Warning on patches for smokers

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(First Edition)

FIRMS selling cut-price nicotine patches to help smokers kick the habit have been ordered to withdraw their products or face legal action.

The Medicines Control Agency said yesterday that the products should not be sold until it had assessed them for 'safety, quality and efficacy'.

Patches such as Nicostop and Nicopatch are sold at prices far lower than the three officially licensed products - Nicabate, Nicotinell and Nicorette Patch. These cost an average of pounds 160 for a three-month course and can be bought only from pharmacies.

The unlicensed ones are usually sold by mail order companies through advertisements and can cost as little as pounds 29.95 for three months.

The MCA said that companies could be prosecuted under the 1968 Medicines Act or face an injunction to stop them selling their products. The agency strongly advised people to buy only licensed patches.

The patches reduce the craving for cigarettes by feeding nicotine through the skin into the bloodstream. But, earlier this month, two doctors claimed unlicensed patches often contained so little nicotine that the amount getting through to the bloodstream was minimal.