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Regulator paves way for NHS e-cigarettes prescriptions in England

E-cigarettes

Regulator paves way for NHS e-cigarette prescriptions in England

E-cigarettes may soon be prescribed on the NHS to help smokers quit under radical plans by ministers to slash smoking rates in England.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has published updated guidance that paves the way for medicinally licensed e-cigarette products to be prescribed for tobacco smokers who want to stop smoking and switch to vaping instead.

The move could see England become the first country in the world to prescribe medicinally licensed e-cigarettes. Almost 64,000 people die from smoking every year. About 3.6 million, or 7% of adults in Britain, are thought to use e-cigarettes.

Doctors, medical leaders and health campaigners welcomed the move. “I am convinced this will be a gamechanger,” said Sir Norman Lamb, the former health minister who chaired the Commons science and technology committee’s inquiry into e-cigarettes in 2018. His committee concluded that there would be “significant benefit” to having medicinally licensed e-cigarettes that could be prescribed, he said.

Prof Linda Bauld, the Bruce and John Usher chair in public health at the University of Edinburgh, said it was “excellent news”.

“While there is good evidence that e-cigarettes available as consumer products can help smokers to quit, we also know that up to one in three smokers in the UK has not tried these devices,” she said.

“Smokers have concerns about safety and misperceptions about the relative risks of e-cigarettes compared with tobacco. For some, cost is also perceived as a barrier. The option of having approved devices that could be prescribed would reassure smokers about relative risks and also assist in reaching those least able to afford e-cigarettes.”

E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk-free. “The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke,” the NHS says – though these chemicals are found at much lower levels in e-cigarettes.

Public health experts have also raised concerns about young people in particular becoming hooked on vaping despite never having smoked. Tobacco companies have turned to creating the devices.

However, expert reviews have concluded that regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking. A medicinally licensed e-cigarette would have to pass even more rigorous safety checks, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Manufacturers can now approach the MHRA and submit their products to the same regulatory approvals process as other medicines available on the NHS. If an e-cigarette gets MHRA approval, doctors could then decide on a case-by-case basis whether it would be appropriate to prescribe an e-cigarette to a patient to help them quit smoking.

Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the MHRA, said the evidence was “clear” that e-cigarettes are less harmful to health than smoking tobacco and that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking for good. “The updated guidance on licensing requirements we have published today is a strong first step towards availability of safe and effective licensed e-cigarette products.”

The NHS said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) would have to give the green light to e-cigarettes before they could be rolled out on the health service. A spokesperson added: “The NHS will not be prescribing e-cigarettes unless Nice recommends them for use.”

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death. While rates are at record low levels in the UK, there are still about 6.1 million smokers in England. There are also alarming differences in rates across the country, with smoking rates in Blackpool (23.4%) and Kingston upon Hull (22.2%) vastly higher than rates in wealthier areas such as Richmond upon Thames (8%).

E-cigarettes were the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020. The number of e-cigarette users grew from about 700,000 in 2012 to 3.6 million in 2019, falling to 3.2 million in 2020 before rising again in 2021 to 3.6 million.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said: “Opening the door to a licensed e-cigarette prescribed on the NHS has the potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background.”

