§ Mr. Wareing
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action has been taken by her Department to discourage the over-prescribing of benzodiazepines; what plans she has to restrict represcribing; if she will bring forward proposals for legislation; and if she will make a statement.139W
§ Dr. Mawhinney
Advice from the Committee on Safety of Medicines—CSM—concerning the prescribing of benzodiazepines was given to doctors in "Current Problems Number 21" in January 1988, copies of the relevant pages will be placed in the Library. This strongly emphasised the dangers of dependence with benzodiazepines and advised doctors to limit their use to short-term relief—two to four weeks only—of anxiety and insomnia that is severe, disabling, or subjecting the individual to extreme distress. Similar advice is given in the "British National Formulary", which the Department issues free to all prescribing doctors twice a year.
Following the publication of the "Health of the Nation" White Paper, the "Mental Illness Key Area Handbook", published in January 1993, suggested that family health services authorities should agree with general practitioners local targets for reducing benzodiozepine prescriptions. We also intend to circulate a copy of the Mental Health Foundation's publication, "Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of benzodiazepines dependence" to all family health services authorities in the near future, copies of which will be placed in the Library. We have no plans to introduce legislation in this area.