Medicine Safety

At the Lawson Practice, ensuring the safety and effectiveness of your medication is paramount to us. Our commitment has driven us to enhance our prescribing team, ensuring you receive the highest standard of care.

We recognize the challenges and risks associated with Dependence Forming Medications (DFMs), such as opioids and benzodiazepines. These include risks of respiratory issues, falls, and the development of tolerance or dependence, especially considering their limited benefits for conditions like chronic pain. Recognising these concerns, especially as our patients age and become more susceptible to side effects, it's crucial to evaluate the necessity and safety of these medications.

To better support our patients and address these concerns, we're proud to introduce a new initiative - the Medicine Safety Clinic (MSC), led by Dr. Shabana Rauf. This clinic is designed to provide focused care and support for patients on DFMs, facilitating safe and personalised plans for reducing or stopping these medications where appropriate.

The MSC will offer both 30-minute and 15-minute appointments every month, focusing first on those at the highest risk. Our approach includes creating tailored weaning plans, closely monitored and managed by our dedicated pharmacy team, including Alison, our pharmacist. This ensures a safe and controlled process, minimising risks and supporting your health and well-being.

We encourage you to discuss your medications openly and consider whether a referral to the MSC could benefit you. Our team is here to support you through every step of this journey, ensuring your treatment plan is safe, effective, and aligned with current best practices.

Your health and safety are our top priorities, and we're committed to working closely with you to achieve the best possible outcomes. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to discuss your medications and care.

The Clinic

The Medicines Safety Clinic (MSC) has been set up at the Lawson practice to ensure safe prescribing for our patients. As good practice, we carry out ongoing medication reviews for patients. However, we prioritise addressing prescriptions that could be harmful to patients and are no longer in line with recommended guidelines.

We know that there is overwhelming evidence to show that high-risk drugs (such as the ones listed below) are causing more harm than good to our patients. Many recognised bodies such as NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and Public Health England have highlighted this over the last few years.

What Medications Are Classed As High Risk or DFM?

What These Medications Need To Be Reviewed

Evidence-based medicine: Opioids have a very limited role in the management of chronic pain. The harms of opioids are well documented and include tolerance and dependence. People taking prescribed opioids are at risk of increased mortality from all causes.

A review undertaken by Public Health England found that opioids for chronic non-cancer pain are known to be ineffective for most people when used long-term (over 3 months), while benzodiazepines are not recommended to be used for longer than 28 days. People who had experienced problems with prescription medicines also reported that they felt uninformed before they started them and unsupported when they experienced problems (1).

Gabapentinoid prescribing prevalence has increased from 0.21 to 2.1% of the UK population between 2000 and 2017. 50% of new prescribing is now off-label for which there is no evidence of benefit. There is evidence of harm (respiratory depression and death) caused gabapentinoids- on their own and more so in combination with opioids. The exact mechanism of increase in death rate is thought to be more than simple synergy. Similar arguments exist for benzodiazepines and z drugs. With chronic use, they are limited in how much they help, and they do more harm than good. For a long time, we have relied on medicines being the answer in the absence of alternative or better options. They are not the solutions they promised to be.

Over the past 10-15 years it has become clear that many drugs we have used previously such as opiates and gabapentinoids are not the safe and effective treatment for chronic non-cancer pain that was first thought. The message in the 1990s was that any pain could be treated with opioids, provided the dose was high enough and the presence of pain protected against the development of addiction. Conversely, there is now a better appreciation of the risks, including dependence and opioid-related mortality.

Side Effects of Long-Term Opioids

Benzodiazepines are a group of medicines prescribed for anxiety, sleeping problems (insomnia) and other disorders. Z-drugs act in a similar way to benzodiazepines and are sometimes prescribed for short term insomnia. Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs should only be taken for a short period of time (2 to 4 weeks maximum). If taken for longer than a few weeks problems and side effects can occur. 

Such side effects include:

Benefits of Reducing