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‘Mother’s little helper’ no more

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Supplies of the mild tranquiliser made famous by the Rolling Stones as ‘mother’s little helper’ are drying up.

Pharmaceutical giant Roche has announced that, after being on pharmacy shelves for more than four decades, it has discontinued the supply of Valium (diazepam) in Australia, citing intense competition from generics.

The company said all its two and five milligram stocks of the drug were depleted and were no longer available.

“The decision has been made based on the number of generic diazepam alternative available,” Roche’s Group Brand Manager – BioTherapeutics, Paula Napier, said in a statement.

The discontinuation of Valium marks the closure of an important chapter in the treatment of anxiety, as well as a major driving force in Roche’s development as a major pharmaceutical manufacturer.

During the 1960s benzodiazepines gained rapidly in popularity because they were far more effective, and much safer, alternative to the barbiturates then in widespread use.

Diazepam became the top-selling drug in the United States during the 1970s, with sales peaking at 2.3 billion tablets in 1978. Its success underpinned Roche’s emergence as a global drug manufacturer.

Ms Napier said Roche had axed supplies of Valium to free up resources for other areas of research.

“Roche is committed to the research and development of new treatments, particularly in therapy areas of significant unmet medical need,” she said. “As a consequence, we regularly review our portfolio to ensure our investment is prioritised into these areas.”

Adrian Rollins