We wish to circulate this important article from the British Medical Association (BMA) https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/policy-and-research/public-and-population-health/prescribed-drugs-dependence-and-withdrawal and the letter from Professor Parveen Kumar to Nicola Blackwood MP highlighting the devastating health problems caused by dependence on prescribed drugs.
These are the type of Doctors we might feel safe when our health is being taken care of.
Nicola Blackwood MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Innovation
Department of Health
24 October 2016
Supporting patients affected by prescribed drugs associated with dependence and withdrawal
The British Medical Association (BMA) has taken a leading role in trying to identify what positive
action is needed to support patients with dependency and withdrawal due to prescribed drugs.
These patients suffer devastating health problems caused by prescribed drugs, such as
benzodiazepines, z-drugs, opioids and antidepressants. We would like the government to play its
part in providing this much needed support.
Antidepressant prescribing in the UK has more than doubled over the last decade, with over 70
million prescriptions dispensed in 2015 at a cost of over £340 million- this is a major public health
issue. The provision of services for these patients is inconsistent across the country and it is clear
that a national approach for services and guidance is needed.
Over the last three years, we have been working collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders
including the medical royal colleges, professional organisations and patient groups, to identify
three key measures which we believe are vital to supporting affected individuals. These are:
1. A national 24 hour helpline for prescribed drug dependence
The introduction of a national 24 hour helpline for prescribed drug dependence would provide
vital, real time support and could be implemented in a relatively short time frame. This national
helpline would sit alongside a website and act as a single trusted resource for patientsthemselves
to manage their drug dependence and also for doctors to signpost patients when they need
2. A national approach to specialised services for those patients suffering with dependence
on prescribed drugs
There are currently a small number of charity groups providing support but they cannot meet the
vast demand. In the absence of specialist services, patients are often referred to general drug
and alcohol services, which again have few resources or indeed the training or skills to manage
3. Robust guidance on tapering and withdrawal management for psychoactive medications
There is currently inadequate guidance in this area. NICE have recognised this is an issue and is
considering the development of guidance on managing prescription medicines associated with
dependence and withdrawal. It is vital that this guidance is developed and we would welcome
any support you could offer in this area.
We fully acknowledge there is much more the medical profession could do to support these
patients. To this end, we are working with key stakeholders to ensure doctors and medical
students are adequately trained in managing the risks associated with prescribing psychoactive
I would very much welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our work, and to look
ahead to plan what needs to be done next to support these patients. I attach a copy of the BMA’s
analysis report ‘Prescribed drugs associated with dependence and withdrawal - building a
consensus for action’, which provides more information on the work we have done so far on this
I would be grateful if your PA could kindly contact Susan Bahl, Senior Public Affairs Officer at the
BMA on 020 3058 7457 to arrange an early meeting at your convenience.
With best wishes
Professor Parveen Kumar CBE
Chair, BMA Board of Science
Read the letter (PDF)