Nicotine on script

Nicotine for vaping is set to be rescheduled to be available on prescription for smoking cessation

The TGA has made an interim decision to make nicotine for use in e-cigarettes available in Australia on prescription.

Australians will only be able to import the product if they have a valid script, closing an existing loophole.

Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, told the AJP that, “The Guild supports the interim decision to re-schedule nicotine and supports the decision to include nicotine, when included as a Schedule 4 medicines”.   

“Ideally, the products should be registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods,” he said.

“The Guild supports the interim decision under the proviso that nicotine liquid products are appropriately scheduled and controlled for therapeutic use to support smoking cessation.

“The requirement to have products registered on the ARTG will address concerns related to packaging, as well as safety and quality.

“The Guild believes this to be an extremely important measure to protect consumers, and to assure pharmacists that products being supplied have been assessed for safety and quality.”

However, Mr Tassone said that the Guild acknowledges that registering products on the ARTG is unlikely to occur prior to the proposed implementation date of the amendment to the scheduling is 1st June 2021.

“We agree with the delegate’s assessment of the risks and benefits associated with the use of nicotine, and the public health concerns associated with the use of e-cigarettes containing nicotine,” he said.

“The Guild supports the delegate’s decision to delay the implementation date to provide sufficient time for the development of resources including professional standards and clinical guidelines and for community pharmacies to become familiar with the supply and distribution processes.”

The AMA said it expects doctors to see significant numbers of patients looking for a script.

“While doctors are overwhelmingly reluctant to prescribe nicotine, the AMA anticipates an influx of patients asking their doctors for nicotine prescriptions for vaping when the changes come into effect, spurred on by a tiny but vocal minority of vaping advocates, backed by Big Tobacco,” said national president Dr Omar Khorshid.

He said that the AMA feels the interim decision will help restrict access to such liquids for vaping.

“The evidence that vaping is effective as a quit smoking aid is inconclusive, but there is plenty of evidence that it causes harm.

“Multiple studies show that vaping can lead to previous non-smokers taking up tobacco smoking, and that people using vaping as a quit aid are significantly more likely to still be vaping after a year than people using nicotine patches or other therapies.

“The proposed change will stop people accessing nicotine for any use without a prescription, and will ensure that patients see their doctor for advice on the most reliable and safe smoking cessation methods.

“While doctors can already prescribe nicotine for vaping, it is very rare – the TGA estimates that only about 10 doctors in Australia currently do so.

“There is currently no TGA-approved nicotine vaping product, due to a lack of evidence of their efficacy or safety, and their use should be only as a method of last resort.”

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