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Importance of pharmacotherapies for successful smoking cessation

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Nurses need to have the knowledge to help smokers wishing to quit to make an informed choice about the medications available to them, as well as to be able to answer questions and allay concerns.

Smoking cessation is cost-effective for both the client and the NHS and, more importantly, it saves lives. One premature death will be avoided with every two smokers a clinician helps to stop smoking.1 To put this into perspective, a nurse would need to do 1,040 cervical smear tests to save one person's life.2

Since 2006 there have been several changes to the way we can use existing pharmacotherapies in smoking cessation, including some additions to the licensed formulary. This article will focus on the updates to prescribing options in primary care and how nurses can make a difference by supporting their patients.

What's available to prescribe?

The smoking cessation medications described in this section have all been approved by NICE to help people stop smoking.

All nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) items are general sales list items and are available to buy over the counter.

Bupropion and varenicline are prescription-only medications and are usually prescribed by a GP, a nurse prescriber or, in some instances, supplied under a Patient Group Direction (PGD) usually by PGD-accredited community pharmacists.

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