Calls to extend nicotine replacement therapy

The Irish Pharmacy Union has lobbied the Government to make nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) available to medical-card holders who want to quit smoking.

Citing a Hiqa report from earlier this year, IPU made a submission to Health Minister Simon Harris in which it said smoking prevalence is highest and successful quit attempts are lowest for smokers in the lowest socio-economic groups.

If it is implemented, the proposal would enable people who hold medical cards to access NRT without prescription under their existing General Medical Services (GMS) eligibility.

“The evidence suggests that medical-card holders are likely to need support to successfully quit smoking,” said IPU president Daragh Connolly.

“This is a scheme that can be easily and quickly implemented as, from a professional perspective, no further training for pharmacists is required. Pharmacists have been safely providing a smoking cessation service to private patients since 2014.

“The IPU believes that there should not be barriers on GMS patients accessing smoking cessation services or any other service from their pharmacist. Therefore, we particularly advocate for the rollout of this service as an after-hours service, as these are times of particular vulnerability for smokers.”

The IPU said the Department of Health’s 2015 Healthy Ireland Survey found that more than one in five (22.7%) people smoke.

“Research shows that consumers and patients visit their pharmacies far more frequently than any other part of the healthcare system, with 85m visits to pharmacies each year, making pharmacists the most accessible healthcare providers and the ideal healthcare professionals to offer a smoking cessation service,” said Mr Connelly.


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