The drug varenicline, also known as Champix, is highly effective as an aid to quitting smoking, a study published in the JAMA has found.
The study, Effect of Varenicline on Smoking Cessation Through Smoking Reduction, assessed 1510 smokers who had difficulty quitting, but were prepared to make a quit attempt within three months. Of this group, 760 were given 1mg of varenicline daily over 24 weeks, while the other 750 were given a placebo. Participants were asked to reduce their smoking rate by 50% percent from baseline by week four with a further reduction to 75% from baseline by week eight with the goal of quitting by week 12.
The study found that varenicline was 4.65 times as effective in aiding quit attempts than the placebo. 7% of the placebo group were able to meet the study's targets, compared to 32% of the group given varenicline.
Dr Keir Lewis, associate professor at Swansea University and respiratory consultant in Hywel Dda NHS Trust, said: 'We welcome the results from this study as for many smokers, the thought of quitting abruptly can be sufficient to prevent a quit attempt. Gradual cigarette reduction over time provides healthcare professionals and smokers with an important and more flexible approach to quitting, increasing the likelihood of stopping for good.'
Tracy Kirk, a respiratory nurse consultant, said: 'I would absolutely recommend varenicline to aid smoking cessation. The only drawback is perception of harmful effects, but patients must understand that smoking is far more damaging.'