Dr James Davies, Prof John Read and Luke Montagu (members of CEP as well as the Expert Advisory Group for Public Health England’s review into prescribed drug dependence) would like to respond to criticisms of the PHE review raised by some campaigners.
In our involvement with the PHE review to date we have encountered no evidence for what has been recently claimed: namely that the outcome of the review is predetermined and may even be an attempt to prescribe more drugs.
It has also been implied that PHE are restricting their review of research to works published within the last 10 years, in order to exclude earlier evidence of harms.
We do not agree the review has been designed to ignore the vital research that came before (including Prof Heather Ashton’s work). Our understanding is that the review will incorporate previous research because of its appearance in later research as well as its impact on published guidelines.
We have additionally raised this issue with PHE, and have been assured that a time limit is necessary due to the volume of articles identified (over 30,000 for the last ten years).
We also share concerns about the representation of the patient voice in this review. These concerns have been raised with PHE and are matters of public record as part of the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence’s engagement with the review. However we accept that this is an evidence review, not a public inquiry, and for this reason individual testimonies would not be appropriate.
We have responded to this by publishing three compelling pieces of research which capture the patient voice and experience (see http://cepuk.org/2018/10/02/millions-risk-antidepressant-withdrawal-new-review-concludes/ and http://cepuk.org/2018/10/08/research-cep-members-reveals-many-doctors-may-failing-warn-patients-risks-antidepressants/). We are also assured by PHE that the patient voice will be given significant prominence through other methods, for example analysis of annual reports of various withdrawal charities.
We want the community of individuals harmed by withdrawal to know that so far we have been impressed by PHE’s commitment and engagement with this issue, which we firmly believe is being done in good faith with the expectation that meaningful recommendations will be made and action will be taken.
Until the publication of its report, we feel strongly that the PHE review should be allowed to proceed with its work without further attack and criticism, in particular of individuals. We believe that this approach has been harmful, and risks alienating the very people who can help to solve this problem.
If PHE’s report falls short when it is published next year, then this will be the time to engage. But we have no good reason to believe that this will happen as it would contradict the evidence base, which makes very clear the scale and harms of prescribed drug dependence.