Heart Healthy Smoking Cessation Therapies

Smoking cessation therapies did not increase risk of major heart problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Kicking the smoking habit can improve overall health and quality of life. A recent review investigates where smoking cessation therapies affect heart health.

The review, released by the American Heart Association, looks at research on the three main therapies used to help with quitting smoking.

The authors of the review found that none of the therapies increase the risk of major heart health problems, like stroke or heart attack.

Although nicotine patches and gums were linked to a risk of an irregular heartbeat, the researchers said those symptoms were minor and mostly harmless.

"Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking."

Edward Mills, PhD, MSc, of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University, led the review on smoking cessation drugs and heart health.

According to the authors, about 50 percent of long-term smokers will die due to a smoking-related health problem. Quitting smoking offers many health benefits, including improved heart health.

There are three main types of therapies that help smokers kick the habit: nicotine replacement therapy (NRT, nicotine patches and gums), bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin), and varenicline (brand name Chantix).

Previous studies have raised questions about whether these therapies increase the risk of heart problems.

This review looked at randomized clinical trials of NRT, bupropion, or varenicline that reported on whether any heart disease events occurred, like heart attack or stroke.

In total, the researchers found 63 previous trials that involved 30,508 patients. Nineteen trials evaluted NRT, 27 trials evaluated bupropion versus a placebo (fake medicine), and 18 trials evaluated varenicline versus a placebo. Six trials evaluated one of the therapies against another.

After examining the results of the studies, the authors of the review found that the three smoking cessation therapies did not increase the risk of major heart health events like heart attack or stroke.

Bupropion actually seemed to reduce the risk of a heart disease event.

NRT was associated with an increase in low-risk heart health events like tachycardia, an irregular heartbeat, which the authors called "largely benign."

Additionally, the researchers suggested that NRT may be associated with low-risk heart health events because many long-term smokers already have heart problems by the time they quit smoking.

The authors of the review concluded that, given the low risk of serious heart health problems with smoking cessation therapies, the benefits of using one to quit smoking likely outweigh the risks.

The researchers acknowledged that there are limitations to the study. For example, most of the patients were healthy, so the results may not be consistent with unhealthy smokers.

The review was published in Circulation on December 9.

The authors did not disclose funding sources. Some of the authors have consulted with pharmaceutical companies in the past or receive financial support from health institutes.

Review Date: 
December 6, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014