The study included 1 560 adult smokers in England who made at least one attempt to quit over six months.
About 45 percent used no aids to help them quit, while about 5 percent used prescription medication (nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion or varenicline) in combination with behavioural counselling.
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Another 21 percent used prescription medication with brief advice, and about 30 percent used over-the-counter nicotine replacement products.
After six months, 23 percent of the participants were no longer smoking. Those who used the medication/counseling method were nearly three times more likely to quit than those who did not use medication or counseling.
Prescription meds and advice more effective
Taking a prescription medication with brief advice was also more effective than unaided attempts to quit.
However, smokers who used over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy with no counseling had a reduced success rate, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
"The results clearly show that the combination of prescription medication with behavioral support is the most successful method. More smokers should be guided towards these forms of treatment," researcher Daniel Kotz, from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.
Smoking cessation is one of the most important health behaviour changes that physicians can encourage in their patients, Dr. J. Taylor Hays, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Centre in Rochester, Minnesota, said in the news release.
"Hundreds of clinical trials that included thousands of patients have demonstrated the efficacy of combined behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy for tobacco-dependence treatment."
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This study shows "that this approach can be translated to the real world and provide real benefit. This is a case where there is happily little difference between 'theory and practice,'" Hays said.
"Health systems, hospitals, clinics, and providers now need to practice the well-established standard of care to save real lives in their real world."
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Image: Woman smoking a cigarette from Shutterstock.