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Details Of Subsidised NRT Programme Announced

Health Minister Annette King today announced the start and details of the Government’s subsidised nicotine patches and gum programme.

"From today smokers who call the national freephone Quitline (0800 778 778) and are assessed as ready to quit and suitable for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), will be sent an ‘exchange card’ which can be swapped for patches and gum at retail pharmacies," Mrs King said.

"Smokers will pay around $10 for a four-week supply of NRT. Normally a four-week supply of nicotine patches can cost up to $125. Smokers are eligible for up to eight weeks' consecutive supply of subsidised NRT under the programme.

"This programme is one of the first in the world to offer subsidised NRT through a freephone line. This Government is committed to supporting heavier smokers who want to break the hold that smoking has on their lives. Smoking continues to take its terrible toll on New Zealanders. There are almost three-quarters of a million Kiwi smokers. From today many of them will have a real opportunity to fulfil their potential by accessing the subsidised patches and gum."

Mrs King said the Government had allocated $6.18 million per year for the subsidised supply of NRT. A joint Ministry of Health/Health Funding Authority team has been working with the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand to develop a system to distribute nicotine patches and gum through pharmacies.

"Once the national programme has been running for a few months, individuals and groups who provide smoking cessation programmes will be able to distribute exchange cards directly to people taking part in their programmes, but most smokers will still access patches and gum via the Quitline."

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Mrs King said the national programme followed a pilot programme in Waikato/Bay of Plenty in October to test the distribution process before the national launch.

"We anticipate significant interest in the programme and I would ask those who contact the Quitline during the programme's early days to be patient. If you don't make contact with a Quitline Advisor straight away leave a message."

Mrs King stressed that not all smokers would find NRT the best option. "Nicotine replacement therapy is not a quitting method that will suit everyone, and a Quit Advisor can discuss an approach that will work for you,” she said.

The $6.18 million NRT programme is in addition to the $5 million announced in the budget specifically to help Maori stop smoking.

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