Combining two stop-smoking medicines helps smokers quit more readily than either one alone, according to research published in JAMA. In the study almost 500 healthy South African smokers were randomly assigned to either a nicotine patch or a placebo patch two weeks before their target quit date. All of the volunteers started taking Chantix (varenecline) one week prior to the target quit date. Both medications as well as the placebo were continued for 12 weeks. After three months, 55 percent of those on both Chantix and the nicotine patch had stopped smoking completely, compared to 41 percent of those on Chantix plus placebo. After six months, 65 percent of those on dual therapy were still smoke-free, compared to 46 percent of the comparison group.
The medicines can cause side effects. Those on both drugs were nearly twice as likely to report nausea, sleep problems, constipation, skin reactions and depression; those on Chantix alone reported more headaches and bad dreams. Since quitting smoking is the most important thing people can do to further their own health, it is useful to have this evidence that two drugs are better than one.
From the People’s Pharmacy perspective, options to help people quit are welcome. Not everyone does equally well on Chantix, however. We have received many reports of serious side effects. Quitters should be well-informed about the risks as well as the benefits of this medication before starting to take it, but knowing that the combination of stop-smoking medicines can boost effectiveness should be encouraging.