12p a day pill triples chances of quitting smokingWould save the NHS millions
A nicotine substitute which can be bought online for just 12p can more than triple a smoker's chances of quitting for at least a year, research has found.
A clinical trial involving 740 people found that smokers given Tabex were 3.4 times more likely to succeed compared with those given a placebo pill.
The pill contains cytosine, a nicotine substitute naturally found in laburnum seeds.
Tabex has been used in some Eastern European countries for more than 40 years to help people kick the habit, but until now, there has been a lack of hard evidence assessing it's effectiveness.
Now experts say that Tabex could help save the NHS millions of pounds a year, as it is much cheaper than conventional treatments.
The nicotine replacement product currently used by the NHS, and available on prescription, is Champix. But Champix costs up to £150 for a 12 week course, while a box of Tabax can be purchased online for just £12. However, Tabax is unlicensed in the UK.
In the trial, half the smokers were given two to six Tabex tablets daily for 25 days, while the other half were given the placebo pill. After a year, 8.4 per cent of those given Tabex had stopped smoking compared with just 2.4 per cent of those who received the placebo.
The low overall quit rate showed how difficult it is to stop smoking, even when highly motivated to do so, the researchers said.
The study was led by researchers based at the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London and the Cancer Centre and Institute of Oncology in Warsaw, Poland.
Professor Robert West from UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, who led the study, said: "It's been available in central and eastern Europe for more than 40 years, we have safety data on millions of people, and we know it's effective, but it's not licensed in Britain.
"People can make their own choices. A licence is not a licence to buy, it's a licence to market. There's nothing illegal about buying this drug online, but there's always the risk that you might not get what you expect.
"With more than a billion smokers worldwide and lung cancer still as one of the top killers, we’re extremely encouraged that the benefits of Tabex are comparable with those of other smoking cessation treatments, but at a fraction of the cost.
"We recognise that stopping smoking can be extremely difficult and we hope that by using cytisine as a substitute for nicotine, the results of this trial could help transform the health of nations around the globe by offering a practical option even for the poorest smokers."
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has warned against buying unregulated drugs on the internet.
This article was published on Thu 29 September 2011
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