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Pharmacists cautious about PHE e-cig prescribing ambition

Public Health England is "looking forward" to the devices being prescribed on the NHS, but C+D readers are reserving judgment until the products are licensed

Pharmacists have called for further research into e-cigarettes before Public Health England (PHE) achieves its goal of having the devices available on prescription.

PHE is “looking forward” to the "arrival of a choice of regulated products" that the NHS can make available to smokers on prescription, it said in an independent evidence report published yesterday (August 19).

The devices carry a "fraction of the risk of smoking cigarettes" and could make a "significant contribution" to PHE's ultimate aim of creating a "tobacco-free generation by 2025", it said.

Pharmacists agreed with PHE that the devices need “appropriate and proportionate regulation” so they can become "a route out of smoking for the country's 8 million tobacco users".

Ravinder Singh Cholia, owner of Pharma Healthcare on Canvey Island, said he will not be comfortable selling or dispensing e-cigarettes unless they are licensed as medicines. “We don’t know what the impact is yet,” Mr Cholia said.

"Taxpayers paying for vaping"

Amish Patel, manager of Hodgsons Pharmacy in Kent, said the NHS will need to wait for a "licensed product that has been safely tested". He also questioned whether taxpayers should "pay for vaping".

Anthony Cox, deputy head of pharmacy at the University of Birmingham, said e-cigarettes should be an option for "all smoking cessation services", but only once they become “a licensed medical product”.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) restated its view that the devices should not be "sold or advertised" in pharmacies until they are licensed. "The licensing process will align e-cigarettes with other nicotine reduction therapies and ensure quality control and standardisation of products," said RPS director for England Howard Duff.

PHE called for emerging evidence about the different types of e-cigarettes to be communicated to health professionals to "maximise chances" of patients successfully quitting smoking.

Under a Europe-wide tobacco products directive – due to come into force in May 2016 – the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) will need to be assured of the quality, safety and packaging of all commercially available e-cigarettes. The medicines watchdog will decide whether to license e-cigarettes as medicinal products on a "case-by-case basis", it said on its website.

Would you be comfortable prescribing e-cigarettes?

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