Smoking Quit Rates Not Improved With Use of Pharmaceutical Cessation Aids

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The effectiveness of pharmaceutical cessation products observed in clinical trials may not translate to the general population.
The effectiveness of pharmaceutical cessation products observed in clinical trials may not translate to the general population.

Even after taking into consideration various confounding factors, pharmaceutical smoking-cessation products do not improve long-term cessation among patients who smoke cigarettes, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Clinical studies have shown that pharmaceutical cessation products can nearly double the cessation rate, yet some analyses demonstrate that the effectiveness observed in these trials do not translate to the general population.

For this study, researchers accessed the Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey (TUS-CPS) and evaluated data from 2129 smokers who responded to the survey at baseline and 1-year follow-up at 2 separate time points (2002-2003, 2010-2011). Eligible patients were tobacco users at baseline and attempted to quit smoking for at least 1 day 1 year prior to the follow-up period. Patients who used pharmaceutical aids (eg, varenicline, bupropion, nicotine replacement) were matched with nonusers using propensity score models that included various confounders.

The use of pharmaceutical aids was not associated with smoking abstinence of 30 days or more at 1-year follow up (multivariable-adjusted risk difference (aRD), 0.01; 95% CI, –0.03 to 0.05). Varenicline (aRD, 0.01; 95% CI, –0.07 to 0.11), bupropion (aRD, 0.02; 95% CI, –0.04 to 0.09), and nicotine replacement (aRD, 0.01; 95% CI, –0.03 to 0.06) were not found to improve the rate of abstinence among tobacco users.

Results of the study demonstrate that there is a lack of effectiveness with pharmaceutical aids as it pertains to smoking cessation, despite evidence from clinical studies.

The authors concluded that “these results suggest a need for reconsidering how cessation assistance is provided at the population level, as the simple provision of pharmaceutical aids to smokers does not appear to be an effective way to increase the proportion who successfully quit for the long term.”


Leas EC, Pierce JP, Benmarhnia T, et al. Effectiveness of pharmaceutical smoking cessation aids in a nationally representative cohort of American smokers [published online December 21, 2017]. J Natl Cancer Inst. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djx240 

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