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Drugs: Misuse

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which classes of prescription and over-the-counter products are classified by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as having the greatest potential for patients to become physically dependent on or addicted to them. (166605)

Medicines which are known to have significant potential for physical dependence and addiction, and which may be abused or diverted, are designated as controlled drugs and come within the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) continuously monitors the safety of all medicines in the United Kingdom, including concerns about dependence and addiction, and, where necessary, takes suitable action to safeguard public health. The MHRA does not classify medicines by their potential for causing physical dependence or addiction.

As new evidence comes to light, the MHRA seeks advice on safety issues from its independent scientific advisory group—the Commission on Human Medicines. If action is needed, following an assessment of the risks and benefits of the medicine, then a number of regulatory options are available, including: withdrawal of a product from the market; and, amending the labelling and patient information leaflet.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average age of patients is in his Department’s three-centre pilot into the use of diamorphine to treat heroin addiction; what the (a) shortest, (b) longest and (c) average length of their heroin addiction was; what total length of time each had spent in prison before the programme began; what the average length of their sentences had been; how many court appearances each had had; on how many occasions each member of the pilot group had been admitted to hospital for (i) overdose through accident and emergency and (ii) for patient stays linked to their drug use; and what the estimated number of acquisitive crimes committed by this group was (A) in total and (B) on average before the pilot. (167096)

The National Addiction Centre is currently undertaking the Randomised Injectable Opiate Treatment Trial, which is examining injectable diamorphine, injectable methadone and oral methadone treatments in a randomised controlled trial.

The trial, although supported by the Government, is an independent study following strict research governance protocols. The information requested will not therefore be available prior to the publication of the research findings.