Minimum alcohol price of 50 pence per unit could lead to 100,000 fewer hospital admissions per year in UK

June 25, 2009

In a second Comment which accompanies the alcohol Series, Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians(RCP), discusses the industry friendly policies that have led to a 33-fold increase in alcohol consumption in Thailand over just 40 years.

He also discusses the recent suggestion by England's Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson to set a minimum price of 50 pence (0.5GBP) per unit, which was flatly rejected by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown--on the basis it would punish sensible, moderate drinkers due to the excesses of a small minority. Professor Gilmore says: "However, setting a minimum price of 50 pence per unit would likely increase the average weekly spend on alcohol of moderate drinkers by only 23 pence per week, but would decrease the consumption by underage and heavy drinkers by 7.3% and 10.3% respectively. The estimated benefits would be a reduction of 100,000 hospital admissions per year in England and a decade's health saving of £1.37 billion."

The RCP has recently formed the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, bringing together 25 non-governmental organisations with an interest in alcohol misuse--to agree policy priorities. Professor Gilmore says: "We need to replicate this sort of model within nations and across nations."

He concludes: "A Framework Convention on Alcohol Control seems a long way off, but it will not happen unless health professionals speak out to give our governments the courage to adopt life-saving policies that tackle price, availability, and marketing of alcohol. This Series of three remarkable articles leaves no excuse for avoiding the issues--we must speak out."
For Professor Ian Gilmore, Royal College of Physicians, please contact Linda Cuthbertson T) +44 (0) 20 7935 1174 ext.254 E)

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