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Care Chemists Welcomes Quitcard Recommendation

Care Chemists Welcomes Quitcard Recommendation For Smoking Cessation

Care Chemist, New Zealand’s fastest growing community pharmacy group, welcomes the Māori Affairs Select Committee’s Report into the tobacco industry which recommends that community pharmacists should be allowed to be Quitcard providers.

Care Chemists already play a leading part in smoking cessation initiatives around the country and are keen to further develop their professional services. The Report recommends to Government that in order to improve access to nicotine replacement therapies, pharmacists should be Quitcard providers.

Auckland’s Westview Care Chemist is part of a community pharmacy Quitcard pilot project organised by the University of Auckland and supported by The Pharmacy Guild, Waitemata DHB, Canterbury DHB and HealthWest, which is due to finish taking enrolments this month, but the Care Chemist group now hopes that the scheme could be extended nationwide.

Katy Boulton, pharmacist at Westview Care Chemist explains: `Healthcare professionals who complete a training course can get registered with the Quit Group as Quit Card Providers to access the subsidised nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for clients who smoke and want to quit. But the healthcare professionals people see most, community pharmacists, have been excluded from this scheme on the grounds that there would be a conflict of interest between the roles of dispensing and prescribing.

`The Select Committee has recognised that this is not an issue. Customers are not tied to having their Quitcard prescription dispensed by us. In this pilot project we have been supplied with Quitcards pre-authorised by a registered provider. But it just makes sense that we should be able to do this in our own right as part of our professional service.

`We are seen in the community as the one healthcare professional that is able to look at our clients’ whole lifestyle in an open and consultative way. There is no doubt in my mind having been involved in this study that this improves access to help people give up smoking. It is more convenient because they can start straight away and with six months of follow up support it is very effective.’

The Report agrees that if community-based pharmacists were made Quitcard providers, smokers would benefit, as they could get a Quitcard and exchange it for nicotine replacement therapy in the same place and points out: `We recognise that to date, there has been a deliberate separation in the health sector between prescribing and dispensing, and that allowing pharmacists to be Quitcard providers would blur this line. However, nicotine replacement therapy is a special case, as Quitcards are not prescriptions, and the purpose of nicotine replacement therapy is very different from other subsidised medicines. We note that PHARMAC is currently reviewing the separation between prescribing and dispensing in the broader health sector, and encourage them to note that any means of making quitting easier should be encouraged.’

The Report also recommended that PHARMAC be strongly encouraged to subsidise a wider range of effective cessation medicines.

The Report states that there are 5,000 deaths every year from smoking which makes tobacco New Zealand’s most dangerous drug and possibly its most addictive. According to the Select Committee, the use of nicotine replacement therapy during a quit attempt doubles the chance that a smoker will quit. Nicotine replacement therapy reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms which can include cravings for nicotine, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, sleep disturbances, decreased heart rate, increased appetite and weight gain. These symptoms all make quitting difficult.

Care Chemists across the country regularly support ongoing smoking cessation campaigns. In May this year to name but one campaign, a number of Care Chemist initiatives were organized to tie in with World Smoke Free Day.

Individuals wishing to stop smoking are encouraged to talk to their local Care Chemist, who will be able to give them advice.

For more information on Care Chemist, visit

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