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AM calls for probe into rising use of diazepam.

A POLITICIAN has called on the Assembly Government to investigate a rise in the cost of prescribing benzodiazepines.

Jonathan Morgan, Conservative AM for Cardiff North, has raised concerns that more people are being prescribed the drugs, which include diazepam, for depression and anxiety.

But the drugs have been shown to only mask the symptoms and have been linked to problems of dependency.

Figures obtained by the Conservatives revealed Wales spent pounds 3.8m on benzodiazepines including diazepam in 2009 - up from pounds 2m in 2000.

The figures show diazepam costs have risen by 40% and the cost of other benzodiazepine medicines, like temazepam, has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

But the figures also show there has been a reduction in the cost of the drugs between 2007 and 2009.

The figures for England reveal a similar trend.

Mr Morgan said: "I know in England there have been widespread concerns about GP practices in terms of repeat prescribing of benzodiazepines.

The cost to the NHS in England last year alone was pounds 55m - an increase of 130% from levels in 2000.

"My worry about this sharp increase is not simply financial.

"These figures are troubling because they suggest that more and more people in Wales are being prescribed these drugs which have been shown only to mask, not treat, the symptoms of anxiety and depression. "The fact is that these medicines should only be prescribed and used over short periods of time to treat severe anxiety and depression.

"There is clear clinical evidence to prove that if taken over a long period of time, they become highly addictive and can create unpleasant side-effects, not least psychological dependence and increased anxiety. "While I am confident the majority of doctors are prescribing appropriately, the sheer rise in the cost of prescriptions suggests that there are many people remaining on these medicines for longer than they should be.

"We already know that more than 1.5m people are addicted to benzodiazepines right across the UK.

"I believe the Assembly Government needs to explore the reasons behind this increase as a matter of urgency."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Nov 15, 2010
Words:352
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