PHE to review prescription drug addiction

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PHE to review prescription drug addiction

The government has asked Public Health England to undertake an independent review into the growing problem of dependence and addiction to prescription drugs.

Data from NHS Digital indicates that one patient in eleven was prescribed a potentially addictive drug last year.

Public health minister Steve Brine has commissioned PHE to undertake the review along with recommendations on how to address it. The review will consider why:

  • Prescribing of addictive medicines has increased 3% over five years
  • One patient in eleven (8.9%) is prescribed one of these medicines
  • Antidepressant prescriptions in England have more than doubled in the past 10 years
  • A recent survey also found that 7.6% of adults had taken a prescription-only painkiller not prescribed for them.

PHE will assess the scale of the problem, the harms caused by dependence and withdrawal, how they may be prevented and the best way to respond. “We know this is a huge problem in other countries like the United States—and we must absolutely make sure it doesn’t become one here,’ said Mr Brine.

The review will cover benzodiazepines and z-drugs, pregabalin and gabapentin, opioid pain medicines and antidepressants. It will be a broad, public-health focused review of commonly prescribed medicines for adults who have pain (excluding pain from cancer), anxiety, insomnia or depression. The findings of the review are due in early 2019.

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