Pfizer is all smiles after the UK’s cost-effectiveness body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, issued its final guidance recommending the US behemoth's new smoking cessation treatment Champix (varenicline) for use on the country’s National Health Service in smokers who have expressed a desire to quit and as part of an overall behavioural support programme.

The new guidance is timed to coincide with a smoking ban that came into force this month and had been anticipated following a thumbs-up from the Institute at the end of May.

Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE, said: "The guidance recommends that varenicline should normally be provided in conjunction with counselling and support, but if this type of support isn't available, this should not stop smokers receiving treatment with varenicline.”

The positive guidance was based on data showing significantly greater quit rates amongst individuals given Champix than those receiving bupropion (GlaxoSmithKline’s Zyban). Indeed, overall, Champix was both cheaper and more effective than both bupropion and nicotine replacement therapy.

Smoking is responsible for an estimated 106,000 deaths in the UK each year, as well as a host of diseases and conditions including cancers, coronary heart disease, impotence and infertility. Globally, smoking is responsible for five million deaths worldwide each year and, by 2010, the World Health Organisation estimates the annual global cost of tobacco-related illness to be approximately $500 billion.

A 12-week course of treatment with Champix costs £163.80 and NICE’s guidance will be considered for review in 2010.