British regulator backs anti-smoking drug


The use of GlaxoSmithKline's Zyban pill to help smokers quit has been approved in Britain despite controversy about the drug's safety.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) said Zyban - and nicotine replacement therapies produced by Novartis and Pharmacia Corp - had a valuable role to play in improving health.

"On average, 300 people a day die as a result of smoking and each year the NHS spends about £1.5 billion sterling treating smoking-related illnesses," said Ms Anne-Toni Rodgers, executive director at NICE.

Zyban is the only drug which reduces the craving to smoke without relying on giving a shot of nicotine.

The safety of the product, which was developed for treating depression, is being monitored by regulatory agencies after reports of 58 deaths. But Britain's Medicines Control Agency has said there is no proven link between Zyban and the deaths.