Parents of Yorkshire woman who died from prescription drug hope class C change will prevent other families suffering

Sarah Jolly died on January 4, 2018.
Sarah Jolly died on January 4, 2018.
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The parents of a Scarborough woman who died from a mixture of two prescription medications have welcomed the news that one of them has been reclassified as a class C drug.

Viv and Chris Jolly, 58 and 61, of Green Lane, Scarborough, lost their daughter Sarah aged 34 on January 4, 2018.

Chris and Viv Jolly.

Chris and Viv Jolly.

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An inquest into her death found she had toxic levels of the drugs pregabalin, used to treat epilespy and nerve pain, and haloperidol, an anti-psychotic, in her system.

Alongside pregabalin, another anti-convulsant drug, gabopentin, was reclassified as a Class C drug in October 2018 after a spike in related deaths meaning it is now an offence to have them without a prescription.

Mr and Mrs Jolly hope that the new law will prevent other deaths.

“Nothing is going to bring her back, but hopefully this can help somebody else, ” Mrs Jolly said.

The couple moved to Scarborough when Sarah, the eldest of their four children, was two-years-old.

Mr Jolly said as a child Sarah had been a ‘lovely, helpful girl’ who he remembered playing on the beach in front of their chalet, but that in secondary school she began to struggle.

The couple explained she had battled with addiction through her adult life but had been clean for 18 months prior to her death and was living in sheltered accommodation.

“She was in a positive frame of mind about the future,” Mr Jolly said, “She was on the up.”

Miss Jolly had been taking pregabalin to treat recurrent back pain for four years, despite being known to be an addict by her GP.

The fact she had been prescribed the drug, which is known to be addictive, for such a long period of time concerned her parents.

“For us it’s not the actual use of pregabalin, but that it was given long term,” Mrs Jolly said, “Probably the best question to be asked is are non-addicts being prescribed these drugs and becoming addicted to them?

“I think GPs need to be more aware about what they are prescribing and for how long.”

Mr Jolly added that he hoped the reclassification of the drug encouraged people to research what they are taking.

“I hope people want to find out more about what it is they’ve been prescribed and the side effects of it,” he said, “You never think something like this will happen to you but it could happen to anyone.

“The last time I saw her I was going to pick some Christmas presents up, it was so normal.

“I still can’t believe that was the last time.”

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Why prescription drugs have been reclassified

The government announced in October 2018 that pregabalin and gabopentin would both be reclassified as class C.

They are the first medications to be reclassified since tramadol was also made a class C drug in 2014.

Concerns over medicinal misuse and addiction were raised by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2016.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that deaths relating to the two drugs rose by almost 300% from 32 in 2013 to 127 in 2017.

The change in law means patients can still receive the medicines on prescription but there will be tighter controls in place.

Doctors now need to physically sign prescriptions rather than giving electronic copies and pharmacists must dispense the drugs within 28 days of the prescription date.

The new measures came into effect in April 2019.

It is illegal to have class C drugs without a prescription and to supply or sell them.