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BMC Fam Pract. 2001;2:6. Epub 2001 Oct 30.

General Practitioners' views on the provision of nicotine replacement therapy and bupropion.

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St George's Hospital Medical School Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK.



Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and a new drug, bupropion, are licensed in several countries as aids to smoking cessation. General practitioners (GPs) play a crucial role in recommending or prescribing these medications. In the UK there has been discussion about whether the medications should be reimbursable by the National Health Service (NHS). This study assessed English GPs' attitudes towards reimbursement of NRT and bupropion.


Postal survey of a randomly selected national sample of GPs; 376 GPs completed the questionnaire after one reminder; effective response rate: 53%. There was no difference between the responses of GPs who responded to the initial request and those who responded only after a reminder suggesting minimal bias due to non-response.


Attitudes of GPs were remarkably divided on most issues relating to the medications. Forty-three percent thought that bupropion should not be on NHS prescription while 42% thought that it should be (15% did not know); Fifty percent thought that NRT should not be on NHS prescription while 42% thought it should be (8% did not know). Requiring that smokers attend behavioural support programmes to be eligible to receive the medications on NHS prescription made no appreciable difference to the GPs' views. GPs were similarly divided on whether having the medications reimbursable would add unacceptably to their workload or offer a welcome opportunity to discuss smoking with their patients. A principal components analysis of responses to the individual questions on NRT and bupropion revealed that GPs' attitudes could be understood in terms of a single 'pro-con' dimension accounting for 53% of the total variance which made no distinction between the two medications.


GPs in England appear to be divided in their attitudes to medications to aid smoking cessation and appear not to discriminate in their views between different types of medication or different aspects of their use. This suggests that their attitudes are generated by quite fundamental values. Addressing these values may be important in encouraging GPs to adhere more closely to national and international guidelines.

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