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Barbiturate Drugs

Volume 645: debated on Monday 24 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Health what steps are taken to warn persons for whom barbiturate drugs are prescribed that it is dangerous to consume alcohol within a short time of the taking of such drugs.

This is a matter for the doctor, who is reminded in both the British National Formulary and the Comprehensive Handbook on Prescribing of the need to warn the patient.

Does my hon. Friend recall that in an Answer which she gave me on 17th April it was shown that the number of deaths which had been caused by a combination of alcohol and bibiturate drugs was twice as great in 1960 as in 1959? Will she, therefore, consider, in addition to the instructions sent to practitioners, issuing regulations to dispensers which would require them to use a label for the containers of all barbiturate drugs, warning the person concerned of the dangers?

The figures which I gave my hon. and gallant Friend on the previous occasion reflect not necessarily an increase in this type of case but an increase in the awareness of coroners. I am sure that the right person to issue the warning is the doctor who prescribes the barbiturates. Nevertheless, there has been publicity in the national Press, and I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend's Question today will add to the public knowledge of the risk of taking the two things together.