HC Deb 02 July 1968 vol 767 cc1294-6
Sir D. Renton

asked the Minister of Health whether he will include Wilson's disease among those which entitle people suffering from chronic ailments to exemption from payment of prescription charges.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Kenneth Robinson)

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to my reply on 30th April to my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) and other hon. Members.—[Vol. 763, c. 973–6.]

Sir D. Renton

Is the right hon. Gentle, man aware that this is a serious question about a tragic and chronic disease? Is he further aware that it is almost incurable? Will he bear in mind that its effect can be mitigated by regular treatment, by prescription? Would he see to it that this is an exemption?

Mr. Robinson

I have explained that the list of exemptions was the maximum upon which agreement could be reached with the medical profession. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in what he says about the disease, but I am told that it is, happily extremely rare, with less than 100 cases in the whole of the United Kingdom. I am also told that it does not require frequent prescriptions—about one a month is normal.

Dr. Winstanley

Would the right hon. Gentleman freely acknowledge that the Government are not exempting the chronic sick from these charges as they originally promised?

Mr. Robinson

The Government are exempting patients in the categories specified in the Order. As to the wider categories of patients who might be called chronic sick, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the announcement I made about future arrangements.

Sir R. Cary

On a point of order. Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is Wilson's disease?

Mr. Robinson

It is also known as hepatolenticular degeneration. [Laughter.] It is not a laughing matter. It is a very serious disease, and it is due to, or associated with, a defect of copper metabolism in the body.

36. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Minister of Health if he will issue instructions to dispensing pharmacists that any prescription which gives the patient more than two ampoules of methedrine a day shall be referred to the doctor concerned for confirmation before being given out.

Mr. K. Robinson

The Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence has been considering the general question of central nervous system stimulant drugs since its first meeting, and methedrine in particular since February. I understand that the Committee has concluded that further restriction upon its availability is desirable and is now urgently considering the best way to achieve this. I will examine the suggestion made by my hon. Friend in the light of the Committee's advice.

Mr. Pavitt

Can my right hon. Friend say why it is that there has been such an increase in the production of methedrine, when only a few years ago there was only one firm making it, and there has been no increase in the disease for which this is available?

Mr. Robinson

My hon. Friend has another Question on the Order Paper about the firms manufacturing this. These are matters which we must consider in the light of the Committee's advice.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider trying new methods of stopping an addict obtaining more than he needs from chemists, perhaps by applying more widely the methods which I understand are now being used in Birmingham?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Gentleman may like to know that after consultations with leaders of the medical profession, my Chief Medical Officer recently wrote to all general practitioners and to doctors doing appropriate work in hospitals, about the very great care needed in prescribing amphetamines generally.