NRT: No (other) Replacement Tolerated

Posted 18th August 2015 by Dave Cross
Reports continue to roll in about the increase in use of electronic cigarettes is effecting traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) sales. While many stories have surfaced regarding pharmaceutical company bribery of British Medical Association members and funding paid-for-results research, the latest tactic reflects woefully on journalistic integrity.

The Smoking Matters service in Dumfries and Galloway has helped 102 smokers to quit smoking over the last twelve months. Great news for those who wanted to kick the habit and worthy for a pat on the back for those who helped them – except that figure is 149 people lower than the service’s annual target figure. Worse, the trend is mirrored across the whole of Scotland according to Public Health Consultant doctor Andrew Carnon.

NRT is available either free, or on prescription at a cost of £8.05 each week, from a local NHS Stop Smoking Service or the GP. That’s up to a third cheaper than buying patches or gum from a pharmacy; Boots are selling one 10-week product for £157.75. The difference between the shop cost and the amount paid by an NHS quit client is paid by the service to pharmaceutical companies. The drop in demand of 60% at quit services could lead to a drop in income of £100 million for NRT producers over the next year.

We know why this is happening, so does Dr Carnon: “The rise in the use of e-cigarettes.” He is unconvinced about the effectiveness of vaping to help smokers quit but says: “Although there is still a lack of evidence about their effectiveness, the NHS might have to review and adapt its smoking cessation service in the future.” Carnon could do worse than check out the success experienced in Leicester since becoming ecig-friendly or speak to the research team at Queen Mary University.

Where Carnon shows his true colours is when he raises the bogus paid-for gateway spectre: “We just don't have the research evidence at the moment to say whether there is a risk that those people who might simply be experimenting with e-cigarettes might get drawn into using tobacco cigarettes at a later stage.” We do know, Andrew, there is research.

Big P public relations departments have been plugging scare stories to the media ever since they saw the ecig writing on the wall – but the latest piece in the Irish version of The Daily Mirror is a spectacular example of product placement.

7 Myths About Quitting Smoking shows all the signs of having been written by a Johnson & Johnson employee. In it they say:

  • “MYTH: Stop smoking treatments don’t really work. FACT: By using nicotine replacement products such as Nicorette® Quickmist, you are 150% more likely to finally quit for good vs. will power alone.”
  • “MYTH: It's dangerous to use more than one nicotine replacement product at a time. FACT: No, it isn’t. In fact, using more than one product at a time can be a good thing as it often increases your chances of success. Only the 10mg and 15mg Nicorette® invisipatch along with the 2mg Nicorette® gum can be used together.”

Laughably obvious, bias and misleading are just some of the many terms that could be thrown at the coverage. With their market in its death throws we can probably look forward to more of the same.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker