, to either consuming or dispensing drugs, and with positive experience of it, will be the mainstay of future developments.

    As detoxing clearly is/would be a highly sensitive proposition for the medical professional, in the interests of the latter’s anonymity as well as readiness to face into the addiction,his personal and that of his patient, locality would necessarily be located offshore in climatically positive and holiday atmosphere..
    To resource such a project, I would heartily welcome a response from an investor open to sharing and envisioning this new evolving paradigm, that many now observe, is already upon us.

  2. teresa rudgley 28/03/2017 at 8:45 pm #

    There is an important drug group missing here – neuroleptics otherwise called anti psychotics. This drug group needs to be added.

  3. Angela Patmore 29/03/2017 at 11:07 am #

    In 2006 in my book The Truth About Stress (pp 300ff) I interviewed tragic prescription drug addicts from patient pressure groups like Beat the Benzos and Victims of Tranquillisers and called for ‘stress’ drug prescription to be curbed. The bogus concept ‘stress’ medicalises normal emotions and encourages GPs to hand out psychotropic drugs that ruin people’s lives.

    Nobody took any notice in 2006. Let’s hope they will now.

  4. L. Lawrence 29/03/2017 at 11:17 am #

    My niece was offered anti-depressants by her doctor for a tooth ache, similarly my son was offered anti-depressants for headaches. I’m actually astounded at the recklessness of these doctors and I have heard many other stories like this. Is this the way forward now, are we going to be sedated for the slightest ailments? it is very worrying indeed.


  1. Public Petition: Support for People Affected by Prescribed Drug Dependence - Mad in the UK - 21/07/2017

    […] This, in due course, led to us becoming peripherally involved with the establishment of the Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry (UK), and participating as a ‘stakeholder’ in the British Medical Association (BMA) Board of Science project “Prescribed Drugs Associated with Dependence and Withdrawal.” And we are now involved with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescription Drug Dependence at Westminster (see more about this here). […]

  2. Cultural U-Turns in Mental Well-Being: Acknowledging the Dilemma – Tobert, 2018 – The Galileo Commission - 07/03/2019

    […] helpline to help people withdraw from prescribed painkillers, tranquilizers, and antidepressants (Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry, 2017). This was supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of […]

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