Rx Combo for Quitting Smoking Was Better than One Rx Alone

Quitting smoking with two prescriptions most successful in heavy smoking men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Even though there are a variety of aids to help people quit smoking, it’s still a tough habit to kick. But if one of those aids isn't doing the job, a combination of smoking cessation therapies may do the trick.

A recent study found that people having trouble quitting smoking with nicotine patches had a better success quitting with a combination of medications than with one medication alone.

"Ask a pharmacist about medications for quitting smoking."

Jed Rose, PhD, director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation established by the Duke University Medical Center based in Durham, North Carolina, led this research.

Dr. Rose and his colleagues started with 222 smokers who did not cut back cigarette use more than 50 percent after a week of using a nicotine patch. Nicotine patches administer cigarettes’ addictive component through the skin.

That group was randomly assigned 12-week treatments of either varenicline and bupropion or varenicline and a placebo (fake medication) to see how successful each group was at not smoking 8 to 11 weeks after quitting.

Varenicline (brand name Chantix) is a pill that blocks the seemingly pleasant effects smoking has on the brain. Bupropion (brand names Wellbutrin and Zyban) is an antidepressant also prescribed as a quit-smoking aid.

Dr. Rose and team found that 39.8 percent of the group who received the combination treatment still weren’t smoking after 8 to 11 weeks, compared with only 25.9 percent of the group receiving the treatment with a placebo.

Furthermore, the combination treatment was about four times more effective on men than on women.

People who received the combination treatment reported side effects including headache, dry mouth, irritability, insomnia, vivid dreams and changes in taste.

Dr. Rose said in a prepared statement that these findings “offer a potential practical treatment approach that can identify smokers who don’t respond to a single conventional treatment, but may benefit enormously from a combination of treatments.”

Dr. Rose added, "It's clear that we need to improve success rates for smoking cessation, and it is thought that combining treatments could add to the efficacy."

This study was published online June 17 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Funding for the research was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and tobacco company Phillip Morris USA.

The authors disclosed consulting and patent purchase agreements with Phillip Morris as well as other consulting agreements with private companies.

Review Date: 
June 18, 2014
Last Updated:
June 20, 2014