MPs crusading to stamp out smoking have welcomed a move by government drug buying agency Pharmac to subsidise the drug Champix.
Pharmac medical director Peter Moodie said a new multi-product agreement with Pfizer meant patients with a form of kidney cancer would have a new treatment option in sunitinib, and the deal included auto-immune disorder treatment etanercept (Enbrel), and stop smoking drug varenicline (Champix).
"Sunitinib and varenicline will become funded for the first time, while etanercept has its funding widened from November 1," Dr Moodie said.
Pharmac wouldn't initially subsidise Champix because of safety concerns, but it is now part of Medsafe's intensive medicines monitoring programme.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said nicotine was one of the strongest addictions, and those who were ready to quit smoking needed to have as many options and as much support as possible without costs being prohibitive.
"People from all walks of life are dying every day from smoking related diseases. For those who've tried to quit but have so far been unsuccessful, this is excellent news," Mrs Turia said.
Labour associate health spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said providing another option for those who want to quit by removing price barriers was a big step towards reducing tobacco consumption and smoking prevalence.
However, he said action also needed to be taken to create an environment that discouraged young people from starting smoking in the first place. "One of the first things we can do is remove the last bastion of tobacco advertising - retail displays of tobacco."
He encouraged Mrs Turia to advise the Government to support his Smokefree Environments (Removing Tobacco Displays) Amendment Bill, due to be read before the end of the year.