Westminster Health Forum

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Prescribed medicines dependence - priorities for regulation, improving treatment and support, collaborative working and using data, and tackling root causes

October 2020


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***


This conference will examine priorities for tackling prescribed medicines dependence in England


Latest developments and the discussion at a glance:


  • UK regulator strengthens opioid warnings - recently announced measures on labelling and advice for patients from the MHRA as part of their review of the risks and benefits of using opioids and ways of preventing misuse and over-prescription
  • The Public Health England Prescribed medicines review - recommendations in their report on dependence and withdrawal from prescribed medicines
  • Government launches second phase of independent review into drug misuse - led by Dame Carol Black, which will consider the provision of treatment and recovery service
  • Commonly used treatments for chronic pain can do more harm than good and should not be used, says NICE in draft guidance -  which recommends that opioids and benzodiazepines should not be routinely offered because there was little or no evidence they made a difference to people’s pain or quality of life, but that there was evidence they can cause harm, including possible dependence

Delegates will discuss progress, next steps and remaining issues in acting on the recommendations from PHE and the MHRA, including those from PHE in the areas of:


  • transparency and accountability - the call for increased use of data, and making this more available
  • clinical guidance - how it can be improved for prescribed medicine dependence and withdrawal
  • shared decision making - including better enabling patients to make informed decisions based on the information available to them
  • support - improving what is on offer from across the healthcare system
  • research - particularly more on prevention and treatment

Further areas for discussion include:


  • tackling the root causes of dependence and associated health inequalities
  • prescribing behaviour and the use of data
  • developing regulatory guidelines
  • alternative treatments and service provision

The agenda:


  • Priorities for addressing prescribed medicines dependence
  • Working collaboratively on prescribed medicines dependence and taking forward recommendations
  • Supporting the appropriate use of prescribed medicines, and identifying risk earlier
  • Utilising data to monitor local prescribing data
  • Effective patient support and tackling root causes of dependence - deprivation and health inequalities, developing clinical guidelines, supporting informed decisions, and the impact of COVID-19
  • Developing a regulatory framework to support appropriate opioid medicine use
  • Lessons from the management and mismanagement of prescription medication and addiction in other countries
  • Treating dependence and improving service provision - commissioning, funding, access to alternative treatments, and research priorities

The discussion in detail:


  • Implementing recommendations and the impact of COVID-19:
    • priorities for addressing prescribed medicines dependence
    • implementing improvements in the key areas identified in the PHE review - on transparency, accountability, improving support, clinical guidance, shared decision-making, and research priorities
    • raising awareness of prescribed medicines dependence - strategies for improving engagement with patients, the health workforce and the general public
    • leadership - what is required to implement recommendations at local health system level
    • the impact of COVID-19 on prescribed medicines dependence, with:
      • increased pressure on mental health and anxiety
      • delay to operations
      • changes to care delivery practices such as an increase in the use of telemedicine
  • Assessing the root causes of dependence:
    • examining the impact of health inequalities, with the review finding that dependence on prescription medicines is linked to deprivation
    • increasing public awareness of both the risks and benefits of medications
  • Addressing overprescribing and utilising data:
    • utilising data to provide insight into prescribing behaviour in local areas
    • providing effective support to patients - as well as developing guidelines for appropriate use of prescribed medicines, and supporting the workforce in following them
    • improving engagement with psychologists, counsellors and therapists and ensuring that patients can make informed decisions, including around withdrawal symptoms and support services
  •  The regulatory framework:
    • how regulatory guidelines can be developed to minimise the risk of dependence and addiction
    • whether regulation should be extended to additional classes of medicines.
    • communicating the risks of opioid medicines to both healthcare professionals and patients, and the options available for non-cancer patients
    • the role of labelling on opioid packaging, and making clear the medicine can be addictive, as well as considering best practice
  •  Treatment and research:
    • provision of services to treat dependence, including priorities for funding and the commissioning of services to improve the local support available
    • the role of social prescribing schemes and talking therapies in treating dependence, including:
      • how these can be scaled up in their use for dependence
      • ways of increasing the availability of alternative treatments on offer
    • research priorities for prescribed medicines dependence - looking at prevention, treatment, supporting those at risk, and managing withdrawal
    • what can be learned from Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs misuse that can be fed back into treating prescribed medicine dependence

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department of Health and Social Care; the Department of Health, Ireland; and the NIBSC/MHRA.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles