GPs could face thousands of requests from patients wanting to be prescribed e-cigarettes after the Government announced one of the devices has now been granted a licence by the UK drugs regulator.
The Department of Health (DH) confirmed that the newly licenced e-cigarette would be ‘prescribed alongside existing nicotine replacement therapies’.
Public health chiefs said they welcomed the news which they said would provide another ‘option for stop smoking services, GPs and pharmacists to help smokers quit’.
But GP leaders warned it would place an extra, unnecessary burden on GPs and that stop smoking services should pick up the extra demand.
Public health minister Jane Ellison MP revealed the licence had been granted for an E-cigarette during questions in the Commons at the end of November.
Ms Ellison said: ‘The first e-cigarette was licenced by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency earlier this month’.
The Government believes that vaping/using e-cigarettes is ’significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco products’ and that ‘evidence suggests that smokers can substantially benefit their health by fully substituting the use of e-cigarettes for smoking’.
The MHRA confirmed to Pulse that the device was the first ‘true’ e-cigarette to be licensed and that it would be available as a ‘general sales’ medicine for people to buy from pharmacies without a prescription, as well as on prescription through smoking cessation services.
It said in a statement: ‘We have recently licensed the e-Voke as a medicine, which means it is a product of acceptable quality and can be an effective aid to smoking cessation.
‘The e-Voke is the second product meeting the definition of an e-cigarette to receive a marketing authorisation, but is the first product that electronically produces a vapour containing nicotine for inhalation, and thus would be considered a true e-cigarette.’
The DH said in a statement it ‘welcomed the arrival of licensed products that can be prescribed alongside existing nicotine replacement therapies’.
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said evidence indicated e-cigarettes ‘can help smokers to quit, particularly when combined with additional support from local stop smoking services’ .
He added: ‘In addition to other existing nicotine replacement therapies – such as patches, gums and sprays – medicinally licensed e-cigarettes will provide another prescribing option for stop smoking services, GPs and pharmacists to help smokers quit.’
However, Dr John Grenville, secretary of Derbyshire LMC, said busy GPs would be resistant to prescribing e-cigarettes.
Dr Grenville said: ‘Given the mood at the moment, GPs would probably resist prescribing it. I suspect there will be a demand and I think we will look very carefully at how to curb that demand.’
Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee said there was ‘no reason whatsoever for GPs in England to be inundated with this work’.
Dr Green said: ‘Smoking cessation is now part of public health administered through local authorities, who ought to have their own arrangements for the provision of these medications.
‘GPs’ role should now be limited to encouraging smokers to attend these services.’