Ex-smokers should be kept on medication for much longer to prevent them relapsing, concludes an NHS cost-effectiveness evaluation.
The systematic analysis of trials found the current system - where quitters were supported for four weeks should be extended – with medication prescribed for at least three months.
Currently stop smoking services are evaluated on the percentage of 4-week quitters, but around three-quarters relapse after this date [emphasis added]Do they tell you this at the same time as they are saying you are four times more likely to give up with NHS help? Okay then: a method that doesn't work too well could be given three times as long to work (as the austerity cuts bite). That sounds very cost-effective.
Tracking people for longer than four weeks is probably a good idea on the basis that the non-drug support is equally as effective as the pharmaceutical support, and many services probably do it. A Wandsworth GP is reported in this account to be cautious about too much reliance on drugs: 'support is key,' he says. The report on the cost-effectiveness of treatments however is authored by Tim Coleman, a man whose career rests on smoking cessation medications, whose competing interests are listed here. Some promotion of smoking cessation drugs is to be expected from someone with his track record.
Why is it that interests in pharmaceutical companies don't arouse any suspicions in official minds, when corner shops are mistrusted because of their tobacco connection, in spite of their meagre takings per pack? If a competing interest is enough to get you excluded from the policy debate, as the tobacco companies are, why are Tim Coleman and his colleagues still involved? Are they supposed to be above the suspicion associated with competing interests because they are involved in health issues or because the focus of their work is against tobacco?
Jobs for the boys? Get into smoking cessation, son, you'll have a job for life! Government will support all your endeavours!
Other interests also operate in the field of smoking cessation drugs: this report shows a postcode lottery of stop smoking cessation medications depending on commission earned by pharmacies for treating patients with them: earnings between different PCT areas range from nearly £12 to over £140. (That looks like a fair attempt to reduce health inequalities.)
Like anything else, access to smoking cessation drugs depends for most people who want to quit on government funding . Considering the cost issues and the uncertainties and dangers of various treatments, readers who want to stop smoking should be aware of this page. Competing interest: John Polito is a smoking cessation adviser who is opposed to drugs, and he has books to sell.