NHS to prescribe pill that eases smokers’ cravings

A prescription-only pill with a high success rate in helping people to quit smoking is to become available on the NHS after a decision yesterday by the government’s drugs watchdog.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence gave draft approval for the health service to provide varenicline, which is manufactured by Pfizer under the brand name Champix. Trials showed the twice-daily pill provided relief from cravings and withdrawal symptoms experienced by smokers in the weeks after quitting.

The manufacturers said it also reduced the satisfaction smokers would get from cigarettes in the event of a relapse.
During the trials, 44% of smokers had quit by the end of a 12-week course. This compared with a 30% success rate for the anti-smoking drug Zyban and 18% for smokers who were given a placebo.
The recommended 12-week course of treatment costs about £163.80.
Giving draft approval allows NHS trusts or professional bodies to register objections before a decision in July. NHS trusts would then have three months to make funding available. A spokeswoman for Nice said: “Having looked at all the evidence, our independent committee has concluded that varenicline appears to be a good way to help people who want to quit smoking.”
Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, said: “This guidance gives smokers who are serious about stopping another choice from a good range of clinically proven treatments. Smokers who combine treatments with the right support…could significantly increase their odds of successfully quitting for life.”

Source Thursday May 31, 2007 The Guardian

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