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Opiates: Prescriptions

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 4714, tabled on 17 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he (a) is taking and (b) plans to take to tackle the over-prescription of opioids by GPs in deprived areas.

Answered on

30 January 2020

Guidance on opioid dependence is published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and was refreshed in July 2019. NICE is leading the development of new guidelines for safe prescribing of drugs associated with dependence. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) reviews how healthcare providers are using NICE guidelines and quality standards to prescribe safely.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care introduced prominent addiction warnings for all opioid medicines in 2019. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is seeking voluntary compliance from industry and, if necessary, the changes will be mandated. Packs including the warnings on product labelling began to be seen by patients in late 2019.

In September 2019 Public Health England published an evidence review of medicines associated with dependence or withdrawal. Alongside ongoing improvements to medicines safety and the use of prescribed drugs, NHS England and national partners are developing actions to reduce prescription medicine dependency.

A national review of overprescribing in the National Health Service is being led by Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Keith Ridge and will be published in 2020. The review is looking at patients taking multiple medicines unnecessarily, the role of digital technologies in reducing overprescribing, and the increased role for alternatives to prescribing and other forms of care.

The UK Commission on Human Medicines Opioid expert working group is a comprehensive independent scientific review that will make recommendations this year about further regulatory action and information for clinicians and patients.

Answered by

Department of Health and Social Care