New guidelines for pharmacists as the vaping loophole closes
The PSA, with support from the Commonwealth Department of Health, has developed guidelines and education to support Australian pharmacists through changes to access to nicotine for vaping.
In December 2020, the TGA announced that from 1 October 2021, people would need scripts to access liquid nicotine for inhalation in e-cigarettes, in a move welcomed by numerous health stakeholders.
“From today, a prescription will be required to access nicotine vaping products,” said Claire Antrobus, Manager, Practice Support and project lead at PSA.
“When nicotine vaping products are prescribed under the Authorised Prescriber Scheme or the Special Access Scheme they can be dispensed through local pharmacies.
“As a result of these legislative changes, we are likely to see patients presenting to pharmacies, to access nicotine vaping products via prescription.”
She said that the guidelines outline the pharmacist’s role in providing smoking cessation support and key requirements for dispensing nicotine vaping products, including counselling and safety considerations.
“There are currently no nicotine vaping products registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, so access to these unapproved therapeutic goods will occur via the Special Access Scheme, Authorised Prescriber Scheme or Personal Importation Scheme pathway.
“These guidelines provide information for pharmacists about the key considerations for supporting patients to stop smoking, including the special considerations for nicotine vaping products,” Ms Antrobus said.
The change has been welcomed by the Australian Medical Association, which described it as closing a “loophole” in federal legislation which allowed unregulated importation and illegal sale of vaping products containing nicotine.
“Vaping is not the risk-free version of smoking that some would have us believe,” said AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid.
“It is addictive, is associated with proven harms and we know that if nicotine gets into the hands of young children and is ingested, it is highly toxic and can be fatal in very small amounts.
“The vaping lobby will inevitably moan about a terrible new imposition and make exaggerated claims that a smoking cessation tool is being lost,” Dr Khorshid said.
“The reality is that there is very little evidence that nicotine vaping products are effective in smoking cessation, whilst there is clear evidence that they act as a gateway for young non-smokers to become smokers, in addition to causing nicotine addiction and poisoning.”