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Smoking cessation medicines increase quit rates in 4-country study
Jonathan Foulds, PhD posted:
Smoking cessation medicines such as nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline and bupropion have consistently been shown to increase quit rates in randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials….generally regarded as the best way to find out if a medicine does what it is supposed to and is safe. However, some survey studies, which asked people how they tried and succeeded in quitting did not find that people who used these same medicines had higher quit rates. A number of reasons have been put forward to explain these different results in different types of study. These include the possibility that people who volunteer for clinical trials may be different in some way from people who try the same medicines in the "real world" (e.g they might be more addicted). Another possible explanation is that smokers participating in surveys in which they are asked to recall previous quit attempts may forget some attempts where they tried on their own, but are more likely to recall quit attempts where they used a medicine.

A large study that sheds light on these issues was recently published in the journal Addiction. Dr Karin Kasza and colleagues surveyed over 7000 smokers every 6 months from 2002 to 2009, asking them about their quit attempts since their last interview. They found that, consistent with evidence from randomized controlled trials, smokers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the United States are more likely to succeed in quit attempts if they use varenicline, bupropion or nicotine patch, compared with trying to quit without a medicine. They also found that quit attempts that did not use a medicine were more likely to be forgotten at subsequent interviews, explaining why previous studies did not find a higher quit rate with medicines (failed attempts without medication more likely to be forgotten than failed attempts with medicine). It is reassuring to know that the pattern of results found in clinical trials also applies in the "real world" too, and that these medications are effective in helping smokers quit.


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