Sharp rise in use of drugs to treat smoking and obesity

A RISING number of prescriptions for drugs to treat obesity and to help people stop smoking are being handed out in Scotland.

Figures yesterday estimated that more than 10,500 people in Scotland are on daily drug treatment for obesity.

The statistics also revealed a 31 per cent increase in prescriptions for smokers trying to kick the habit in the past year.

Experts have warned that smoking and obesity remain two of the greatest challenges facing public health in Scotland.

Yesterday’s figures showed that 394,420 therapies to help smoking cessation were prescribed in Scotland during 2009 – an increase of 93,653 items (31 per cent) on the previous calendar year.

The rise could be linked to smoking services starting to be offered by local pharmacies in June 2008, making access to treatments, such as nicotine replacement therapy, easier for patients.

Public health minister Shona Robison said: “Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of ill-health and premature death in Scotland and is associated with some 13,500 deaths and many more hospital admissions each year.

“Community pharmacies can now offer smoking cessation support. The 31 per cent increase in items prescribed shows more people are accessing support to quit.”

Sheila Duffy, the chief executive of anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland, said: “There are many ways people quit smoking and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can be an effective aid in helping people to give up.

“What is most important is that smokers are encouraged to quit and know what support is available if they do want it.”

Other figures yesterday also showed 113,365 prescriptions for obesity treatments were issued in 2008-09 – up 3,041 (3 per cent) from the previous year.

The statistics, from the Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland, estimated that 0.23 per cent of the Scottish population aged over 12 – 10,547 people – were using obesity drugs daily. The most commonly prescribed drug was Xenical (Orlistat) with more than 78,000 prescriptions issued in Scotland last year.

The other drugs prescribed were Reductil (Sibutramine) and Acomplia (Rimonabant), which are currently no longer available for use by patients in the UK after their licences were suspended.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum and Child Growth Foundation, said new drugs to treat obesity could be many years away.

“They may be the magic bullet in ten years’ time, but not yet,” he said. It serves to remind everybody that if you thought you could get fat and then get thin on drugs, you may actually be heading up the wrong avenue.”

He added: “It is a good reminder to everyone, for their own sake, that they should be keeping themselves in shape as much as possible.”

Ms Robison said: “Any decision about prescribing a weight-loss drug is between a doctor and their patients.”

She added: “The Scottish Government have a range of initiatives under way to improve diet, increase physical activity and tackle unhealthy weight.”

By Lyndsay Moss
#  Source:  The Scotsman


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