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Health

Group hails IG as mother accused Hospital of stealing Placenta

The Inspector General of Police, (IG) Kayode Egbetokun has received praises for the prompt arrest of suspects accused of stealing the placenta of a new born baby in privated hospital located in Kwara State. The suspects were taken from Ilofa to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Thursday.
In a statement signed by NHRC’s official, Mr Taiwo Adeleye said the arrest of the suspects was an important step towards securing justice for the families of Mr Rotimi Williams whose wife accused health officials at a private hospital of stealing the placenta of her new born baby.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC),a coalition of 130 civil society groups spread across Nigeria on Thursday expressed delight at the arrest of the suspects by the police.
The group said it was aware of plots by some powerful individuals to clog the wheel of justice but was delighted that the IG has brought hope to the despairing family. It called for full investigation that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of all culprits.
Few days ago, Mrs Williams accused the management of Cottage hospital, Ilofa, Kwara State of failing to account for the placenta of her new born baby. In complaints lodged with the NHRC, Mrs Williams said a nurse, Mrs Alabi took the delivery, one nurse Adeloye cleaned up the baby while one Mrs Toyin, a ward attendant claimed she mistakenly threw away the placenta.
“In Nigerian agelong tradition, the placenta is linked to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of a new born baby. There is a customary and agelong way of burying placenta of which every medical staff is aware.The disappearance of a baby’s placenta is a source of eternal trauma for the parents and a prelude to impugn the future of the child based on timeless tradition and beliefs,” the NHRC said.
The Coalition said the placenta could be stolen for rituals, adding that stealing a placenta is like killing the child or using the child for ritual by other means The group said it would follow-up the case “day and night” to ensure justice is done. The NHRC said Mrs Toyin brought out the mother’s bags from the labour room but failed to take the placenta along.
The rights group said one Mrs Ayoni Awolusi in the course of the delivery, claimed she was to be on duty but was absent. The medical personnel expected to be on dury was Dr. Ajibola. NHRC said Mrs Williams put to bed around 7pm on Sunday May 12 but discovered the missing placenta very early on Monday 13th, May.
The group called on the IG to intensify the probe and ensure every one connected with the gory episode is brought to justice

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AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccines from market as demand reduces

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it was withdrawing Covid vaccine Vaxzevria, one of the first produced in the deadly pandemic, citing “commercial reasons” following a slump in demand.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson added in a statement.

“We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca rapidly developed the successful Covid-19 jab during the coronavirus pandemic which erupted in the first half of 2020.

Vaxzevria, developed alongside Oxford University, was at first offered at cost but Astra decided in late 2021 to sell it for profit.

But the world pivoted towards mRNA vaccines, particularly the one produced by US drugs giant Pfizer and German peer BioNTech, after rare blood-clot problems with Astra’s jab increased public hesitancy about taking it.

Sales collapsed further as global Covid restrictions were fully lifted worldwide and the world emerged from the global health crisis.

The AstraZeneca spokesperson said the group had begun the process from taking it off the market in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) region.

The company will work with other regulators globally to start market authorisation withdrawals for the Vaxzevria “where no future commercial demand for the vaccine is expected”.

The spokesperson said that, according to independent estimates, “over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone” and more than three billion doses were supplied globally.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. ”

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Health

NMA lauds Police for arresting fake doctor in Lagos

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has commended the Nigerian Police Force for arresting an alleged fake medical doctor.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman, NMA Lagos, said the arrest will strengthen the association’s fight against quackery in the medical profession.

Olowojebutu explained that medical quackery was a dangerous practice that posed a threat to the well-being of citizens and the delivery of quality healthcare in the state, and country.

“The arrest is a welcome development for the health sector; we would expose these quacks and ensure that Lagos does not suffer further morbidity and mortality from their nefarious activities.

“We are glad that our work on anti-quackery has started yielding progress as we are determined to weed out quacks from the medical profession,” he said.

The chairman pledged that NMA Lagos, with the support of the Ministry of Health, Health Monitoring and Accreditation Agency, HEFAMAA, and police, would eradicate quacks from the state.

According to him, the association would hold an anti-quackery summit soon, after which it would present a white paper to the Lagos State Government on anti-quackery.

Olowojebutu warned hospitals to refrain from employing staff whose certificates and licences had not been verified by the MDCN to safeguard the health of the populace.

The 37-year-old medical practitioner with suspected forged certificates was arrested by police at Skylink Medical Centre, Elepe-Ikorodu.

The police said they arrested the suspect, who claimed to be the managing director of the health facility, based on intelligence gathered by the command through members of the Elepe community concerning the activities of the suspect.

The police recovered two suspected forged certificates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, after searching for the facility.

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