Dr. Tony Gabriel, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) has released a position paper calling on the provincial government to fund tobacco cessation medications and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) for low-income residents as a benefit under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP).
“There has not been a significant decline in the province’s smoking rate since 2003. It currently stands at about 20 per cent of the population or about 87,000 people over the age of 15. If we want to see our smoking rate decline, then we must turn our attention to helping current smokers quit,” said NLMA president Dr. Tony Gabriel. “When smokers use NRTs and cessation medications, they increase their odds of quitting by as much as threefold… Unfortunately, access to these therapies is not universal for everyone. Low income, lack of education and other socio-economic factors are all barriers to accessing tobacco cessation aids.”
The NLMA’s Position Paper on Coverage for NRTs and Tobacco Cessation Medications recommends that the tobacco cessation medications varenicline and bupropion be covered by the NLPDP and distributed through pharmacies for smokers who have a prescription from a physician. The NLMA also proposes that smokers who meet the criteria of NLPDP should receive a free supply of NRTs for up to 12 consecutive weeks in a single calendar year.
The NLMA proposes that NRTs be distributed by the Smokers’ Helpline, a toll-free confidential telephone service that anyone in the province can call and receive free support and counseling to quit smoking.
Kevin Coady, executive director of the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco (ACT), said the call to subsidize tobacco cessation therapies was also included in ACT’s 2009-2011 Tobacco Reduction Strategy and will continue to be a key action item outlined in the soon to be released 2013-2017 strategy.
See Friday's Telegram for full story.