There's good news for
people trying to quit smoking: Aids such as nicotine gums and patches or
smoking cessation drugs such as Chantix won't harm the heart.
The new findings may ease
concerns that some products that help people "butt out" may pose a
threat to heart health, the researchers noted.
One expert said patients
sometimes wonder about the safety of certain products.
"Patients are often
concerned that nicotine replacement therapies, such as the nicotine gum or patch,
will harm them," said Dr Jonathan Whiteson, a smoking cessation specialist
at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City. "However, in most
situations, patients are getting more nicotine from their smoking habit than
from nicotine replacement when not smoking."
The results "should
give reassurance to smokers trying to quit with nicotine replacement therapy,
as well as health care practitioners prescribing them, that there is no
significant or long-term detrimental effect from their use," Whiteson
The new study was led by
Edward Mills, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University and
Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa. His team analysed 63 studies,
comprising more than 30 500 people, to assess the heart-related effects of
nicotine replacement gums and patches, the nicotine addiction treatment
varenicline (Chantix), and the antidepressant buproprion (Wellbutrin).
The study found that
nicotine replacement therapies temporarily increased the chances of a rapid or
abnormal heartbeat, but this most often occurred when people were still smoking
while using them. There was no increased risk of serious heart events with
these treatments alone, according to the study published in the journal Circulation.
"These more minor
risks are well known to clinicians and usually pass with time. They occur most
often when people are taking nicotine replacement therapy and smoking at the
same time, which is a bad idea," Mills said in a journal news release.
"Patients are always counselled not to smoke and use nicotine
replacement at the same time, as this can lead to an increased risk of side
effects from nicotine overdose," he said. "Nicotine replacement
protocols are designed to start after the last cigarette is smoked to avoid
The study also found no
evidence that the use of Chantix boosted the risk of heart attack, stroke or
heart-related death, and buproprion actually protected against these serious
The bottom line, according
to Mills, is that, "undoubtedly, the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh
any potential risks from smoking cessation therapies."
Benefits outweigh risks
He did note, however, that
most of the patients in the analysis were relatively healthy, so the findings
may not be true for everyone.
"It's possible that
the risk factors might be different in people with multiple diseases,"
Mills said. "Patients should discuss with their healthcare provider any
potential risk factors that they may have developed from their smoking history.
For patients who have chronic lung disease or other associated cardiovascular
risks, clinicians should determine which smoking cessation aid to use by their
One heart specialist
weighed in on the issue, as well. Dr Evelina Grayver, director of the coronary
care unit at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY, said that
"the overall benefits of decreasing heart disease by using [drugs] to aid
with smoking cessation significantly outweigh the potential risk of these
The American Cancer Society
offers a guide to quitting smoking.