Pharmaceutical intervention alone may not help smokers quit

Wellbutrin and Varenicline are often prescribed as a treatment to help quit smoking. Based on a new study, however, the use of pharmaceutical intervention alone may not be as effective as once thought. As published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute, researchers at the University of California found that smoking cessation drugs alone may not fully help smokers kick the habit.

According to researchers, 34 percent of smokers have tried smoking cessation drugs to help them quit, but the majority are not successful.

“The results of randomized trials that tested these interventional drugs showed the promise of doubling cessation rates, but that has not translated into the real world,” said John Pierce, the study’s author.

Researchers gathered data from the Current Population Survey-Tobacco Use Supplement, which included information about the use of tobacco products in the US among adults.

They began studying two groups that were surveyed nearly tens years apart and utilized “matching,” a method that would help balance comparison groups on certain factors, like for instance, the number of cigarettes periodically consumed by an individual.

When analyzing the data, matching helped researchers eliminate bias, but in the results, no evidence was present that showed smoking cessation drugs increased the chances of quitting smoking.

The findings surprised researchers given the promise of smoking cessation in randomized trials. This led to the conclusion that intensive behavioral counseling, combined with pharmaceutical aids, may have contributed to the increase in smoking cessation rates during clinical trials.

“Smokers who are committed to quitting and want to use a pharmaceutical aid should also enroll in a program that could help them track their progress and support them in their attempt,” researchers suggest.

The study sheds light on the importance of behavioral counseling in treatment plans and could increase success rates if pharmaceutical aids and counseling are both combined, as researchers concluded.