Nicotine replacement therapy may become part of Essential Medicines List

Smokeless tobacco use and bidis continue to be the dominant forms of tobacco use.

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Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by The Health Master

Mumbai: Nicotine replacement therapy is a WHO-approved 12-week regimen that reduces smokers’ dependency on cigarettes gradually and finally leads them to quit smoking.

On average, the daily therapy cost could range between Rs 10 and Rs 13 per patient and is taken over 60–90 days.

Once added to the NLEM, it will boost the availability of NRT across the country at affordable prices, with states and central agencies rolling out smoking cessation programs, sources added.

India has one of the largest tobacco user populations globally, with approximately 267 million tobacco users (99 million smokers and 199 million smokeless tobacco users).

Smokeless tobacco use and bidis continue to be the dominant forms of tobacco use.

NRT is a nearly Rs 200 crore market growing at a robust 10% and is dominated by companies like Cipla. Smoking cessation products like gum are widely prescribed, with the format most preferred by those who want to quit smoking.

“Cipla Health started scaling up NRT from 2015 onwards. Now its two brands, Nicotex and Nicogum, enjoy majority market share between themselves,” a Cipla spokesperson said.

Besides gum, lozenges and transdermal patches are also available but have a poor off-take.

The category is shifting from prescription products to over-the-counter, with several brands expected to enter the market. At present, the 2 mg pack is OTC, while the 4 mg pack requires a prescription.

Companies like the Bengaluru-based Strides Consumer entered the market with gum two years ago, and later launched lozenges. Other players include Russian Pharma and Glenmark, while recently, Gurgaon-based Vize made a foray.

A huge consumer base lies untapped, with NRT therapy used by less than 1% of the “quitter” population.

An industry player said that to expand its use, NRT products need to be priced and distributed effectively, in addition to increasing awareness around smoking cessation.

The revision of the NLEM every five years was delayed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Once the essential list is drawn up, it forms the basis of drugs put under price control by the drug pricing regulator, according to the National Pharma Policy.

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