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E-cigarettes could become 'medicines' available on NHS

February 2nd, 2014

E-cigarettes could be available on the NHS by the end of the year with at least two companies – one a subsidiary of British American Tobacco – having already embarked on the process of obtaining licenses from the medicines regulator.
 
The UK company Nicolites said its application was "well-advanced" while BAT's Nicoventures has also started the process, although decisions on whether their products are prescribed on the NHS will be made by local commissioning groups.
 
The status of "medicines" will give the companies commercial advantage and allow the e-cigarette makers to market their product internationally, including in sponsorship deals, a move that will be banned for competitors not in the same bracket.
 

 

The news came to light as ministers in England prepare to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s – Wales and Scotland are likely to follow suit.
The Committees of Advertising Practice are also about to launch a consultation on new rules to cover e-cigarettes, used by 1.3 million people in Britain last year. It will start later this month, with the framework likely to be in place by autumn, nearly two years after the first TV adverts for such products.
 
The applications to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority are a victory for the regulator's determination to persuade manufacturers and importers to apply voluntarily for a license and meet specific rules including on the amount of nicotine provided. They are continuing the process even though the European parliament defeated UK attempts to make medicinal licensing compulsory for e-cigarettes last autumn
 
Existing anti-smoking therapies such as gums, patches, an inhaler, and a mouthspray already have medicine licenses and have been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which advises on good practice and value for money. Nearly 1.4m prescriptions for them were issued in England in 2012, but licensed e-cigarettes would not need a separate Nice assessment.
 
Nikhil Nathwani, managing director of Nicolites, said the company was "well advanced in the product's licensing", and hoped to achieve marketing authorization some time this year. It was working closely with the government, the regulator and Nice. "This will be continued even after marketing authorization has been achieved", he said. Nicoventures has also made a license application for a nicotine inhalation device to the MHRA.