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Ministry Of Health

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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Habit-Forming Drugs


asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to promote research into prescribing patterns with particular reference to habit-forming drugs such as the amphetamines and phenmetrazine, as suggested by the Brain Committee on Drug Addiction.

I have asked the Standing Committee on Operational Research in the Pharmaceutical Services to advise me on this.

Is the Minister aware that his reply is very satisfactory in view of the fact that these drugs now constitute about 2½ per cent. of the total prescriptions, that they are addiction-forming drugs and may lead to serious psychosis? Is he further aware that there is a view that the Brain Committee took a rather too complacent attitude about the dangers of drug addiction in this country, and will he keep a close watch on the situation?

I do not like to express an opinion on the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, but I think this a natural extension of the work of the Standing Committee on Operational Research in the Pharmaceutical Services.



asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that his advice to pharmacists with regard to prescribed items with a retail price of less than 2s. is in conflict with their professional duty neither to alter a doctor's prescription nor to discuss it with the customer; what discussions he has had with representatives of the profession on this matter; and how he proposes that the conflict should be resolved.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No". The remainder therefore does not arise.

Is the Minister aware that a very large number of pharmacists think that they are in conflict with their professional duties in following his advice and that they believe it is not within their power to alter a doctor's prescription or even to discuss the contents of them with patients? Is he satisfied that the present arrangements are ensuring that patients do not pay 2s. for drugs which they could get for half that price across the counter?

Nothing I have said requires or involves the alteration of prescriptions or their discussion with patients. As the arrangements are only a continuation of what has been in force for nine years, I do not think that they can involve any difficulty for the profession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the gap between himself and the pharmaceutical organisation has now become extremely narrow? Will he do his utmost to see whether it can be bridged in the very near future as a matter of urgency?

Yes. My officials and I myself have been in touch with representatives of the profession throughout. I have found these contacts valuable and I hope that they have.

Is the Minister aware that his answers reveal an admission on his part that there is some difficulty in this matter, otherwise there would not be the gap referred to by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead)? Does not the Minister appreciate that in a number of cases people are required to pay 2s. under the National Health Scheme for articles which do not cost as much?

No. This is simply a question of continuing arrangements with the 2s. charge which have hitherto been in force on 1s. charges.

Orange Juice Supplies, Willesden


asked the Minister of Health what was the last date on which it was possible to buy orange juice at the old price at St. Martins Hall Clinic, Purves Road, N.W.10.

30th May, 1961.

Is the hon. Lady aware that many mothers went prior to 1st June to get their orange juice but could not get it because of the failure of the Ministry to have supplies available, and so they were penalised? Is he aware that these mothers were informed that if they called on the following day supplies would be available at the old price? Is she aware that this order was countermanded? Who countermanded the order and why? How mean can a Ministry get which asks for the last 5d. on a bottle of orange juice from expectant mothers?

This clinic is not normally open on Wednesdays, which would have been the following day. In fact, supplies ran short on Tuesday, which is the date I have given—30th May—and latecomers were unable to procure their orange juice. There was a considerable demand for orange juice in the last few days of May, but in this respect mothers could have gone to two other centres within a mile or a mile and a half of the clinic in Purves Road.

Is the hon. Lady aware that my constituents were not informed of that fact? Is she aware that they were told that if they came back, as they had made the journey before the due date, they were entitled to receive it at the old price, but the Ministry failed to supply it?

Ferrous Sulphate Tablets


asked the Minister of Health to what extent there has been any marked decrease since 1st March, 1961, in the number of ferrous sulphate tablets dispensed to ante-natal clinic patients attending hospitals in the northwest metropolitan region.

Complete information is not available, but I understand that at some clinics the use of these tablets has been, or is being, discontinued.

Is the hon. Lady aware that one of the most frequent prescriptions which is dispensed is for eighty-four of these tablets, which is a prophylaxis against anaemia and, as a consequence, mothers are not aware of the medical desirability of this service? Is she aware that a thousand tablets cost 2s. and that by retailing eighty-four for 2s. a sum of 22s. is made on every 2s.-worth sold? Is not that profiteering?

The hon. Gentleman must have been misinformed, because 100 of these tablets would retail at 1s. 9½d. Though in the case of hospitals they cannot do other than make the standard charge of 2s., there is no reason why doctors should not advise patients to obtain the tablets privately.

Is the hon. Lady aware that hospitals purchase these tablets in prepacked cartons of a thousand for 2s.?