Victory for Mail as NHS opioid prescriptions are slashed by 500,000
THE NHS has slashed annual opioid prescriptions by nearly half a million following a campaign to cut the use of addictive drugs.
Prescriptions for opioids fell from 5.68 million to 5.23 million between 2019/20 and the year ending November 2022, according to NHS England figures.
GPs and pharmacists also slashed benzodiazepine prescriptions by 170,000, from 1.25 million to 1.08 million, while sleeping pill prescriptions dropped by almost 93,000 – from 906,164 to 813,285. But worryingly, antidepressant use continues to soar, with almost 8.5 million dished out last year – up from 7.8 million in 2020.
In a victory for the Daily Mail, the NHS is launching a plan aimed at further reducing the inappropriate prescribing of painkillers and other addictive drugs.
The new guidelines are designed to support GPs and pharmacists in giving patients regular personalised reviews of their medicines. It calls on them to work with patients to see if a change in treatment was appropriate, such as moving them away from drugs.
But campaigners warned it will likely take ‘months or perhaps years’ for new services to be implemented, and repeated calls for a national 24-hour helpline.
‘Struggle with withdrawal’
Only this will ‘save lives, reduce suffering and bring down the unnecessary costs to the public purse’, they said.
The Mail has been campaigning for greater recognition of the prescription drugs addiction crisis since March 2017.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, of NHS England, said: ‘We know that patients who require prescriptions for potentially addictive drugs can become dependent and struggle with withdrawal, and this action plan helps NHS services to continue positive work in this space.’