To Kick the Habit, Compare Your Options

Nicotine patch, varenicline, combination therapy helped users quit smoking equally

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Ready to quit smoking? If so, there are a lot of helpful options out there and they've just been compared for the first time.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin (UW) looked at adults who wanted to quit smoking. They compared three smoking cessation aids: the nicotine patch, a medication called varenicline (brand name Chantix) and combination nicotine replacement therapy (C-NRT). All three therapies were found to have similar results at both 26 and 52 weeks.

Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking knows the habit is hard to break. Quitting smoking is important for both heart and lung health, however.

Prescription smoking cessation aids include the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, lozenges, inhalers and nasal spray, as well as the oral medication varenicline. Researchers said this is the first study to compare these methods head-to-head.

Prior to the release of varenicline, the nicotine patch was the first-line therapy for smoking cessation.

C-NRT is the use of both the nicotine patch and an additional aid (nicotine gum, spray, lozenges or inhalers). The patch provides long-term relief from nicotine cravings. The other aids offer short-term relief.

Varenicline and C-NRT differ significantly in cost. Varenicline is the more expensive option.

Timothy B. Baker, PhD, of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, led this study of more than 1,000 patients. These patients were randomly assigned to three groups for a 12-week smoking cessation program. The first group used the nicotine patch alone. The second group used varenicline alone. The third group used the nicotine patch with nicotine lozenges.

All patients had the option of smoking cessation counseling sessions throughout.

None of the treatments had better outcomes than the others at either 26 or 52 weeks. However, varenicline caused more frequent side effects than the nicotine patch, such as vivid dreams, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems and sleepiness.

The study was published Jan. 26 in the journal JAMA.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention funded this research.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 22, 2016
Last Updated:
January 26, 2016