Smokers in Sunderland set to be offered greater access to Champix to help kick the habit
Smokers looking to kick the habit will soon have easier access to specialist drugs under a new health shake-up.
Last year, 2,149 people accessed ‘stop smoking’ services in Sunderland through pharmacies, GPs, specialist services or community providers.
Sunderland City Council leaders revealed new plans in their fight to stub out smoking.
This includes increasing access to the prescription medicine Varenicline – also known as Champix.
The drug blocks the effectiveness of nicotine on the brain and reduces cravings for tobacco.
However, it is only available by prescription from GPs through a referral from stop smoking advisors.
Under the new model, stop smoking services can refer patients directly to a pharmacy without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.
The model is already in place in other areas in the North East, including Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Newcastle and North Tyneside.
In Sunderland, it aims to increase access to stop smoking medicines and reduce demand on local GP practices.
The changes also aim to have an impact on concerning smoking levels in the city.
According to report for the authority’s cabinet, the most recent estimate of smoking prevalence in adults in the city was 22.7%.
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This is above the England rate (14.9%) and second highest in the country.
However, council bosses are convinced Varenicline could be the answer to tackling smoking levels.
And they have cited its “high levels of effectiveness” in comparison to other stop smoking medicines.
During 2018/19, councillors were told the overall success rate for quitters at four weeks was 48%.
For those who used Varenicline, the success rate was 52%.
Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, Coun Dr Geoff Walker, welcomed the scheme which he said would be “established safely and effectively.”
He added: “Benchmarking has taken place against a range of schemes currently operating in the North East to ensure that associated costs are anticipated.”
The plans have also been backed by local health organisations, including the Local Pharmaceutical Committee.
The drug will be rolled out through a Patient Group Direction – which gives guidance to pharmacies around when medication can or can’t be dispensed.
The new scheme will launch on September 1.