GPs back NHS use of stop-smoking drug

GPs have welcomed recommendations for the smoking cessation drug varenicline (Champix) to be made available on the NHS.

A draft single technology ap-praisal issued by NICE last week advised that varenicline should normally be provided with counselling and support, but that GPs could give it to patients when these services were unavailable.

Varenicline was licensed by the European Medicines Agency last September.

Research has shown that the partial nicotine agonist is superior to bupropion (Zyban) or placebo.

Each 12-week course of the drug is estimated to cost £163.80.

Chairman of the General Practice Airways Group Dr Steve Holmes said: 'It is pleasing that NICE has approved this drug. I believe PCTs will be able to fund it because it will be used instead of patches and Zyban.

It is also cost-effective, because NICE has found it is more effective, meaning patients would not need repeated courses.'

Smoking will be banned in all enclosed public spaces and workplaces in England from 1 July. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have already imposed similar bans.

Dr Alex Bobak, chairman of the Smoking Cessation in Primary Care group, said people who wanted to quit smoking should be talked through all the therapy options.

'I don't think GPs are necessarily the people to do all those discussions,' he said. 'In an ideal world, patients should see a stop-smoking adviser for support.'

However, GPs should be on hand to make prescribing treat-ments 'as easy as possible', added Dr Bobak.

The final technology appraisal document on varenicline is due to be issued in July.

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