A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that there was no statistically significant difference in quit smoking rates between individuals using nicotine patches, lozenges or taking Pfizer’s Chantix. While the study did not call into question the effectiveness of Chantix as an aid to quit smoking, the results that the drug’s effects are equivalent to those of less expensive alternatives may be another road block to the success of Chantix on the market.
Pfizer’s Chantix was approved ten years ago, and has since been hit by slow sales, lawsuits and concerns over the product’s safety. Despite efforts made by Pfizer, Chantix has yet to reach blockbuster drug status.
The study involved 1,086 patients who were trying to quit smoking by using one of three approaches: using a nicotine patch alone, taking Chantix, or using the patch in combination with a nicotine lozenge. The researchers used a patient’s carbon monoxide levels as a gauge for their success at quitting smoking with the aids.
The results of the study showed no statistically significant difference between the quit rate at six months or one year. At six months of treatment, the quit rate was 23 percent for those using the patch, 24 percent for patients taking Chantix, and 27 percent for those using both the patch and the lozenge. At one year, the quit rate stayed consistent among the treatment options; the quit rate was 21 percent, 19 percent, and 20 percent for each, respectively.
Although Chantix was just as effective as the other smoking cessation aids, it carried a higher risk of side effects, according to the study. Approximately 29 percent of patients experiences nausea, 23 percent reportedly had vivid dreams, and 22 percent of patients suffered from insomnia while taking Chantix.
As expected, the quit rates of all the medical interventions was significantly higher than those for so-called cold turkey approaches, which are somewhere between three and five percent. According to Dr. Michael Fiore, head of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, and an author on the study, this was the first time the three treatment options were compared to one another in a single study.
“This expands the options that physicians and smokers have,” said Fiore. “But one study doesn’t mean we throw out the prior research. We do need to respect this as a signal and replicate it in future studies. But it may also reflect that American smokers are changing over and smoking fewer cigarettes a day. Possibly, with those lighter smokers, they may not need as an intensive medication option.”
According to a Pfizer spokeswoman, “Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials are more robust in evaluating the relative efficacy of a drug than open-label studies.” She pointed out one such study that found that Chantix was more effective than the nicotine patch at helping patients to quit smoking.