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200,000 quitters to boost NRT sales

Published on 03/11/05 at 11:56am

Manufacturers of nicotine replacement therapy products can expect sales to rise when England's partial smoking ban is introduced.

The government anticipates the ban will persuade 175,000 people, 1.75% of England's 10.3 million smokers, to kick the habit but the total could be even higher.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons health committee last month, deputy chief medical officer Dr Fiona Adshead said evidence from other countries suggested the number of smokers dropped by 4% after a ban.

Dr Adshead said: "Providing a smoke-free environment supports and encourages people to give up smoking."

She said there was evidence that legislation, expected to be introduced by summer 2007, would either encourage smokers to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke or give them up entirely.

The ban on smoking in the majority of workplaces looks likely to fuel growth in the NRT market, which is booming in OTC consumer sales as well as through prescriptions written on the NHS.

The consumer market is dominated by Pfizer's Nicorette, followed by GlaxoSmithKline's NiQuitin CQ range and then Novartis' Nicotinell.

In contrast, the prescription NRT market is led by GlaxoSmithKline's NiQuitin CQ range with Nicorette and Nicotinell in second and third place.

Government statistics for NHS Stop Smoking Services show that in the 12 months to March 2005 nearly 300,000 people tried to give up smoking with the help of the health service, a 45% increase over the same period in 2003/4.

Around 80% of those who set a date used an NRT product, either buying it themselves or being prescribed it by their GP, compared with just 6% receiving GlaxoSmithKline's Zyban (bupropion).

Spending on NRT in England reached £40.9 million in the period, with a further £5.2 million spent on GSK's special smoking cessation medication Zyban.

The NRT manufacturers had to work hard to avoid limits being placed on prescriptions for the products.

In 2003 GSK, Pfizer and Novartis agreed special new deals with the government to provide extra smoking cessation products to PCTs for free under a 'cashback' system.

Under the agreement, the supply of free NRT products is linked to the national rate of growth in the prescription category. The DH analyses prescription data every quarter and deliveries of the free products are then made to PCTs every six months.

In the consumer market, the products must constantly innovate to maintain consumer interest, and Nicorette has just succeeded in gaining the first licence to help smokers cut down and stop rather than go 'cold turkey'.

The MHRA has granted a unique smoking reduction licence for the gum and inhaler products in the range, in addition to the smoking cessation indication.

A spokesperson for Pfizer said the company has no plans to increase its marketing activity for Nicorette in light of the ban.

Before details of the ban were announced, the company had already initiated a number of marketing activities, including a nationwide consumer television advertising campaign to publicise the new smoking reduction indication.

The new indication uses a four-step approach that sees smokers set themselves targets to stop smoking within nine months and then stop using Nicorette gum or inhalers after 12 months.

Launched in September with a Cut Down with Nicorette then Stop message, Pfizer will target the 74% of smokers who want to quit but feel they can't do so straight away.

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