New anti-smoking drug available on the NHS

Sunday 11 June 2000

102 Clifton Street,London EC2A 4HW Tel: (020) 7739 5902 Fax: (020) 7613 0531

Press Release
11th June 2000
Action on Smoking
and Health

(Response to Zyban anti-smoking drug announcement)

New anti-smoking drug to be available on the NHS

Commenting on reports [*] that the new stop-smoking drug ‘Zyban’ would be made available through the NHS on ordinary (publicly funded) prescriptions, Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“By using these anti-smoking products to deal with the addiction to tobacco, you are effectively treating in advance all the various illness that smoking eventually causes.  This is new thinking and important in the modernisation of the NHS – if you deal with the causes rather than wait for the consequences of smoking, you can save a lot of money and avoid a lot of misery and ill health.”

“Milburn seems to want to run with the prevention philosophy for treating smoking through the NHS, and all the medical and economic evidence backs that approach.”

“Zyban works by de-sensitising the brain’s nicotine receptors and has performed very well in trials.  For a lot of smokers it offers a real hope that they will finally overcome their addiction to cigarettes.”

“The great thing about making products like this available on prescription is that general practitioners can now involve themselves much more closely in their patients’ efforts to quit smoking.  Every doctor knows that just about the best all round health improvement comes from quitting smoking.”

“This is also good news for the makers of nicotine patches.  If the NHS is going to supply Zyban, then it can hardly blacklist the nicotine products, which are also proven and highly cost effective.  We are hoping this signals that nicotine products will also be available on the NHS”

Note: [*] This appears to have originated as a lobby briefing to selected Sunday journalists (e.g. See The Observer 11 June page 6 – Smokers get wonderdrug on the NHS). Zyban is manufactured by Glaxo-Wellcome.  It received marketing approval for the UK last week and will be launched by Glaxo Wellcome in the week commencing 19th June.  The Government has yet to formally declare whether Zyban will be made available on NHS ‘reimbursable’prescription (ie. publicly funded). The Government is also considering whether to blacklist all nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products – currently only those products announced before 1997 are blacklisted (i.e. not publicly funded).  Smoking costs the NHS £1.7billion per year, and expenditure on smoking cessation is one of the most cost-effective health interventions known – whether measured in avoided healthcare costs or life-years gained per pound spent.


Contact Clive Bates, ASH (020) 7739 5902

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