The need for a systematic approach

76. We were also concerned by the evident lack of a systematic approach to determining when reviews of classifications were needed. As discussed in Chapter 4, we have been left with the impression that media responses have been influential in triggering at least one of the Home Secretary's referrals to the ACMD. It is perfectly reasonable for the Government to seek to take into account public opinion in determining its policy on classification, but in the absence of any research or empirical data on this subject, we can only assume that the Government is using the media response as a proxy. We tried to ask the Minister whether this was indeed the case, but did not find his response - "We are not driven by headlines; we are driven by what is best for the people that we seek to do our best for"— terribly illuminating.151 If the Government wishes to take into account public opinion in making its decisions about classification it should adopt a more empirical approach to assessing it. The Government's current approach is opaque and leaves itself open to the interpretation that reviews are being launched as knee-jerk responses to media storms.

77. More generally, we have identified a pressing need for both the Home Office and ACMD to institute a more systematic approach to reviewing the classification of individual drugs. We recommend that the Home Office and ACMD draw up a list of criteria to be taken into account in determining whether a review of a particular drug is required. Ministers and the ACMD would still be free to exercise their judgement in deciding when reviews should be undertaken but would do so within a more transparent framework.

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