Do medications to help you quit smoking really deliver?

A new study, led by Canadian researchers and published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at whether seven

A new study, led by Canadian researchers and published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at whether seven widely used pharmaceutical treatments, available in Canada, truly help people to quit smoking. The researchers analyzed the results of 69 existing trials involving more than 30,000 patients, and came to this conclusion: All seven treatments really work. They are all more effective than placebo, and six of the seven doubled the odds of quitting (compared to placebo).

So what are they? Five of the seven are nicotine products: nicotine nasal spray, transdermal patches, tablets, inhalers and gum. The other two are not nicotine-based: the medications varenicline and bupropion. (The study also showed that varenicline was about twice as effective as buproprion. Click on the drug names for safety information from Health Canada.)

While this is seemingly good news, the researchers also report that about 70 percent of the patients in these trials were smoking again at 12 months, meaning just 3 out of 10 suceeded in quitting for a substantial period of time. Poor odds, in my opinion. Clearly, we still have a long way to go in terms of developing strategies that help people quit and quit for good. These kinds of pharmaceuticals may be only part of the solution.

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