§ Mr. Michael Brown
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make nicotine chewing gum available on prescription; and what is his estimate of the cost to public funds of such a move.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg:
The availability of this gum on the National Health Service is not a matter for Ministerial decision. General practitioners are free to prescribe what they consider necessary for the treatment of their patients, although they may have to justify their decisions to the local medical committee if challenged.
Advice to general practitioners, on whether various substances should be regarded as drugs for the purposes of prescribing under the NHS is given by the advisory committee on borderline substances, an independent professional body. In 1980 it advised that nicotine chewing gum should not be so regarded in the light of the evidence then available. The results of further clinical trials have become available since then, and we have asked the committee to consider these.
It is not possible to make a reliable estimate of the cost to public funds if the committee changed its advice.