Pharmacists could do more to provide support for patients suffering from prescription drug dependence (PDD) in Wales, a report has suggested.

The report, published last week (21 March), was a response from the Welsh National Assembly’s petitions committee to a petition set up by a patient suffering from PDD that garnered 213 signatures between August and December 2017.

The petition called on the Welsh Government to join the British Medical Association’s (BMA) UK-wide campaign to provide support for those ‘affected and harmed’ by dependence on prescribed antidepressants and benzodiazepines specifically.

One of the recommendations outlined in the report was to make more use of professionals such as pharmacists to give advice to patients.

The report said: ‘NHS Wales should make better use of the expertise of pharmacists to support evidence-based prescribing, patient monitoring including regular patient reviews and increased provision of help with tapering and withdrawing from medication.’


Targeted services


Petitioner Stevie Lewis raised concerns about ‘an absence of formal consistent advice on drug tapering’, including a lack of available or appropriate services to support dependence or withdrawal across Wales.

Chair of the Petitions Committee Janet Finch-Saunders said: ‘What is clear is that we need to do more to improve the support and information that is available to people who are prescribed these medications.’

She added that the committee had heard evidence of good dependence services operating in parts of Wales and recommended that these be replicated elsewhere.

According to the report, Cwm Taf University Health Board (UHB) described medication review clinics and a ‘tailored support programme’ delivered by pharmacists and community mental health practitioners.

Aneurin Bevan UHB told the committee discussions were taking place to develop further support from community pharmacy after a ‘successful benzodiazepine withdrawal service’ was established by a practice pharmacist.


Sector welcomes report


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Wales welcomed the calls for a greater role for pharmacists in tackling PDD.

RPS director for Wales Mair Davies said: ‘We have been concerned about the growing problem of dependency from prescribed medications for some time and fully support the publication of the Petitions Committee report calling for better use of pharmacists in the withdrawal of medicines when dependency is a problem.

‘We look forward to hearing the Minister for Health’s response to the recommendations in due course and supporting the Welsh Government in the development of any future plans to increase patient safety and improve the lives of Welsh patients in this important area.’

Following the RPS’ evidence to the committee, the report also recommended the Government issues guidance that ‘antidepressants should not be routinely prescribed for mild depression’ and ensures alternative treatment options are available across the country.

The report also recommends that the Government ensures guidance is produced for the safe tapering of prescription medications.

NICE guidelines for the treatment and management of adult depression are being reviewed and a new version is expected in February 2020.