Thursday, 29 September 2011

Fence Sitters

A drug found to triple a smoker's chances of quitting will not be officially available in Britain for another three years- even though it can be bought now for 12 pence a pill on-line.

Nicotine substitute Tabex cannot be prescribed here although it has helped millions of people in eastern Europe during the past four decades.

The plant-based treatment has no known harmful side-effect and could save the NHS millions of pounds a year, it is claimed, but it will not be cleared for up to three years because of what "experts" claim are "Alice in Wonderland" drug regulations.  Instead, they fear that smokers will buy Tabex on-line despite the internet being flooded with poor quality counterfeit drugs.

The origins of Tabex can be traced to World War II when German and Russian soldiers satisfied their craving for nicotine by smoking laburnum leaves.  It has been extensively tested in eastern Europe but the trials were not considered robust enough to satisfy British regulators.

A new study has now found that people who wanted to stop smoking were 3.4 times more likely to succeed with Tabex.  More than 8% of those given the drug were able to avoid smoking for a year compared with 2.4% of a placebo group, with the trial involving 740 patients.  Cancer Research UK’s Professor Robert West, who led the study, said:

"It’s been available in central and eastern Europe for more than 40 years, we have safety data on millions of people and we know it’s effective but it’s not licensed in Britain.  One of the 'Alice in Wonderland' things about the regulatory system is that it’s not designed for drugs that have been on the market for a long time. It’s designed for drugs you’re bringing from animals to humans.

There’s nothing illegal about buying it on-line but there’s always the risk you might not get what you expect."

He claimed Tabex would be a tenth the price of standard treatment, Champix, which costs up to £150 for a 12 week course.

The Department of Health said the drug "sounds promising", adding they will "look at whether it has prospects for use in the UK to help smokers quit."

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