HL Deb 17 October 1995 vol 566 cc663-4

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they accept that the sleeping pill Temazepam can become dangerous when combined with alcohol and other substances; and whether they have any further plans to reclassify the drug.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege)

My Lords, my right honourable friends the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland announced on 12th September that Temazepam will be reclassified and in future it will be a criminal offence to possess the drug without authority. Pharmacies will be required to store the drug more securely and licences will be required for exports and imports. Today my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health will be announcing that GPs are to he banned from prescribing Temazepam capsules on the NHS.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her welcome reply. Can she confirm that possession of the drug without a prescription will he treated severely? Also, is my noble friend aware, following her last statement, that GPs in the areas where misuse of this drug has been most prevalent are reported to be in favour of a complete ban because of the numbers of deaths connected with it?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the Government take illegal possession of any drug extremely seriously. As this drug has been reclassified, normal sanctions will be taken against those who are in possession of it without a prescription.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in Glasgow, which I recently visited, the melting down and injecting of jellified Temazepam blocks the veins and causes terrible problems which result in amputation and death? Glasgow would like to see the jellified version banned altogether.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, we share the anxieties of the noble Baroness. That is why from today the jellified form—that is, the capsules—will be banned.

Lord Rea

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that although National Health Service practitioners are banned from prescribing the jellified form of Temazepam, private practitioners are not proscribed from prescribing? Perhaps the noble Baroness will give her comments on that point.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, from today it will be illegal to prescribe in any form, privately or on the NHS, the capsule form of Temazepam.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one doctor said of this dangerous mixture, "It makes you feel fearless; it disinhibits violence and it diminishes anxiety; your brain no longer functions and you do foolish things"? Should there not be in future compulsory testing for this drug of those attending all the party conferences?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, I think some of us on the Front Bench could do with a shot of Temazepam occasionally.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, while accepting that the Government are trying to control Temazepam through the supply of the drug, can the Minister assure us that the Government will take equally positive action to try to reduce the demand particularly among teenagers where it is becoming rife?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, Temazepam in its tablet form and in what is described as an "elixir" form—that is, a liquid form—is one of the most commonly prescribed sleeping aids for all age groups. We shall be issuing guidance shortly to the professions, particularly GPs, on general Benzodiazepine prescribing. We are convinced that in some cases it is inappropriate.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, what advice can my noble friend give to those patients who have Temazepam, unused for a number of months, still at the back of the medicine cabinet?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, they should return it to the chemist.

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