The disruption in the supply of the smoking cessation medicine will “result in shortages with immediate effect”, a Pfizer spokesperson told C+D last week (June 18).
A Department of Health and Social Care (DH) spokesperson told C+D today (June 21) that Pfizer – the sole supplier of the Champix (varenicline) range – is “out of stock of both strengths due to further quality testing required following the detection of nitrosamine impurities”.
Pfizer is “working to resolve the disruption to supply with urgency”, but is not currently able to say when the issue will be resolved, the manufacturer's spokesperson told C+D.
“We understand the challenges this situation poses to patients and fully realise the importance of this medicine to healthcare professionals and patients,” the spokesperson said.
Pfizer is encouraging patients to speak to a healthcare professional to find an alternative option.
Switching from Champix to other treatments
The announcement of the shortages was first shared by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) – a social enterprise that supports the delivery of local smoking cessation services.
Following the announcement, NCSCT chief executive Andy McEwen wrote some “initial guidance” on switching from Champix to other treatments, in collaboration with the enterprise’s clinical consultant.
The guidance is a “live document” that will be subject to updates, Dr McEwen told C+D last week.
“It’s worth remembering that we simply don’t have scientific evidence for this situation, [so] we’re making a best judgement call,” he added.
While there is little research on switching patients from Champix to other stop smoking medications, “many stop smoking practitioners will have been through this process with clients who have experienced side effects with Champix and have wanted to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) instead”, according to the NCSCT guidance.
Buproprion cannot be used as an alternative to Champix, but a “combination NRT would seem a reasonable alternative that can offer almost immediate relief of withdrawal symptoms and urges to smoke”, NCSCT wrote in the guidance.
Patients should be “reassured that NRT is an evidence-based medication to help people stop smoking and that the change of treatment plan should in no way disadvantage them in their attempt to stop smoking”.