Quit-Smoking Drug Works Best When Combined With Nicotine Patch

A new study finds smokers who use the prescription drug varenicline together with nicotine patches are more successful in giving up cigarettes for up to six months, compared with those who use the drug alone.

The 446 smokers in the study received either a nicotine patch and varenicline, or a placebo patch and varenicline. Treatment continued for 12 weeks after the smokers’ quit date. Researchers checked in with the study participants after 24 weeks, and again after six months. They found 65 percent of those using varenicline and the nicotine patch were not smoking after six months, compared with 47 percent of those who used varenicline and a placebo patch. Varenicline is sold under the brand name Chantix.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Study author Coenraad Koegelenberg of the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa told USA Today, “The combination (of varenicline and nicotine patches) appears to be safe, although further studies are needed to confirm this.”

Previous research has suggested some smoking cessation medications may increase cardiovascular risks. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration said Chantix may be associated with a small increased risk of certain heart problems in patients with heart disease. In 2009, the FDA required the makers of Wellbutrin, Zyban and Chantix to include black box labeling because of side effects such as behavior changes, depression, hostility and suicidal thoughts.

Last year, an analysis of previous studies involving more than 30,500 smokers concluded smoking cessation therapies do not increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. The study included nicotine patches and gums, as well as the medications bupropion and varenicline.

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