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Tuesday 25th October 2016

NHS approve pill to help smokers

30th May 2007

A non-nicotine pill, available by prescription, has been given draft approval for NHS use in order to help smokers beat the habit.


Varenicline (Champix), made by Pfizer, was given a licence in the UK last year. Research indicates that almost half of the people who took the drug over a 12-week course stopped smoking within three months.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued the draft approval and indicated that varenicline should usually be prescribed along with counselling. Final approval is expected in July, when England's smoking ban starts.

A spokeswoman for NICE said: "Having looked at all the evidence, our independent committee have concluded that varenicline appears to be a good way to help people who want to quit smoking."

She said that if support or counselling were not available "this should not stop smokers receiving treatment with varenicline."

The pill induces a stimulating and blocking effect on specific receptors in the brain. It can decrease cravings by imitating nicotine's effects. In addition, it simultaneously prevents nicotine from attaching to receptors in the brain, provoking a fainter response in those smokers who are tempted to have a cigarette.

Amanda Sanford, spokesperson for ASH, said the NICE guidance would prompt PCTs to provide the drug as an alternative to nicotine replacement therapy.

"It's important smokers are offered a choice as some people have tried nicotine replacement therapy and been unsuccessful," she said.

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