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Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

Publication, Part of

Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England - April 2020 to March 2021

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 Vareniciline (Champix).

The number of prescription items dispensed in England in 2020/21 was 589 thousand, compared to 2.6 million in 2010/11. Since then this number has decreased annually.

In 2020/21, 336 thousand items of NRTs were dispensed, down from 379 thousand in 2019/20, and less than a quarter of the total in 2010/11 (1.5 million).

232 thousand items of Varenicline were dispensed in 2020/21, compared with 987 thousand items in 2010/11.

Bupropion is the least common item, with 21 thousand dispensed in 2020/21, a decrease from 27 thousand in 2019/20.

Cost of prescription items

The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of all prescription items used to help people quit smoking  was £19.3 million in 2020/21.

This is less than a third of the total in 2010/11 when the NIC of all items was £65.9 million.


Average NIC per item

The average NIC per item for all pharmacotherapy items was £33 in 2020/21.

The average per item was £40 for Bupropion, £37 for Varenicline and £29 for NRT.

Free prescriptions

A substantial proportion of those setting quit dates were eligible to receive free prescription from the NHS.


Number of quit attempts

106,512 people eligible to receive free prescriptions set a quit date in 2020/21. This has been steadily declining since the peak of 464,632 in 2011/12.


Self-reported quit rate

The self-reported quit rate in 2020/21 is 57% which is significantly higher than previous reporting years which had rates ranging from 46% to 50%.


This section breaks down those setting a quit date by the type of pharmacotherapy 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 (59,978), followed by 'Vareniciline only' (51,484).


Self-reported quit rate

‘Combination of a licensed medication and an unlicensed NCP concurrently’ had the highest self-reported quit rate (68%). Other therapies varied between 67% for ‘Varenicline only’ and 36% for ‘Pharmacotherapy not known’.

Last edited: 7 September 2021 9:40 am