Zyban is an essential aid to stopping smoking: ASH calls on the Committee for the Safety of Medicine to show its support.

Wednesday 26 September 2001

For immediate release: Wednesday 26 September 2001

Zyban is an essential aid to stopping smoking: CSM should show its unequivocal support

In response to the request by Eddie Weston, whose daughter died whilst taking Zyban, for the drug to be banned, ASH called on the Committee for the Safety of Medicine to recognise the vital importance of Zyban in helping smokers to quit and urged the Committee to make a clear statement of support for its widespread use in general practice.

ASH Director Clive Bates said: “It would be completely irresponsible to ban a drug that is so effective in helping people to stop smoking and which helps prevent the heart disease, cancer and respiratory illnesses that are so often the fate of smokers.”

ASH pointed out that there has been some confusion over the reporting of adverse side effects in people using Zyban.  Zyban has been available in the USA since 1997, but because Zyban is a new drug in the UK, it is still being monitored and GPs are required to report all adverse effects among people using the product, but that does not mean that these were caused by Zyban.  Given that Zyban users are smokers, there will always be sudden deaths from heart disease or strokes that will be included in the reporting procedure but these may be due to smoking or other causes rather than to Zyban.

ASH Director, Clive Bates commented: “The risk of dying from smoking is tens of thousands of times greater than the risk from using Zyban. This drug has a minimal risk when used properly and its safety is comparable to the very widely used anti-depressant drugs.  No-one should be put off using Zyban to help them stop smoking.   More than 500,000 people in the UK have now used Zyban and over 8 million people worldwide.”

Clive Bates added: “Whilst we have deepest sympathy for Mr. Weston, his daughter was also taking other drugs known to lower the seizure threshold. As a consequence of the publicity surrounding Kerry Weston’s death, new guidance [1] has been issued to doctors and we hope that, in future, patients and doctors will take great care in the use of this drug.  It would simply compound the tragedy if people were denied using a proven drug to treat smoking, resulting in the continuation of smoking and the consequential deaths from heart disease, cancer and respiratory illnesses.”

[1]  New guidance from the Medicines Control Agency, Committee on Safety of Medicines: introduces new precautions and contraindications, identifies potentially dangerous drug interactions, and stresses that careful adherence to the existing guidance relating to seizure history is essential.  (See official guidance PDF on www.ash.org.uk/?cesstion)

Contact:  Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902 or Clive Bates  077 6879 1237 (mobile)