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Mr. Mellor [holding answer 11 April 1989] : Since 1979 the overall trend in the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines has been downwards. We estimate that in Great Britain, 25.4 and 25.5 million prescriptions were dispensed for benzodiazepines during 1986 and 1987 respectively. These estimates are based on a sample of approximately one in 200 prescriptions dispensed by retail chemists and appliance contractors in England and Wales. For Scotland, the sample is one in 100. The difference between 1986 and 1987 figures is within sampling error and is not statistically significant.
Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his estimate of the number of people put on benzodiazepines during 1988 who have taken them for longer than the period advised by the Committee on Safety of Medicines.
Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will list all issues of the Committee on Safety of Medicines bulletin entitled "Current Problems" which have been withheld from publication after initial preparation in the last 12 months, giving the reasons in each case ;
(2) what steps he intends to take to ensure that the Committee on Safety of Medicines is able to issue advice to doctors on Bolvidon.
Mr. Mellor [holding answer 11 April 1989] : Only one article approved for issue by the Committee on Safety of Medicines was withheld from publication in this period. This article entitled "Mianserin and White Blood Cell Disorders in the Elderly" was withheld from Current Problems Bulletin No. 24 (published in January 1989) because of a High Court injunction. An article on this subject was subsequently published in Current Problems No. 25, in March 1989, and sent to all doctors. Bolvidon is referred to in this article since mianserin is its active ingredient.
Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received about auto refractors and auto optitesters being used by non-qualified optician staff ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Mellor [holding answer 11 April 1989] : We have received representations from a number of organisatons and individuals about the use of auto refractors and auto optitesters by non-qualified staff. The Opticians Act 1958 provides that sight tests using such instruments may be conducted only by a registered medical practitioner or a registered ophthalmic optician. We have no plans at present to change this requirement.
Mr. Mellor [holding answer 11 April 1989] : I would consider any application from the suppliers for the inclusion of this strip on the list of chemical reagents prescribable by general practitioners. Whether such an application would be successful would depend on the likely level of demand and the price. The strips currently prescribable meet the needs of most diabetics. Other types of strip are available through the hospital service.
Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has made to evaluate the services available within Britain for the rehabilitation of the brain-injured, including the centre for brain injury rehabilitation and development ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Mellor [holding answer 11 April 1989] : I understand that the Centre of Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Development is located in Wales and that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has provided funds for an evaluation of the centre. Officials from this Department are considering the scope for sponsoring research related to services in England for those suffering from traumatic brain injury.
Mr. Mellor [holding answer 11 April 1989] : There are two branded medicinal products containing the active ingredient mianserin ; one of these is Bolvidon. To date, the Committee on Safety of Medicines has received just over 1,700 reports of adverse reactions which may be associated with mianserin. These reports describe more than 360 separate reactions. A report of a suspected adverse drug reaction does not necessarily mean a causal relationship. The Committee carefully monitors all issues of drug safety, and where necessary, issues advice by means of their bulletin "Current Problems" to doctors, dentists and pharmacists. In the case of mianserin, "Current Problems" has drawn attention to various adverse reactions in December 1981 (No. 7), October 1982 (No. 8) April 1983 (No 10) and March (No. 25). Copies are in the Library.