Social Audit Ltd
P O Box 111 London NW1 8XG
Telephone/Fax 44 (0)171 586 7771
Dr J.M. Bertolote,
Mental and Behavioural Disorders
Department of Mental Health
Worl d Health Organisation/OMS
CH-1211 GENEVA 27 Switzerland 16 November 1999

Dear Dr. Bertolote,


Thank you for your letter of 28 October and for confirming that the estimate of about a 1% dependence rate with benzodiazepines is incorrect. Since estimates of the numbers dependent on benzodiazepines, in this country, amount to several hundreds of thousands of people, the error appears gross - and, as I said, the damage has been compounded because that figure has been cited widely.

You mentioned that PSA/96.11 is a limited distribution paper and I see from p. ii that reproduction is prohibited without the prior written permission of WHO. May I please ask if any companies involved in promoting the use of benzodiazepines have been granted such permission? If so, will they be advised of this error, and can steps be taken to prevent further distribution?

Your letter suggests that the error was introduced by the WPA task force, whose report provided the basis for the WHO report PSA/96.11. Unfortunately, it is not possible to check with the author you mention, who has since died, but I am trying to obtain a copy of the WPA task force report to see if this throws any light on the how the error was introduced.

I am sorry my earlier letter wrongly referred to your involvement in the WHO Programme on Substance Abuse and take it that this means you were not involved in preparation of the PSA report.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar


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