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Publication, Part of

Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England April 2018 to March 2019

Official statistics

Part 3 - Prescriptions and Pharmacotherapy

Prescription items

This section presents information on the number of prescription items used to help people stop smoking, using Prescription Analysis and Cost (PACT) data, which are accessed from NHS Prescription Services.

The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) is the basic cost of a drug as listed in the Drug Tariff or price lists; it does not include discounts, dispensing costs, prescription charges or fees.

There are three main pharmacotherapies prescribed for the treatment of smoking dependence in England: Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), Bupropion (Zyban) and Varenicline (Champix).

The number of prescription items dispensed in England in 2018/19 was 740 thousand, compared to 2.3 million ten years ago.

Prescription items dispensed peaked at 2.6 million in 2010/11.

In 2018/19, 396 thousand items of NRTs were dispensed, down from 463 thousand in 2017/18, and just over a quarter of the total of ten years ago in 2008/09 (1.5 million).

320 thousand items of Varenicline were dispensed in 2018/19, compared with a peak of 987 thousand items in 2010/11.

Bupropion is the least common item, with 24 thousand dispensed in 2018/19, a slight increase from 23 thousand in 2017/18.

Cost of prescription items

The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of all prescription items used to help people quit smoking  was £23 million in 2018/19.

This is less than half of the total in 2010/11 when the NIC of all items peaked at £65.9 million.


Average NIC per item

The average NIC per item for all pharmacotherapy items was £31 in 2018/19.

The average per item was £40 for Bupropion, £35 for Varenicline and £27 for NRT.

Free prescriptions

A substantial proportion of those setting quit dates were eligible to receive free prescription from the NHS. The eligibility criteria for free prescriptions can be found at


Number of quit attempts

134,503 people eligible to receive free prescriptions set a quit date in 2018/19. This has been steadily declining since the peak in 2011/12.


Self-reported quit rate

The quit rate in 2018/19 is 50% which is very similar levels to previous reporting years.


This section breaks down those setting a quit date by the type of pharmacotherpy used during their quit attempt. Patients can receive a variety of different treatments, including NCPs (Nicotine containing products), Bupropion/Varencicline only or any combination of licensed/unlicensed NCPs.


Number of quit attempts

‘Combination of licensed NCPs concurrently’ had the highest number of quit attempts (75,923).


Self-reported quit rate

‘Licensed medication and an unlicensed NCP consecutively’ had the highest quit rate (72%). Other therapies varied between 67% for ‘unlicensed NCP’ and 32% for ‘Pharmacotherapy not known’.

Last edited: 27 September 2019 10:17 am