Medical Card Patients should have access to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) direct from pharmacies to encourage more people to quit. This call was made by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), ahead of National No Smoking Day, who say providing this service would reduce an unnecessary barrier to NRT and encourage more people to quit.
NRT is designed to reduce the physical symptoms associated with stopping smoking. It involves a consultation with a healthcare profession such as a pharmacist, who will understand the patient’s smoking habits and recommend suitable nicotine replacements for that patient.
NRT is available in pharmacies nationwide without prescription for private patients. However, despite the IPU providing a detailed proposal to the Department of Health in 2017, medical card patients are still unable to access this vital treatment direct from their pharmacies; they must still go to their GP to get a prescription.
Tomás Conefrey, a pharmacist and a member of the IPU said, “Over one in five (22.7%) people aged 15 years and over smoke in Ireland. Smoking prevalence is higher in men (24.3%) than women (21.2%). In addition, 19% of people are daily and 4% are occasional smokers. Thankfully, however, the smoking rate in Ireland has been falling in recent years, but the rate of decline has not been fast enough. At its current rate we would not see it fall below 5% until 2052. It is clear we need to think differently about how we support people to quit smoking.
“NRT works, and the more accessible it is the more likely people will be to avail of treatments. We know that smoking is highest among the lowest socio-economic groups and there is simply no reason why a medical card patient should require a prescription to access NRT and the over-the-counter products that private patients successfully receive from pharmacies.
“Over half, 57%, of current smokers are thinking about quitting. The Government has a responsibility to maximise the availability of supports to all of those with ambitions to quit, not just private patients. This is a scheme that can be easily and quickly be implemented as all it requires is a decision to do so.”
National No Smoking Day, 6th March 2019