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The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) interprets survey data and expresses reserves about prescriptions of the e-cigarette. Conclusions are released by the professional media GPonline after MHRA granted a license to BAT for its e-cigarette e-Voke and at a time when the Royal College of Physicians promotes e-cigarettes as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking. Internal war?

“A small proportion (17%) of GPs backed the idea of prescribing e-cigarettes, while 14% of the 448 doctors who responded said they weren’t sure.” -www.gponline.com

The RCGP called on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) to survey GPs and evaluate whether they would prescribe e-cigarettes to patients for smoking cessation:

  • 37% were likely or very likely to recommend e-cigarettes to patients who are trying to give up smoking
  • 28% were either unlikely or very unlikely to recommend them.
  • 35% said they were ‘neutral’ on whether to recommend e-cigarettes.

The media unfairly declares that “almost 70% of GPs rejected the idea that NHS e-cigarette prescriptions should be made be available for patients wanting to quit smoking“, which basically constitutes a bias. Instead of inciting the undecided 35% GPs to go for e-cigarette with their patients such healdlines rather entice them to rally a sceptic minority, which goes in a wrong way for harm reduction.

The absence of long-term data on the safety is apparently one of the major concerns together with GPs who simply do not (or do not want to) know about e-cigarette and would refrain GPs from prescribing it to their patients.

Some others evoked the financial aspect from the NHS side; comments suggest that smokers who were able to afford tobacco should be able to afford e-cigarettes on their own and that prescribing the device would undermine their determination to kill the habit.

E-cigarettes licensed by the MHRA should come under Medicine Products and be prescribed by GPs. An article in The Telegraph from June 2013 was announcing their availability within nine to twelve months of that date, it is now obvious that the process has been considerably slowed down since the elected product, the disposable e-cigarette e-Voke manufactured by British American Tobacco, is still not available for the public.

In the same article, the journalists were cautious, writing that “e-cigarettes will not be prescribed on a widespread basis across the NHS unless the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the public health watchdog, backs their use over other means of helping smokers kick the habit.

As early as January 2016, when the MHRA issued a licence to BAT, the RCGP’s vice-chairman Dr Tim Ballard warned: “GPs would be very wary of prescribing them until there was clear evidence of their safety and of their efficacy in helping people to quit” (Source: The Telegraph)

Putting things together, it does not come as a surprise if the College of GPs does not rally the cause of Physicians on e-cigarette use in a harm reduction perspective after the Nice concluded on a relative lukewarm note.

Does this mean that the e-Voke is expected in a close term?