Smoking cessation medications are routinely used in health care; it is vital to identify medications that most effectively treat this leading cause of preventable mortality.
To compare the efficacies of varenicline, combination nicotine replacement therapy (C-NRT), and the nicotine patch for 26-week quit rates.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Three-group randomized intention-to-treat clinical trial occurring from May 2012 to November 2015 among smokers recruited in the Madison, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, communities; 65.5% of smokers offered the study (2687/4102) refused participation prior to randomization.
Participants were randomized to one of three 12-week open-label smoking cessation pharmacotherapy groups: (1) nicotine patch only (n = 241); (2) varenicline only (including 1 prequit week; n = 424); and (3) C-NRT (nicotine patch + nicotine lozenge; n = 421). Six counseling sessions were offered.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The primary outcome was carbon monoxide–confirmed self-reported 7-day point-prevalence abstinence at 26 weeks. Secondary outcomes were carbon monoxide–confirmed self-reported initial abstinence, prolonged abstinence at 26 weeks, and point-prevalence abstinence at weeks 4, 12, and 52.
Among 1086 smokers randomized (52% women; 67% white; mean age, 48 years; mean of 17 cigarettes smoked per day), 917 (84%) provided 12-month follow-up data. Treatments did not differ on any abstinence outcome measure at 26 or 52 weeks, including point-prevalence abstinence at 26 weeks (nicotine patch, 22.8% [55/241]; varenicline, 23.6% [100/424]; and C-NRT, 26.8% [113/421]) or at 52 weeks (nicotine patch, 20.8% [50/241]; varenicline, 19.1% [81/424]; and C-NRT, 20.2% [85/421]). At 26 weeks, the risk differences for abstinence were, for patch vs varenicline, −0.76% (95% CI, −7.4% to 5.9%); for patch vs C-NRT, −4.0% (95% CI, −10.8% to 2.8%); and for varenicline vs C-NRT, −3.3% (95% CI, −9.1% to 2.6%). All medications were well tolerated, but varenicline produced more frequent adverse events than did the nicotine patch for vivid dreams, insomnia, nausea, constipation, sleepiness, and indigestion.
Conclusions and Relevance
Among adults motivated to quit smoking, 12 weeks of open-label treatment with nicotine patch, varenicline, or C-NRT produced no significant differences in biochemically confirmed rates of smoking abstinence at 26 weeks. The results raise questions about the relative effectiveness of intense smoking pharmacotherapies.
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01553084