HC Deb 24 November 1958 vol 596 cc13-5
26 and 27. Mrs. Slater

asked the Minister of Health (1) if his attention has been drawn to the article "Addiction to Unrestricted Drugs", a copy of which has been sent to him, in the British Medical Journal, 18th October; and what action he proposes to take on the problems raised;

(2) if any further consideration has been given to the restricting of carbromal drugs.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have invited the Interdepartmental Committee on Drug Addiction to consider and advise us upon the problem of preparations, including carbromal preparations, which are outside the scope of the Dangerous Drugs Act but which may be liable to produce addiction or to be habit-forming. The Committee has not yet concluded its consideration of this question.

Mrs. Slater

Whilst thanking the Minister for the action which has already been taken, may I ask whether he is not aware that this is a responsible article which gives case histories of people who have been affected by these drugs? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman speed consideration by the Committee which is studying these drugs and also speed some action to place them on the poisons list so that we can protect people from the present large sale of these drugs?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Certainly this is a responsible article, but it does not add to the information which is already before the Committee: and that Committee is proceeding as rapidly as its wide duties will permit. Making a drug a poison is a matter for consideration by the Poisons Board which makes its recommendations to the Home Secretary.

Dr. Summerskill

Whilst welcoming the Minister's statement, may I ask whether he would not consider enlarging the Committee's terms of reference with a view to improving the machinery devised to examine the various products which are coming on the market now? Surely the machinery is not adequate to cope with the increasing number of products now being put out by the proprietary houses?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The right hon. Lady will appreciate that the terms of reference are already wide, in that they require the Committee to consider whether any advice that it gives on narcotic drugs should extend to other drugs which are liable to produce addiction or be habit-forming. The two drugs, carbromal and bromvaletone, were specifically referred to the Committee, but, of course, the Committee's consideration is not limited to them.

Mr. Hastings

In considering this matter, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman carefully keep in mind the possible danger to patients of unnecessarily restricting the freedom of action of medical practitioners?

Mr. Walker-Smith

That is another consideration. As the hon. Member knows, guidance is given, I think acceptably, to the medical profession in these matters.