National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
NRAS

Legislative update: drug driving

Buried within the new Crime and Courts Bill is a section on drug driving that could have a significant, unforeseen impact on patients with RA that are taking long-term medication to manage their chronic pain. As a result, NRAS is now starting to lobby for improvements to the Bill. The new legislation will be applicable to England, Scotland and Wales.

The Government is considering introducing a specific offence of driving under the influence of drugs. The legislation is designed to tackle those who put people at risk while driving under the influence of illegal drugs by introducing new testing systems, and eventually road side testing, for drugs. In a similar manner to drink driving laws, this would identify if a driver was over a threshold limit for a drug that would mean that they are unfit to drive. These threshold limits and the more detailed parts of the legislation have yet to be decided but there could be unintended consequences for people with RA unless further safeguards are put in place.

Our fear is that patients with RA who are on a stable dose of prescribed medication may be mistakenly identified by the new testing system as driving under the influence of drugs when in reality they are driving safely and unimpaired. In extreme cases this could lead to innocent RA patients being liable to prosecution.

The good news is that the Bill does at least make a statutory defence available for drivers who have taken a specified controlled drug in accordance with medical advice. However, we remain concerned about the consequences arising from the wording of the Bill, as the defence would not become available until a patient has already been put under the stress of arrest, further testing and their case has gone to the courts. In addition it appears that the burden of proof rests with the patient to show they took the prescribed drug in accordance with any and all instructions which could be onerous for the patient to prove.

This is clearly unsatisfactory and NRAS is therefore calling for the inclusion of an exemption for patients taking prescription medication in the new legislation. NRAS is now starting to work with other groups on this to engage with Government and try to ensure that our members and other innocent patients are not negatively impacted on by this proposed legislation.

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8 replies

    Georje
    Georje

    I know this is at it's early state, but could we not carry approved cards stating the particular illness(s) that we have. I know this site is for RA and I have PsA, that is why I state illness rather than medication. If the card was government orientated that way the Police would know we would be exempt from this process. Ok it would be yet another card to carry around but if it were to safeguard us then I don't think we would mind.

    TildaT
    TildaT

    I'm not clear about what tests the police would be authorised to take if this new bill is passed? Surely they couldn't take blood without the consent of the driver? I suppose it could be argued that having a chronic illness and taking medication doesn't necessarily mean that we won't also be taking illegal drugs but I think a card which states our illness and medication would be helpful. I often wonder why we don't have to carry this in case we are in an accident so any medics treating us would have this information available to them with drugs such as Methotrexate?

    beth48
    beth48

    I was given a ( care card ) which states that i am on MTX to let medics know if involved in an accident .It's the same sort of card that diabetics carry.

    Beth 48

    PJ68
    PJ68

    Yeah I have a steroid card, a methoject card and a cimzia card - I also carry a full list of all my meds, but a universal card designed for each patient would be great - dosages change, but a general info card for the meds taken would be useful - mind you I dont know what would happen if you had to change a med, add one or remove one - its a tricky one!

    beth48
    beth48

    My card has my consultants phone number on, so i have added my hospital no. for quick computer access to my hospital records,just thought it might be helpful !!

    Virge
    Virge

    Hello PJ68 where did you get your methoject card from? I currently inject 20mg weekly and am very aware that it is in my system but was told there was no card to carry. Please see my reply below. Thanks, Virge

    Virge
    Virge

    Hi, I have the obligitory steroids card but when I asked about a cytotoxic card for MTX I was told there wasn't one. When I had MTX (in massive dosages) for non-hodgkins lymphoma cancer I definitely had a warning card for MTX. I do carry a MedicAlert card in my purse, but as so much info re drugs etc is on a small card I am not too sure if I would rely on it if I was unconscious. Presumably they are mainly concerned with the morphine patches and/or tramadol users. I must also admit that when I have been 'blue lighted' into A&E for emergency treatment ...... no one has gone through my purse, even when it is evident that i can't breath let alone speak due to angio-odeama!

    Virge

    Beth58
    Beth58

    Quite a lot of medications warn not to drive if dizzy or unusually tired so surely a simple blood test would be no good as what impairs one doesn't impair another. I know when I'm taking full dosage of painkillers I DO NOT drive as my functioning is impaired, which is why I try not to take the stronger meds during the day.

    I'm guessing some sort of functioning roadside test as in the USA would be more applicable for use of drugs, which if you failed arrest followed by blood test would follow.

    Beth

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