The proportion of smokers who benefit from smoking cessation medications declines during the first year of treatment, according to a new meta-analysis of 61 studies involving 27,647 people.
About 40 per cent of patients using smoking cessation drugs showed sustained abstinence after three months (37.1 per cent with bupropion, 34.8 per cent with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and 39.3 per cent with varenicline) but after six months this declined to about a quarter (25.9, 26.6 and 25.4 per cent respectively).
After a year, about a fifth remained abstinent: 19.9 per cent with bupropion, 19.8 per cent with NRT and 18.7 per cent with varenicline. Abstinence rates among controls were 18.8 per cent at three months, 14.3 per cent at six months and 11.4 per cent at 12 months. The net benefit of the cessation treatment compared to controls declined from 17.3 per cent at three months to 11.8 per cent at six months and 8.2 per cent at 12 months.
The authors comment that healthcare providers “would be well served by realistic expectations when prescribing” smoking cessation drugs. In addition, clinicians could plan to continue to intervene over the longer term in people taking cessation treatments.