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Tranquiliser Drugs

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the guidelines issued by his Department in prescribing tranquiliser drugs. [117578]

The CSM (Committee on the Safety of Medicines) issued advice in 1980 on the use of benzodiazepines for short-term (two to four weeks) relief of severe anxiety. The CSM said that the use of benzodiazepines to treat short-term 'mild' anxiety was inappropriate and that benzodiazepines should be used to treat insomnia only when it is severe, disabling, or subjecting the individual to extreme distress.In 1994. the Department of Health issued copies of "Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Benzodiazepine Dependence", published by the Mental Health Foundation, to all health authorities and recommended their use by general practitioners. "Drug Misuse and Dependence—Guidelines on Clinical Management" was then issued in 1999. The British National Formulary (BNF), updated twice yearly, is issued free to all doctors, and gives guidance on the prescription of benzodiazepine drugs as well as management of benzodiazepine dependence.This guidance has led to an overall reduction in prescribing of these drugs and the attendant dependence problems.The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has started work on the development of a clinical guideline on the management of anxiety. This will cover both drug and non-drug (psychological) treatments.