The number of prescriptions issued for drugs aimed at helping smokers quit their habit fell by 75 percent in England during the past decade, according to a story in The Guardian published ahead of the release of a new report.
The report, based on an analysis of NHS prescribing data, was due to be published by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) under the name Less Help to Quit: What’s happening to stop-smoking prescriptions across Britain.
General Practitioners were said by the Guardian to be the most common first port of call for smokers who wanted to beat their addiction in England, with 38 percent of them choosing this route.
However, primary care prescriptions of nicotine replacement patches and gum and the smoking-cessation drugs bupropion and varenicline had fallen by three-quarters in England between 2005-06 and 2016-17.
The report is said to indicate also wide regional variations in the prescribing of such products across Great Britain.
In Scotland, there was said to have been a 40 percent drop in prescriptions for stop-smoking drugs, while in Wales prescription rates had fallen by two-thirds.
The drop in prescriptions had come about even though a combination of support and medication had been shown to be the most effective way to help smokers quit, the Guardian reported.
Such a combination, which was recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, was said to increase the chance of a smoker’s beating her addiction threefold, when compared with going “cold turkey”.
Alternative routes to getting help, such as specialist clinics, are also declining in some areas, the report finds.
In the English county of Worcestershire, for example, where 15 percent of the population smokes, the local authority decommissioned its stop-smoking services, and local clinical commissioning groups advised GPs in April 2016 not to prescribe stop-smoking aids for new patients.
As a result of these changes, the Guardian said, 98 people last year were helped to quit smoking across the Worcestershire council area, down from 2,208 the previous year. And there were no recorded attempts to quit through GPs and only one in a hospital setting.
The BLF was quoted as saying that smokers were bearing the brunt of government budget cuts and were being discriminated against.