Many smokers try every day to say goodbye to tobacco, but doing so is not easy if they do not have help. According to data from the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare, only 5% of people who try to quit smoking succeed without support, compared to the 30-40% who do succeed by following a specific pharmacological treatment and receiving psychological assistance. The good news is that, since January 1, quitting this bad habit has gotten a little easier. We will explain it below.
In order to promote definitive smoking cessation, the National Health System has approved the financing of two pharmacological treatments starting in 2020. This resource, unprecedented to date, is in addition to the support already offered by primary care clinics to patients who want to quit smoking. In addition, the website Estilos de vida saludables (Healthy Lifestyles), which depends on the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare, offers very useful information on smoking prevention.
What medications are funded for smoking cessation?
The medications funded by the National Public Health System are varenicline and bupropion, which relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Treatment should be started one or two weeks before the scheduled quit date.
For Dr. Carlos A. Jiménez-Ruiz, pulmonologist and president of the Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR), “these drugs have very few side effects and few contraindications, but they must be prescribed by physicians”. He also assures us that “most people, as long as they comply with the indications given by the Health Department, will be able to access them”.
What conditions must be met to access the drugs?
It is mandatory for a person who wants to stop smoking to go to his or her primary care office so that the physician can prescribe these drugs on an electronic prescription. In addition, the patient must meet certain essential requirements:
- Show an express motivation to quit smoking that is verifiable with at least one attempt in the last year.
- Smoke ten or more cigarettes a day.
- They have a high level of tobacco dependence.
The health authorities estimate that some 83,800 people could be potential beneficiaries of these two drugs, which would represent an approximate cost of 7.9 million euros per year to the Health Service.
In Jiménez-Ruiz’s opinion, “it would have been better if there had been no limitations for smokers to quitting the habit. In addition, there is another type of pharmacological treatment, nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum, nicotine mouth spray), which is safe and effective in helping smokers to quit and which should have been included as a funded treatment for smoking. “
What does the treatment consist of and how much does it cost?
The complete treatment lasts between nine and twelve weeks. Each prescription will be issued per container, which is equivalent to one month of treatment. After this time, the physician will assess the effectiveness of each patient before issuing a new prescription. Only one annual smoking cessation attempt per patient will be funded.
The cost of treatment per day will be approximately €3.55 per person for varenicline, and €1.03 per day for bupropion. Thus, if the person has a pharmaceutical contribution of 40%, his daily contribution would be 1.42 euros/day in the first case (42 euros per month) and 0.41 euros/day (12 euros per month) in the second case. It is important to emphasize that this price reduction will be maintained when purchasing these drugs outside financing.
Is it essential to go to the doctor?
In order to receive these drugs, it is essential to go to the primary care physician who will prescribe them. According to Dr. Jiménez-Ruiz, “pharmacological help is essential to increase the chances of success in an attempt to quit smoking. If you use pharmacological treatment as part of a therapeutic plan to quit smoking, your chances of success in the attempt are multiplied by three or even four times”.
It should not be forgotten that smoking is related to 58,000 deaths in Spain every year. This bad habit is the main preventable public health problem in developed countries, is a determining factor in numerous pathologies, and is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality.
“When a smoker wants to quit smoking, it is essential that he or she go to a healthcare professional trained in smoking cessation treatment. This professional will make an adequate diagnosis of the type and degree of dependence that the smoker suffers from and, in this way, will prescribe the most appropriate medical treatment and follow-up. SEPAR recommends that smokers who want to stop smoking go to an experienced healthcare professional (pulmonologist, nurse, family physician): they will help him or her to stop smoking effectively and safely, “understoods Jiménez-Ruiz.