JAMA: Study Shows 3 Treatments Have Similar Results

Research shows three medications combined with coaching to quit smoking—a pill called varenicline (Chantix), the nicotine patch alone, and a combination of nicotine-replacement medications—helped about the same percentage of participants to quit smoking. These results, from the Wisconsin Smokers’ Health Study 2 (WSHS 2), are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The research showed that about 1 out of 4 WSHS 2 patients had quit smoking 6 months after the quit date. Other studies have found that the average quit rate for those who try to quit without coaching or medication is only about 1 out of 20.

This was the first study to directly compare varenicline versus a combination of nicotine-replacement medications.

Previous studies have shown that varenicline and combination medications had fared better than the patch alone. It’s unclear why WSHS 2 results were different.

Researchers suggested that the results may reflect the changing nature of those who still smoke in the United States. Today’s smokers could need different help to quit than smokers in the past.

Tobacco use still kills more Americans every year than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

“Results from this study show the need to conduct more research comparing treatments,” said Dr. Michael Fiore, one of the lead researchers. “There is a need to develop new treatments that better help today’s smokers to quit for good.”

Dr. Fiore cautioned against drawing definitive conclusions about these medications based on this one study. “The good news is that there is a wealth of research documenting that the best way to quit is to use the counseling and medications described in the 2008 Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guidelines: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.

He advises smokers to talk to their doctor or call the national tobacco quitline for free help at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. That’s 1-800-764-8669. Or visit www.smokefree.gov.