Study is a ‘wakeup call’

    A new Tel Aviv University (TAU) study published in Addiction finds that eight out of 100 smokers who take smoking cessation medications will have benefited from taking such medications after one year’s time, according to a story in
    The researchers conclude that this is a low rate of success that should encourage policymakers to try to find better methods to help smokers quit, and to prevent young people from taking up smoking.
    “By the end of the first year of intervention, only eight out of 100 smokers will have abstained from smoking due to the smoking medication,” said lead researcher Dr. Laura J. Rosen of the School of Public Health at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.
    “This study is particularly important in Israel, where 22.5 percent of adults smoke and the rate of smoking is not declining. While the Israeli national healthcare system offers a strong package of aid to smokers who want to quit, there is no permanent funding for other tobacco control strategies.”
    The scientists used meta-analysis to combine the results of 61 randomized controlled trials involving some 28,000 participants who took the first-line US Food-and-Drug-Administration-approved smoking cessation medications bupropion (Zyban), nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or varenicline (Chantix/Champix). In all of the trials, participants were randomized either to an intervention group, which received smoking cessation medications, or to a control group, which did not receive active medications. Most of the trials also featured some form of counseling in addition to the medication.
    “Less than 40 percent of those receiving the medications continued to abstain from smoking after three months, about 25 percent had still quit after six months, and about only a fifth — 20 percent — remained abstinent after a full year,” Rosen says. “Importantly, 12 percent of those who did not receive active medication continued to abstain from smoking after one year.
    “Because benefit is calculated by starting with the quit rate among those who received the medication, and subtracting from the percentage who quit in the groups which didn’t receive the medication, just eight percent of smokers who received smoking cessation medications continued to benefit from the drugs after one year.”
    According to Rosen, this study differs from previous meta-analyses in that it examines the relative success of quitting over different time periods (three, six and 12 months) and the overall decline in benefits from the medication over time.
    “This study is a wakeup call for policymakers everywhere and for physicians who treat smokers,” Rosen concludes. “Much more needs to be done to reduce tobacco use and its enormous toll on the population. We applaud current efforts by the FDA to develop more beneficial forms of medicinal nicotine for smokers who want to quit. Policymakers should use all possible means to prevent young people from starting to smoke. Prevention of entry into the cycle of addiction is the best possible medicine.”
    The full story is at: