Combination of patch and pills may improve smoking cessation, researchers say

Smoking cessation rates have been shown to be improved when varenicline – a medication used to help smokers quit the habit – is combined with nicotine replacement therapy.

According to a new study published in JAMA, combining pharmaceutical and behavioral approaches to smoking cessation has been proven to be effective in helping people quit smoking. Prior to this study, the combination of nicotine replacement therapy – such as nicotine patches – and varenicline had been suggested as a competent means of quitting smoking, but only now has its effectiveness been determined.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19.6 percent of working adults in the U.S. smoke on a regular basis.

The study, led by Coenraad F. N. Koegelenberg, M.D., Ph.D., of Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa, analyzed 446 healthy smokers after being assigned either to a nicotine or placebo patch two weeks before their targeted quit date. The medicine varenicline was started one week before this quit date, and continued to be administered 12 weeks after.

The researchers discovered that those who were given both varenicline and a nicotine patch were more likely to stop smoking after six months.

“In this study, to our knowledge the largest study to date examining the efficacy and safety of supplementing varenicline treatment with NRT, we have found the combination treatment to be associated with a statistically significant and clinically important higher continuous abstinence rate at 12 and 24 weeks, as well as a higher point prevalence abstinence rate at 6 months,” Koegelenberg said in a statement.

The researchers note that continued studies are necessary to determine the long-term efficacy of this combination treatment for smoking cessation, as well as its level of safety.