Many smokers say they would quit smoking if they could. In fact, nicotine is an enormously addictive substance, and inhaling nicotine-containing smoke delivers the most nicotine in the shortest time over any other delivery system. Of course, overwhelming evidence supports associations between smoking and adverse respiratory effects including lung cancer, emphysema, and chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder. The public health problem in smoking cessation is not in motivation but in overcoming the addiction to nicotine and smoking tobacco.
Now researchers claim that using two specific smoking cessation aids, nicotine patches and the drug Chantix (generic name varenicline), in combination improves the odds that smokers will be successful in their efforts to quit. The combination treatment costs more, of course, and there are health risks associated with Chantix, but the benefits of smoking cessation outweigh these drawbacks, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration two years ago.
The report describing the new study appears in the July 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The objective of the study was to assess the effectiveness and safety to using Chantix and nicotine patch compared with Chantix alone when attempting to quit smoking.
“The combination appears to be safe, although further studies are needed to confirm this,” said Dr. Coenie Koegelenberg, the report’s lead author and associate professor of pulmonology at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, South Africa.
The 446 mostly female smokers enrolled in the study were randomly assigned to take Chantix with either nicotine or placebo patch two weeks before their target quit date. The blinded study followed the subjects for 12 weeks after the quit dates and checked on them again six months later.
At both followup assessments, more subjects who used Chantix and nicotine patch (55 and 49 percent) were still not smoking compared with the subjects who used Chantix and placebo patch (41 and 33 percent).
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