Smoking cessation products available on PBS

Australia’s federal government has announced that it will subsidize the cost of nicotine patches to help smokers quit. The announcement was made by Health Minister Nicola Roxon on Thursday who said that concession card holders would be able to access Nicorette, Nicabate P and Nicotinell under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from February 1, 2011. She said, “Cancer scars the lives of too many Australians and we know that reducing the smoking rate is one of the most effective ways to reduce the rate of death from this terrible disease.” Anti-smoking drug Varenicline (Champix) would also be available for willing quitters.

Anti-smoking group Quit applauded the effort saying that increase in the tobacco tax earlier was a big motivating factor and this move is a vital support to quitters. Spokeswoman Fiona Sharkie said, “These two policies together will really help smokers butt out for good.” Ms Sharkie said the cost of a four-week course of nicotine patches was currently between $100 and $140, and the smallest available pack of patches cost two to three times as much as a pack of cigarettes. But under the new subsidized arrangements, smokers who get a doctor’s prescription for patches can receive a four-week course for approximately $5.40 to $33.30, she added. The Australian Council on Smoking and Health welcomed the move too. President Mike Daube said, “We do know that smokers see the cost of patches as a disincentive to buying them… This gives them a financial boost, it also means that one of the important barriers to quitting is no longer there.” He added, “Smoking costs the economy over $30 billion a year, so the price we pay for subsidising these patches is minimal in comparison with the overall costs of smoking.” The package announced is to cost $340 million.

As an addition to the PBS there is Dutasteride (Avodart) that treats benign prostate enlargement and Azacitidine (Vidaza) that treats bone marrow disorders. Those with rare blood disorder Paroxysmal Nocturnal Haemoglobinuria (PNH) will have access to the new life-saving drug Soliris (Eculizumab) from January 1, 2011. Ms Roxon said, “I know this will be welcome Christmas news to those 73 patients across Australia needing access to this very expensive drug.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Michael Kennedy Michael Kennedy Australia says:

    How come that I am 86 years old and I have been smoking for 64 years and I have not got any of the diseases smokers should get and a great number of nonsmokers get them. It is the same story as with peptic ulcers when diet, anxiety, alcohol, cigarettes were blamed for it. Then it turned out that it was an infection with Helicobacter pylori.

  2. David Ffinch David Ffinch Australia says:

    I do not see why my taxes should help smokers quit - smoking is a self-inflicted problem.  I have a common problem that comes with older age in men, causing urination problems, yet the government gives no help for the medication for this.

    • Chris Chris Australia says:

      Hi David Finch,
      I agree the government should help you pay for your medication. I would be happy for my tax dollars go towards helping you but i am not sure why you would not want to help your fellow countrymen overcome an addiction that is seriously bad for them.  Tobacco kills more people each year than any other drug. Because they made a stupid decision when they were teenagers we shouldn't offer assistance to them? The government is always looking at ways to save money - they are promoting quit smoking treatments because it will save a lot of money in preventing cancer treatments and surgery.

  3. michael michael Australia says:

    David Ffinch - its because it will cost far more if "your" taxes to pay for medical treatment once the smoker got cancer.  Don't be so short-sighted mate

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