OTC Smoking Cessation Products Can Be Equally Effective as Rx Methods


Those looking to quit smoking may not need a prescription to do so.

Those looking to quit smoking may not need a prescription to do so.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association investigated whether OTC products like the nicotine patch, prescription drugs like varenicline (Chantix), or combination nicotine replacement therapy were equally effective for smoking cessation.

Among the 1086 smokers in the research cohort, about 20% successfully quit tobacco regardless of the treatment they used, although Chantix was associated with more frequent adverse events such as vivid dreams, insomnia, nausea, and indigestion.

“The results suggest that the widely available, simple to use nicotine patch can produce long-term smoking cessation rates that are similar to those produced by more intense treatments,” lead study author Tim Baker, a public health researcher at the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, told Reuters.

Pharmacists are in a pivotal position to help patients choose the most effective smoking cessation methods, and the results of the JAMA study suggest that those who opt for cheaper OTC medications may have just as high of a success rate as those who pursue prescription drugs.

“The results raise questions about the relative effectiveness of intense smoking pharmacotherapies,” the authors concluded.

However, smoking cessation strategies should extend beyond drug therapies to include a pharmacist counseling component.

“A comprehensive tobacco cessation program involves both behavioral support and also medication support.” Lisa Kroon, PharmD, CDE, clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Pharmacy, previously told Pharmacy Times.

For example, Dr. Kroon explained how no-cost, state-sponsored “quit lines” have successfully helped smokers kick the habit.

“Meanwhile, the pharmacist, as the drug expert, can help with the smoking cessation medication selection [and] counseling, and some states actually furnish the medication [for patients],” she said.

An estimated 70% of adult smokers in the United States want to quit smoking, and millions more have attempted to do so, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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