Cases: Failure to advise risk of dependency on a drug

Clin Risk 2008;14:120
doi:10.1258/cr.2008.080007
© 2008 Royal Society of Medicine

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Mrs Janet Chambers v Dr I Haque and Dr I Haque (brothers in GP practice together)


Ms Caroline A Moore, Claimant’s Solicitor


Taylor & Emmet


Darryl Allen, Claimant’s Counsel


Peel Court Chambers, Manchester, UK


Mrs Chambers, who was 53 years old at the date of settlement,complained that she was prescribed a benzodiazepine, Tranxene,for a 24-year period, from November 1980 to March 2004, withoutappropriate advice about dependence upon the drug.

Tranxene was initially prescribed for anxiety causing sleepdeprivation. In November 1984, Mrs Chambers asked for the doseto be reduced to 7.5 mgs as she noted a lower dose was availablein a leaflet accompanying one of her prescriptions. In the earlyto mid-1980s, Mrs Chambers tried to withdraw from Tranxene.She was unable to do so as a result of flu-like symptoms, disturbedvision, headaches and panic attacks. Mrs Chambers said thatit was not until April 2004 that she became aware of the adverse/highdependency effects of Tranxene and the need to come off thedrug. She was subsequently referred to Dr Mora, Consultant Psychiatrist,and she registered with a different GP practice, which helpedher with the gradual withdrawal programme. Mrs Chambers wishedto claim compensation as she felt she had been numbed to lifeduring the period she was taking the drug, although it had notstopped her from functioning day-to-day and she had carriedon working. She should have had 15 years of ‘feeling betterin herself’. She had not learnt to drive as she did notconsider it safe for her to do so given that she was takingregular medication.

The case was publicly funded. Experts instructed for Mrs Chamberswere Dr Adrian Rogers, GP, and Professor Malcolm Lader, ClinicalPsychopharmacologist. A Letter of Claim was sent 22 June 2005with a pre-action offer to settle for £15,000 plus costs.The MDU asked for an extension of time to respond but then simplypassed the matter to solicitors who also took a lengthy periodof time to respond. The response denied both breach of dutyand causation. The GPs stated they had tried to persuade MrsChambers to reduce her amount of Tranxene but she had been anon-compliant patient. However, there was no mention of anysuch advice within the GP notes that just referred to repeatprescriptions of Tranxene.

There were funding difficulties with the case. Counsel’s advicewas that the claim was worth no more than £5000. Therefore,the Claimant would be unable to proceed with public fundingto issue. The Claimant’s Part 36 Offer to settle was renewed,together with an indication that the Claimant intended to reportthe GP’s conduct in prescribing the Tranxene to the GMC as amatter of misconduct. This assisted in encouraging a settlementalthough the settlement did not restrict Mrs Chambers’ rightto still report the matter to the GMC. The case was settledat £5000 plus costs. This was a global settlement. Speciallosses were £315.

Settlement was concluded after discharge of the public fundingcertificate.

General damages: £4700; January 2007; Total Award: £5000

Failure to advise Claimant on risk of dependency on a benzodiazepine,Tranxene in 1980, requiring two attempts to withdraw from themedication before successful.

Cases: Failure to advise risk of dependency on a drug
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